Queen Latifah – Nature Of A Sista (September 3, 1991)

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In 1989 Queen Latifah hit the scene with her debut album All Hail the Queen, which would move enough units to earn the female emcee a gold plaque and heaps of critical acclaim with her positive messages on women’s rights, black America, and Africa. Speaking of units, Latifah would spend the next few years building up her Flava Unit posse with producers, emcees, and ghost writers (more on that later), whom would all help in contributing to her sophomore effort Nature of a Sista.

Nature of a Sista did not move a ton of units, nor was it received well by the critics as most gave it an average rating (The Source gave it 3 mics and Rolling Stone gave it 3 stars) and accused the Queen of deliberately trying to sellout crossover.

Did the Queen abandon her throne in search of more gold? Or possibly platinum? Let’s give Nature of a Sista a listen and find out the truth about a sista.

Latifah’s Had It Up 2 HereNature of a Sista opens with arguably my favorite Queen Latifah song of all time. The song opens with smooth keys played by Dave Bellochio before the rest of the mid-tempo Kay-Gee produced groove comes in to pleasures your ears. It’s clear that Treach penned La’s rhymes (if you close your eyes and listen closely you can hear Treach’s cadence and wordplay in her flow), which have her sounding razor sharp. Even though I don’t condone ghostwriting, this song is still fire. Give it to em’ Queen!

Nuff’ Of The Ruff’ Stuff – Louis Vega (gets a nod for the 3rd consecutive post) provides a “ruff” instrumental for the Queen to spit on. Technically the song is sound, but it never really grabbed me.

One Mo’ Time – Naughty By Nature gets their second production credit of the evening. Kay-Gee provides another smooth mid tempo instrumental with keyboard credited to Dave Bellochio. And again, its evident that our hostess’ lines were written by Treach. This one sounds as good today as it did 20 plus years ago. Butter.

Give Me Your LoveNature of a Sista marks the beginning of Latifah experimenting with singing, which she would continue to do the remainder of her music career. The Denmark production duo of  SoulShock and CutFather provide a danceable r&b instrumental for her to lick her chops on. Decent.

Love Again – SoulShock and CutFather provide another r&b tinged instrumental. Our hostess does sing the hook on this one but chooses to drop bars as she questions black on black crime/hate. I kind of dig the instrumental; it reminds me of the Living Single theme. This was cool.

Bad As A Mutha – Latifah is in battle mode as she boast about her lyrical prowess over this house tinged SoulShock and CutFather beat.  This was cool.

Fly Girl – I think this was the second single released from Nature of a Sista. Another mid tempo r&b instrumental courtesy of SoulShock and CutFather. La uses this one to discuss the dating scene, relationships and finding the right one. The song is tolerable, but the hook is both cheesy and annoying.

Sexy Fancy – Remember K-Cut? One of the two Large Professor sidekick deejays from Main Source that no one remembers? He gets a production credit for this dancehall flavored instrumental that reminds me a lot of Naughty’s “Wickedest Man Alive”. Latifah spits on the first verse and goes ragamuffin on the second verse, before reggae artist Scringer Ranks (I wonder if he’s kin to Shabba or Cutty) closes things out with a ragamuffin chant of his own (did he really say Queen Latifah’s body is healthy? Weird much.). This was decent.

Nature Of A Sista’ – Louis Vega gets his second production credit of the evening and turns in a banger. Over some rough drums Paul Shapiro provides live saxophone throughout that gives the song a smoothness that meshes beautifully with the aggressive instrumental. It sounds like Treach stuck his arm up Latifah’s ass again and made her his puppet as she rips the heart out of this beat (she even drops a rare f-bomb). This was fire.

That’s The Way We Flow – The Queen invites a few of her home girls, Swatch and Kica (which the liner notes credit as Safari Sister Swatch) to the studio for this cypher session. K-Cut get his second production credit of the evening, providing a mediocre instrumental for a very forgettable song.

If You Don’t Know – Ah. The funky guitar licks of James Brown’s “The Payback” never grow old in hip-hop, do they? Nevelle “The Heineken Man” samples that iconic record for the backdrop as the Queen lets her hair down and gets loose over this funky track. It was a little amusing to hear her claim she doesn’t curse because “her momma told me watch my mouth”, but then drops an f-bomb in the next bar (and we can’t forget the f-bomb dropped on “Nature Of A Sista”). In her defense, it sounds like Treach may have penned a portion of her rhymes on this one too, so technically she didn’t curse, right?

How Do I Love Thee – The final song of the Nature of a Sista was also the final single released from the album. The Queen borrows the title form 18th century poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous poem and remixes it with her own take on the original that she delivers in spoken word form. Latifah’s vocal is slightly distorted as she takes on a tone that sounds both regal and sexy (especially when she invites the object of her affection to “come inside and play with me, spend the day with me, have your way with me”) at the same time. The instrumental, which is credited as produced and mixed by Latifah but conceived by Mark The 45 King (whatever that means), has a sophisticated feel, fit only for a queen. The uncredited saxophone solos were a nice added touch. Cool way to end the album.

Nature of a Sista find Dana Owen’s stretching her legs, maturing, and experimenting as she continues to find herself as an artist, and for the most part she succeeds. Latifah has always had a strong presence on the mic and she sounds stronger on Nature of a Sista than she did on All Hail the Queen. Through the course of 12 songs Latifah displays her hard side, smooth side, and tender side as she mixes her brand of hip-hop with reggae and r&b flavored joints. Not all of them work but there are enough solid songs to make Nature of a Sista a quality listen. Upon it’s release Nature of a Sista was dismissed by true heads for sounding too r&b. If it was released today I believe it would get more love then it got originally. Fine wine.

-Deedub

 

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