Label: Tommy Boy
Though many now know Queen Latifah as an Academy Award nominated actress and talk show host, she spent the first decade of her career running with New York's Native Tongues collective and DJ Mark the 45 King's New Jersey Flavor Unit crew. Latifah's 1989 debut All Hail the Queen found the her dispensing darts about self-respect and Afrocentricity over beats by 45 King. Though All Hail the Queen was bolstered by 45 King's dance floor friendly hard funk boom bap and alley oops from guests like De La Soul and KRS-One, it's always very much Latifah's show.
"Evil That Men Do" addressed income-based inequality, while "Latifah's Law" and the Monie Love assisted hit single "Ladies First" challenged America's male power structure. Latifah was equally at home on lighter material too. She kills the party rocking opener "Dance for Me" and the hip-house excursion "Come into My House." Elsewhere "Princess of the Posse" and "The Pros" show off her singing skills and ease with reggae cadences. Her pen game's stellar throughout, leaving little question as to why she felt perfectly comfortable dressing like African royalty and holding court with A Tribe Called Quest and Naughty by Nature before discovering her silver screen calling. —Craig Jenkins