Queen Latifah: Black Reign (Motown 530 272-2); 7669: 7669 East from a Bad Block (Motown 530 284-2)

BLACK FEMALE artists are assailed by an obligation to serve as role models that doesn’t operate on their male colleagues with anything like the same firmness.

As artist manager, record label head and now star of her own TV sitcom, Living Single, the rapper Queen Latifah shoulders her responsibilities bravely, continuing to offer a staunch response to gangsta-rap slackness in songs like ‘U N I T Y’, which tells her sisters ‘You gotta let him know/You ain’t a bitch or a ‘ho.’ Elsewhere, in ‘Coochie Bang’ she offers smart safer-sex advice, and in ‘Superstar’ outlines her disdain for swollen-headed male preening.

All very righteous, certainly, but when it comes to the more romantic tracks, the impression is one of uncertainty: she tells the subject of ‘Weekend Love’ she ‘didn’t mean to turn you on’, and even on an out-and-out sex song like ‘Mood Is Right’, there’s a reluctance which doesn’t seem to affect her Motown label-mates 7669 in the least.

Combining the styles and attitudes of En Vogue and Salt ‘n’ Pepa, with a dash of ragga-girl explicitness and their own bad-girl touches thrown in, this quartet of rapper-singers offer the most up-front expression yet of the new salaciousness. Tracks like ‘Heree Ah Cumm’ and ’69 Ways to Love a (Black) Man’ leave little to the imagination, and the girls compound the impression with between-songs snatches of sassy conversation. There’s nothing new, however, about their harmony-vocal style on songs like ‘Joy’ and ‘Changes’, which is like a less accomplished En Vogue.

© Andy GillThe Independent, 17 March 1994

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