Some of you younger readers may find it hard to believe that before Queen Latifah was known as an actress/singer/covergirl, Dana “Queen Latifah” Owens’ initial claim to fame was actually as a rapper.
Following the path paved by other pioneering female acts like Salt N Pepa, Roxanne Shante, and MC Lyte, Dana decided to pursue the microphone. She started off beatboxing for an all female rap group know as Ladies Fresh, before she would eventually connect with DJ Mark the 45 King and become one of the original members of the Flavor Unit emcees. 45 King would produce Dana’s first demo, which found its way into the hands of Yo!MTV Raps, Fav Five Freddy, which Tommy Boy Records would eventually hear and enjoy so much they offered Dana a deal, and as they say in the business, the rest is history.
Queen Latifah released All Hail The Queen in November of 89′, with the majority of the production handled by Mark 45 King, with a few production credits from a few hip-hop legends as well (more on that later). All Hail would eventually earn Latifah a gold plaque as well as heaps of critical acclaim.
On a personal note I’ve never listened to All Hail The Queen from beginning to end. I’ve really only heard the singles and radio joints from the album. The Nature Of A Sista album was my first introduction to the Queen. I stumbled upon All Hail at a used cd shop for a few bucks and figured I’d give it a shot. Even if it sucks, its only a few bucks lost. Right?
Dance For Me – Latifah uses this 45 King produced track to command the listener to dance for her. Sorry Dana, I didn’t dance. This was okay at best, nothing you need to listen to more than once. Dana does warn you in her first verse that this isn’t going to be life changing lyricism, or even the best you’ve heard from a female. She was absolutely correct with that assessment. I appreciate the modesty, Dana.
Mama Gave Birth To The Soul Children – Latifah invites her label mates De La Soul to join her on this posse cut, which shouldn’t be a surprise since Prince Paul produced it. In true Prince Paul fashion he brings his signature zaniness to the party. From the movie soundbite at the intro, to the constant changing of the samples, to a chipmunk voice shouting out his peeps, Paul leaves his fingerprints all over the track. Latifah plays the mother and De La Soul are the sons she birthed. But not a physical birth…as piritual one. Yeah, the concept was kind of corny, but the song overall was decent.
Come Into My House – What would a late eighties hip-hop album be without a house track? Dana and 45 King provide the backdrop for Dana to personally invite the listener into her house, while repeatedly requesting you give her body (what ever the hell that means…I’m not even sure I want to know)? I belief this was the second single off the album. Dana’s not in anyone’s top 10 lyricist list (unless we’re talking about female emcees, I guess), but her voice has a certain quality, and when coupled with her solid delivery she turns in a decent performance. I actually like house music, so this was, and still is, pretty enjoyable for me.
Latifah’s Law – Louis “Louie Louie” Vega (yeah, I’ve never heard of him either) provides a very nice instrumental for the Queen to laid down her law. Dana sound good enough on the mic, dropping a few clever lines and reppin’ for the motherland. But the true star on this one is Mr. Vega’s courtesy of his instrumental. I love the cinematic feel the horns bring to the song.
Wrath Of My Madness – Latifah sounds really nice over this funky 45 King produced track, as she comes of more nimble than anything else on the album up to this point. She rides this mid tempo instrumental beautifully, spilling rhymes all over the track, adding a little reggae chant over the chorus. Nicely done, Dana.
The Pros – Not to be out done by his former Stetsasonic band mate Prince Paul, Daddy-O contributes this reggae tinged instrumental. Daddy-O and Dana tag team doing their best to prove to the listener that they are top-notch emcees but don’t quite provide enough evidence. Neither party ever seems to find a comfort zone over this beat. Daddy-O sounds way too amped up for his first few verses, which must have exerted all his energy, as he sounds worn out by the time he delivers his final lines. This just…was.
Ladies First – This is probably the most popular song from All Hail The Queen. Dana invites Monie Love to share the mic, as they take turns repping for the female population of the world. They both sound pretty good and I love the 45 King’s horn sample over his instrumental. I think the video version had someone singing the song title over the hook. But either way it still sounds good.
A King And Queen Creation – 45 King not only provides this horny instrumental, but he also steps out from behind the boards to share mic duties with Dana. The King and Queen use this decent instrumental to talk a little junk. Dana sound cool, and while Mark doesn’t sound terrible on the mic, he definitely shouldn’t quit his day job.
Queen Of Royal Badness – Latifah switches to battle mode firing verbal darts at all competitors. 45 King’s instrumentals plays as the perfect backdrop (of course he brings the horns out, again) for Latifah’s wrath. This was hot.
Evil That Men Do – KRS-One provides the backdrop for this one, as he borrows a portion of Gil Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Won’t Be Televised” over an extremely generic drum beat that actually works (especially on the hook). I’m pretty sure Kris wrote Dana’s rhymes as well, as it sounds like he vomited his lines into her mouth, and she in turn regurgitated them back up (he even contributes a few line on the second verse). This was Latifah’s “message” song, but unfortunately it wasn’t that convincing.
Princess Of The Posse -This was the demo that Tommy Boy records heard that led to Latifah’s initial deal. She mixes slick lyrics with reggae chants and sounds solid in the process. 45 King actually leaves the horns out in exchange for a bouncy-bass heavy instrumental that works in an economical kind of way.
Inside Out – This Mark 45 instrumental uses the same sample as Ghostface’s joint “Guest House” (circa Ghostdini:), and the same horn sample Main Source would later use for “Peace Is Not the Word To Play”. While I love both elements separately, I’m not sure if the two work well when combined. Like the majority of the album Latifah sounds decent on the mic but doesn’t say anything that will have you hitting the rewind button.
Dance For Me (Ultimatum Remix) – 45 King’s instrumental sucks all the dancibilty out of the original track, voiding the song’s concept and making this a complete waste of time. The track’s dullness exposes some weakness in Latifah’s flow that I missed on the original mix.
Wrath Of My Madness (Soulshock Remix) – 45 King adds a bell here and a whistle there, and a few scratches for good measure, but not enough to warrant a remix. Dude, this was useless.
Princess Of The Posse (DJ The Mark 45 King Remix) – Wow, 45 King borrows a portion of the “Night Court” theme song? Really? The bass line works… the problem is the rest of the instrumental doesn’t. This album could have ended 4 songs ago.
All Hail The Queen represents a time when female emcees required skills and were more than verbal porn stars. Dana uses her debut as a platform to prove that ladies can emcee, and for the most part backs her argument pretty well. No, she’s not a great lyricist, but you can’t front on her dope voice and solid delivery. The 45 King’s (which I might add is way too long for an alias) jazzy production works for the most part, and even the guest producers turn in decent to solid instrumentals. Even though the three remixes tacked on at the end were completely useless, overall All Hail The Queen is a solid effort. Not spectacular or great, but solid.