Women in hip hop can co-exist, and Missy Elliott proved just that as she paid tribute to her longtime musical inspiration, Queen Latifah, at the Kennedy Center Honors.
The annual ceremony, which was filmed earlier this month before airing on CBS on Wednesday (December 27), celebrated the lifetime achievements of artists from various fields.
Missy Elliott’s Moving Tribute To Queen Latifah
Since releasing her first album, ‘All Hail the Queen,’ in 1989, Latifah has made many contributions to hip hop. Therefore, it was only right to acknowledge her not only for her music but also for her influence.
Latifah’s impact extends beyond her musical career; she is also an actress, producer, model, businesswoman, and former talk show host. Her multifaceted career has paved the way for many women in the industry, especially those of color.
In a touching and heartfelt tribute, Missy took to the stage to express her admiration and respect for the woman she grew up listening to as a teenager.
During her sentimental speech, the ‘Work It’ rapper remembered the profound moments when Latifah and her work had influenced her the most.
“I was coming home from high school, and I used to watch a lot of videos, and I happened to see this young woman rapping,” she said.
“But what caught my attention was her clothes because she had on an African print — the African medallion. And I kept hearing her say, ‘Oh, ladies first, ladies first,’ over and over and over again.”
Missy referred to the 1989 song ‘Ladies First,’ where Latifah raps about uniting women and encouraging them to stand up for themselves to reclaim their power against men.
Missy said the words stuck with her, remarking that it was uncommon for a female rapper like Latifah to unapologetically be herself to such an extent.
With her powerful lyrics that addressed countless issues, such as sexism and racism, she broke barriers in a predominantly male hip-hop industry.
Missy Elliott Was Just As Fascinated By The Name ‘Queen Latifah’
Her fearlessness in addressing these issues established her as a role model for many young artists. Missy, among these artists, continued to underscore Latifah’s courage and resilience.
“Then I said, ‘Who is this girl?’ And I looked at the bottom of the screen and it said ‘Queen Latifah.’ Not Latifah, but Queen Latifah,” she recalled.
“That only said to me that she was saying, ‘You will respect me … I will be a leader, I will be a provider, I will be an inspiration to many, I will be the blueprint to success. I won’t be just a part of the culture; I’ll be royalty to the culture. I won’t set the bar; I am the bar.’”
Missy had given more than just a tribute of words read at an awards show. She acknowledged Latifah’s enduring impact on her career and the entire entertainment industry as a whole. She concluded by thanking her, admiring the woman she could resonate with – a woman who not only resembled her but also dared to be different, which consequently allowed other women to follow suit.
The Kennedy Center Honors was most certainly a fitting occasion to celebrate her achievements. Among the honorees for the night were Dionne Warwick, Billy Crystal, and Renée Fleming for their contributions to music and American culture.
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