Nearly twenty years after Queen Latifah caused a stir when she shared an on-screen kiss with a woman in Set It Off, the Newark native is proving to be every bit an artistic risk taker today as she was back then.
The rapper, actress and producer takes on her most challenging role yet as Bessie Smith in the HBO film Bessie, premiering on May 16. We sat down with the icon to talk about Smith, the blues and the same-sex love scenes.
"I hope it doesn't become the sole issue," Latifah tells us about the provocative scene, which she says she agreed to do because she "had to tell the story honestly."
Latifah adds that she feels a great kinship with blues artists, who used music to express their pain and as a medium for social commentary. She even tells us she wishes hip hop would take a few cues from the blues. "Honestly, I wish more rappers now would speak to all the things that are going on in the world," she says, adding that the hip hop movement used to be about more than just creating club bangers. "This was an art form, when I came along, that allowed us to speak to a lot of things. I completely relate to the blues, and I'd like to see more of that come into hip hop."
Watch our interview with Queen Latifah below and check your local listings to see Bessie on HBO.
(Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Variety)