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A 'Perfect Holiday' for Queen Latifah

  • Story Highlights
  • Queen Latifah produced, narrates "The Perfect Holiday"
  • The singer/actress is planning a "love project" -- a new rap album
  • Queen Latifah: A lot of thirtysomethings just want good quality hip-hop
  • Star also interested in views on politics
  • Next Article in Entertainment »
By A. Pawlowski
CNN
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Christmas songs call this the most wonderful time of the year. That may be especially true for Queen Latifah this season -- in many ways.

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"I feel like I'm blessed to do a lot of different things," Queen Latifah says. "And I have to just go for it."

"The Perfect Holiday," a movie she produced and narrates, opens in theaters Wednesday.

She's just been nominated for a Grammy award for her new album "Trav'lin' Light."

And she's planning a "love project" -- a return to her roots with a new rap record -- though she insists she's never really left hip-hop despite performing jazz standards and other classics on her last two CDs.

"I wanted to sing, I wanted to have an opportunity to explore that side of my soul," she said about those projects.

"[But] no one has had the opinions that I've had and made the music that I've made," the singer said about her rap career. "I think there are a lot of thirtysomethings out there who just want good quality hip-hop."

Her return likely won't include many of the words and images the rap music industry has come under fire for in recent years. Queen Latifah said videos objectifying women have become status quo in the hip-hop world -- images she believes many artists are under pressure to include. She said she's always followed another path.

The Queen Latifah file

Real name: Dana Owens

Debut album: "All Hail the Queen" in 1989

Screen debut: Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever" (1991)

• Received Grammy Award for best solo rap performance in 1994

• Nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Mama Morton in the 2002 film "Chicago"

• In 2006, became first hip-hop artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

"I'm of the generation of hip-hoppers that you've got to have the balls to do something different," she said. "You've got to have the courage to challenge the status quo. That's what the fun of hip-hop is: It's spoken. We are speaking over hot beats. We can talk about anything we want."

She makes it clear the subjects she wants to talk about aren't part of most current rap offerings.

"If we were a little more on our game then there would be a lot of records out right now about the election, about the war in Iraq, about AIDS in Africa and America, about poverty around the world," Queen Latifah said.

"We used to be able to talk about that and not be looked at as corny." Video Watch Queen Latifah talk about her journey from rapper to producer »

Music and politics

The singer, 37, has turned her interest in politics and the presidential campaign into a unique project. With the approach of the 2008 election, she paired up with the Lifetime television network to get women to speak up about the issues important to them and to encourage them to vote.

Female fans who attended her "Trav'lin' Light" concert tour were asked to complete the sentence "If I were president, I would ..." for a series of video vignettes.

Queen Latifah called the answers extremely heartfelt.

"There were certain women who answered this question that they would just like to see more love and more compassion, more respect for motherhood," Queen Latifah said. "I don't think that's something that a guy would probably think of. But women just have a different take on things."

"We have an opportunity to possibly have a woman president," she added. "So next year has a particular significance in terms of women and our opinions."

Queen Latifah said she doesn't have a favorite presidential hopeful so far in the campaign, but listed Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as "strong" candidates.

"For me, when I hear someone who's saying 'I want to shake Washington up a little bit' and allow the people's voices to be heard, that means something," she said.

Movie premieres

Queen Latifah is shaking up the holiday movie season a bit with her new film, billed as the first African-American ensemble Christmas comedy.

She said her production team came up with the idea to do "The Perfect Holiday" after noticing there was something missing from the big screen this time of year.

"None of us could think of a Christmas movie that had a black cast in it. So we said 'Is there one? If not, then we should go ahead and make one,' " Queen Latifah said. (Since then, another holiday film with an African-American cast -- the drama "This Christmas" -- has been released. It has done well at the box office.)

But there are even more movie premieres in her future. She co-stars with Diane Keaton and Katie Holmes in "Mad Money," which hits theaters in January.

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Despite Queen Latifah's busy schedule, the singer, actress, Academy Award nominee and businesswoman said she's not done tackling new projects yet.

"I feel like I'm blessed to do a lot of different things and so God is just giving me an opportunity to explore those talents. And I have to just go for it." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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