The Men in Black Hail the Queen’s Heart

Today I conclude this week’s topic of music. I hope you enjoyed it and hope you have a great, long weekend! Be safe, my dear fans. ‘Till next time!

1. Will Smith (1968- )

Smith was born Willard Carroll Smith, Jr. on September 25, 1968 in Philadelphia, PA. With stars in his eyes, he had no intentions of going to college after high school. He gained some recognition as a hip-hop artist “The Fresh Prince” with his childhood friend Jeffrey “DJ Jazzy Jeff” Townes and Ready Rock C in the very late ’80s, even winning a Grammy in 1988 in the rap category. But it wasn’t until he landed a role on the successful sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that made him a household name. The show ran from 1990-1996 during which he also began his film career. In 1996, he starred in the ensemble cast Independence Day which would become the second highest grossing film history at the time. The following year shot him to the stratosphere of fame with Men in Black starring opposite Tommy Lee Jones. He went on to star in many more films becoming one of the most bankable stars in film. He continues to work on film projects as well as nurture his music career, and has passed down his talents to his (second) son and daughter, both of whom act and sing. He married Sheree Zampino in 1992 and they had one son, Willard Carroll “Trey” Smith III later that year but divorced in 1995. He married Jada Koren Pinkett in 1997 and they have two children, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith (born 1998) and Willow Camille Reign Smith (born 2000). He was consistently listed in Fortune Magazines “Richest 40” list of the forty wealthiest Americans under the age of 40 and he and his family have homes in Miami Beach, FL, Los Angeles, Stockholm, Sweden and Philadelphia. (For more, please visit here.)

Here is Fresh Prince, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Ready Rock C with “Parents Just Don’t Understand” (1986):

Here is Will Smith with the title song for Men in Black (1997):

2. Toni Braxton (1967- )

Toni was born Toni Michele Braxton on October 7, 1967 in Severn, MD to a Methodist clergyman and power company worker father and a former opera signer, cosmetologist and also pastor mother. She started her singing performances in the church’s choir. Her first album was titled The Braxtons and one she recorded with her four younger sisters but it wasn’t a very successful one. It did, however, get the attention of producers Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. They recruited her and, in July 1993, her self-titled debut album, Toni Braxton, was released to critical acclaim. She continued to have hit after hit; however, her personal finances were a mess along with a dispute with Arista and LaFace Records, and she filed for bankruptcy in 1996. She continued to produce albums with some modicem of success but financial troubles continued to follow her and she, once again, filed for bankruptcy in 2007. In 2011, she signed on to be a part of a reality series titled Braxton Family Values. The show looks at the relationship between a professional Braxton, her mother and her four sisters, who are all aspiring singers, along with the interpersonal relationships of each family member. In June 2013, Braxton announced she’s returning to the studio to work on her eighth album, a collaboration with Babyface. She met and married musician Keri Lewis of the group Mint Condition in 2001, and later that year gave birth to their first child, a son named Denim Cole Braxton-Lewis. Her second child, Diezel Ky Braxton-Lewis, was born in 2003 and was diagnosed with autism prompting Braxton to become very involved with Autism Speaks. After four years of separation, Braxton and Lewis divorced in 2013. Her musical style and voice are significant and distinctive, having been called “husky, sultry, elegant and sexy.” Despite her financial troubles, she still sings and entertains, and will be coming out with a memoir titled Un-break My Heart: a Memoir in May 2014. (For more, please visit here.)

Here is Braxton singing “Breathe Again”:

And here is Braxton singing her famous “Un-break My Heart”:

3. Queen Latifah (1970- )

Born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970 in Newark, NJ and lived primarily in East Orange, New Jersey (I wonder if she and Whitney Houston ever saw each other?). Queen Latifah has long been a part of hip-hop’s pioneer feminists. She started beat-boxing for the hip-hop group Ladies Fresh. Through this, Tommy Boy Music employee Dante Ross came across a demo recording of Queen Latifah’s and signed her on issuing her first single “Wrath of My Madness” in 1988, followed by her first album All Hail the Queen in 1989. In the early 2000s, she shifted to singing soul music and jazz standards releasing a soul/jazz standard album in 2004 titled The Dana Owens Album. She has since released two more albums. While pursuing her musical talents, she also pursued a TV and film career. From 1993-1998, Latifah had a starring role on the sitcom Living Single which was very popular among black audiences. Eventually she had guest spots on other shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. Her TV successes transitioned smoothly into film working with famed actors like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Steve Martin and Christopher Walken. Latifah shares with Will Smith and Jamie Foxx as being one of only three hip-hop artists to receive an Academy Award nomination in an acting category. She had her own talk show, The Queen Latifah Show from 1999-2001 and reprised it in September 2013. Queen Latifah most recently made headlines for officiating the weddings of 33 same-sex and opposite-sex couples during a performance of “Same Love” by Macklemore at this year’s Grammy Awards Ceremony. (For more, please visit here.)

Here is Queen Latifah singing “Georgia Rose” featuring Stevie Wonder off her Trav’lin Light CD. This isn’t a video; just the song:

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