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February is African American Heritage Month and WERS AT NIGHT is honoring one artist or one song every day this month that helped contribute to social consciousness, political responsibility, or civil rights. At WERS, we believe that these songs are always bigger than just entertainment; music can be used to drive a movement or even motivate a nation.
Today we will be honoring Queen Latifah’s hip hop classic “U.N.I.T.Y.”
“U.N.I.T.Y” is a track that encouraged Black female empowerment back in the early 1990s. Latifah encouraged Black women to have more self respect and stand up to the men who mistreated them, stating “Trying to make a sista feel low, you know that’s got to go.” The song is commonly known for the hook at the end of every verse, “who you calling a bitch,” in which radio stations refused to censor Latifah’s language in order to help get her message across.
The track peaked at number 23 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100 and is still considered Latifah’s biggest hit in her rap career. In 1995, the track gave Latifah her first and only Grammy win for Best Rap Solo Performance
The music video carried the song to another level in which Latifah displays herself as a respected female versus dressing as a provocative woman. She actually dedicated the video to her brother who died in a motorcycle crash which is why motorcycles are a reoccurring image throughout the video.
Latifah was also a part of the rap collective Native Tongues which was a group founded by A Tribe Called Quest, The Jungle Brothers, and De La Soul. The group was popular in the late 80s and early 90s for blending African jazz with hip hop.
Although Queen Latifah may be highly regarded for her acting career today, she definitely played a pivotal role in the establishment of Black female rappers.