Queen Latifah Celebrates Hip-Hop’s Evolution with Historic Kennedy Center Honor

In her career, Queen Latifah has won multiple Grammys, Emmys and Golden Globes, but this month she made history by becoming the first hip-hop artist ever to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. On the CBS series “The Equaliser,” she learned she was one of four honorees, alongside Barry Gibb and Billy Crystal, as well as actress Renée Fleming and singer Dionne Warwick.

I was honoured to watch all the creative talents honoured in the 2023 class. Over the years, I’ve been inspired by so many people. I danced to Barry. I cried to the music of Renee Fleming. Dionne Warwick taught me how to sing beautifully and melodically,” she said. “I learned to act, and laugh, from Billy Crystal.”

Latifah sees this recognition as evidence that hip-hop has a place in American culture, drawing on the work of legendary hip-hop artists such as Salt-N Pepa, MC Lyte, and more.

“I think it’s something that should have been done a long time ago,” she said. “Hip-hop is an American art form, just like jazz, just like the blues, just like the musical.”

Latifah’s stage name was chosen when she was 8 years old. It means “delicate” and “very kind” in Arabic, and has since become a symbol of her influence on the world of music and entertainment. Although Latifah entered a predominantly male-dominated industry, she quickly established herself as a trailblazer. Not only is she the first crossover rap star to win an Oscar, but she is also the first rapper to receive a nomination for an Academy Award and the first rapper to be honoured with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Latifah’s career didn’t stop there. She starred in the popular TV series “Living Single” and went on to become an Academy Award-winning actress, a talk show host and CoverGirl. Her music, especially the Grammy-nominated “U.N.T.Y.,” tackled important topics such as sexual assault and domestic violence, revolutionizing hip-hop for women.

I don’t know if my record label knew what to do with me, but luckily I was also signed by women, so I had a lot of female empowerment around me,” Latifah said. “I’ve tried to stay as humble as possible throughout my career, but I’ve also tried to stay as confident as possible.”

Dana Owens “has had her ups and downs over the years, but we keep going,” she said. “