Today is the birthday of Queen Latifah (given name: Dana Owens), who was born in 1970 in Newark, New Jersey. Latifah's appearance as a strong female rapper in the wake of the male-dominant hip-hop movement brought about by Public Enemy brought a reminder to the rap world that women needed to have a say as well. She grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, playing basketball and serving as beatbox for the group Ladies Fresh. Taking on the name Latifah, an Arabic word meaning "delicate and sensitive," the rapper debuted in 1989 with All Hail the Queen which featured the powerful hit single "Ladies First."
Latifah also supported other women, like Monie Love, and supporters like De La Soul and KRS-One. She got more personal on 1991's Nature of a Sista', but continued to make her message clear in ""Nuff of the Ruff Stuff" and "Latifah's Had It Up 2 Here." In 1992 Latifah's brother and closest companion was killed in a motorcycling accident; her forthcoming album, 1993's Black Reign, was dedicated to him and represents Latifah's struggle to deal with the loss. In addition to winning a Grammy in 1994 for her song "U.N.I.T.Y.," the rapper has achieved wider appeal through her acting on the sitcom Living Single and in the 1996 film Set It Off.
Other birthdays: Miki Berenyi (Lush), Wilson Pickett, Barry "BJ" Wilson (Procol Harum), John Hartman (Doobie Brothers), Irene Cara, Taja Seville, Vanessa Williams, Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains) and Page Hamilton (Helmet). -- Beth Winegarner