Local Wire

Queen Latifah

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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Tamara Palmer