Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah: Jazzing out.

It's been almost 20 years since Queen Latifah recorded her first song, "Princess of the Posse," an assertive rap with Jamaican inflections. She was the definitive strong-minded female rapper of the '90s, and at the time it seemed unlikely that she'd be anything other than the Afrocentric feminist construct that she had cultivated — the only lady that could deter men from using the B-word. Of course, nowadays kids know Latifah as an actress. But her new album, Trav'lin' Light, sees the Queen continuing her transition from hip-hop to jazz. This collection of covers, released on the seminal jazz label Verve, has some great surprises. In "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl," for example, Latifah adds sharp wit to a gut-wrenching standard. Expect the Queen's live performance to be a grown-up affair, where people might actually care if you throw your hands in the air.

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