Rapper, singer and actress Queen Latifah brought a varied and entertaining show to Wolf Trap Friday, July 20, that left a mostly over 40 audience clearly thrilled at the concert’s end.
The former talk show host and Oscar nominee shared the stage with rapper and actor Common who opened the evening with a 90 minute set that kept many on the lawn on their feet during a high-energy, family friendly show. Both performers sang about peace, love and unity, defying the stereotypes typically associated with some rap music that promote senseless violence and tough machismo.
Common, a native of Chicago, opened with pictures of himself as a child growing up projected on an overhead screen, while a track in the background played Nat King Cole’s classic, “There Was a Boy.” The rapper noted that while he was a kid growing up, he wanted the world to know “that I existed. Hip-hop made me feel like a hero, and that I had something to say.” He would write his first song at 12 and release his first song seven years later.
Attired in sneakers and a Malcolm X t-shirt, the rapper said that he had wanted to be like Michael Jordan, but he would soon find his own path. Over time, his statements on acceptance, justice and equality have gained him a global activist stage. The charismatic performer kicked off his set with such crowd pleasers as “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” “Take It EZ” and the infectious “Dooinit,” before performing a masterly freestyling bop. However, his rendering of “Retrospect for Life” showed a sweetly tender and intimate side.
The songwriter and producer noted that he was terrified when he first found out that he was going to be a father, realizing the responsibility that came with the title. When he played the ultrasound of his unborn daughter’s heartbeat, which reverberated over the Wolf Trap grounds, he clearly had the crowd in his hand. The funked-up “B” and “The Day Women Took Over” drew thunderous applause, with the latter an ode to a better world if more women were running governments.
Following a 20-minute intermission, Queen Latifah brought her unique and defining style to the stage, with an 11-piece band, showing why she is one of hip-hop’s true vocal giants. The New Jersey native, who also is president of her own record label, wowed the audience with “When You’re Good to Mama,” from her performance in the film Chicago (2002), for which she received an Academy Award nomination as a corrupt jail matron.
On “Just Another Day,” the singer confidently worked the stage from one side to the other, before performing the easy going and jazzy “Poetry Man.”
“My mom used to play that Phoebe Snow song all the time, so this is dedicated to her,” said the singer before taking the beat up again for “I Wanna Be Down” and “Come Into My House.”
The self-affirming and pro-female song “U.N.I.T.Y” ended the evening, with the audience lustily singing along. In the song, the singer talks back to both male and females, telling women that they are not the “b” word and chastising men for “trying to make a sista feel low. You know that’s got to go; u.n.i.t.y, that’s a unity.’