Few figures in rap can claim the kind of respect Queen Latifah commands. In the two years since her first album, "All Hail the Queen," came out, she has not only established herself as a hit-maker in her own right, but has made guest appearance on recordings by Monie Love and LeVert. Yet it isn't just her music that people admire -- it's also her dignity, intelligence and bearing. To female rappers, she's a source of inspiration; to males, she seems the definition of a sister.
In fact, there's probably only one rap star who doesn't think she's the ideal female rapper: The Queen herself.
"There is no ideal female rapper," she says. Speaking over the phone from her home in East Orange, N.J., she seems bemused by the way so many in the rap world look up to her. "I'm not the leader," she insists. "I'm not trying to be a leader or anything like that. I have my own style and I have my own way about me, and other people have their own ways. I guess [that what I do] is just a good way for them to connect something with something.
She laughs, and adds, "I'm not sure what's going on."
Maybe so, but it's not too hard to find the source of Latifah's power. One obvious factor is the way she portrays black femininity, something which is spelled out in her current single, "Fly Girl." Unlike other lady rappers, who spit fire at any man foolish enough to dog them, the Queen's comebacks are non-combative; instead of making fun of these would-be suitors, she quietly and confidently reminds them, "I'm a queen -- 'nuff respect/ Treat me like a lady." And the way she says it is enough to make "Fly Girl" the most powerful call for respect since Aretha Franklin's.
Of course, Latifah wasn't always a queen. She was born Dana Owens some 21 years ago, and was given the name "Latifah" by a Muslim friend. As for her claim to the crown, it's simply her way of reminding listeners that many African-Americans are descended from royalty.
"People don't even know that," she says, adding that even she still has much to learn about her African heritage. "It's very hard, because we're brainwashed in this country in a lot of ways. When a little black kid grows up, what do they see on TV? They see so much white. What are they supposed to connect to? They connect to what this white thing is.
"So they think their hair is supposed to be long and their eyes are supposed to be light and their skin is supposed to be light and it's not, and they feel low about it. We have a lot of stereotypes to fight, a lot of barriers to break down."
Even so, Queen Latifah is hesitant to use her albums as a sort of bully pulpit. "I'm not some giant preacher or something like that, and I don't make my records like that," she say. "It's just that I throw lines in there that make people think."
When: Monday, Aug. 26, 6:00 p.m.
Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion
Tickets: $22.50 pavilion, $18.50 lawn.
Call: 730-2424 for information, 481-6000 for tickets