The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (commonly referred to as the Kennedy Center) has announced its 2023 Kennedy Center Honorees and among them is Queen Latifah, the first female rapper to be honored by the Kennedy Center. This is fitting, as 2023 also marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop, and Queen Latifah has been a massive part of that history as an artist, manager, producer, and all-around ambassador for hip-hop since the late ’80s.
Her accolades include a Grammy Award for her 1993 single “U.N.I.T.Y.” (which she won over Snoop Dogg in a funny story he shared in his upcoming book), classic film roles like the one DJ Drama recently remade from Juice, and inspiring a generation of modern MCs/moguls like Lizzo and Megan Thee Stallion. She currently stars in a remake of the The Equalizer and still finds time to perform, with a headlining set at Rock The Bells Festival coming this summer.
The Kennedy Centered previously honored LL Cool J — the first rapper to receive the honor — and hosted a special performance of Nas’ seminal debut Illmatic with the National Symphony Orchestra, so Latifah’s in good company. The remaining four honorees this year are Billy Crystal, Renée Fleming, Barry Gibb, and Dionne Warwick.