Latifah Rediscovers Her Musical Self

It's been some time since Queen Latifah found herself behind the mic. Once a groundbreaking female rapper, the artist has lately concentrated on a film career that has included performances in "Chicag

It's been some time since Queen Latifah found herself behind the mic. Once a groundbreaking female rapper, the artist has in recent years concentrated on an acclaimed film career that has included performances in "Chicago" and "Barbershop 2: Back in Business."

That will change with the Sept. 28 release of "The Dana Owens Album," the title of which reflects the artist's given name. Eschewing her hip-hop past, the Vector/Flavor Unit/Interscope set is a vocal album that finds Latifah singing jazz, soul and pop classics.

Along with the impressive voice she revealed in the films "Chicago" and "Living Out Loud," Latifah's previously announced choice of Arif Mardin and Ron Fair as producers brings the requisite credibility to the project. Beyond a resume that includes extensive work with Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler and Chaka Khan, Mardin was instrumental in Norah Jones' debut, "Come Away With Me," and its follow-up, "Feels Like Home."

Fair, meanwhile, is a contemporary pop producer who has worked with Christina Aguilera, Vanessa Carlton, Counting Crows, Mya and the Black Eyed Peas.

Preceding the album's release are a pair of singles premiering tomorrow (Aug. 24) via AOL Music's "First Listen" program. The first is a cover of the Mamas & the Papas classic "California Dreamin'" inspired by Jose Feliciano's quasi-flamenco version on his 1968 album, "Feliciano!"

The second is a big band arrangement of the Leonard Feather/Billy Moore Jr. song "Baby Get Lost," revered versions of which have been recorded by Billie Holliday and B.B. King. It was also a 1949 pop hit for Dinah Washington.

The album features Al Green appears on a version of his own "Simply Beautiful," while James Moody is on hand for a take of his "Moody's Mood for Love." Herbie Hancock adds sparkle to a run through the Screamin' Jay Hawkins standard "I Put a Spell on You."

Elsewhere, Latifah tackles Barbara Lewis' "Hello Stranger," Bill Withers' "Same Love That Made Me Laugh," Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" and the Joe Zawinul written/Cannonball Adderly popularized "Mercy Mercy Mercy."

This is Latifah's first album since 1998's "Order in the Court" (Flavor Unit/Motown), which bowed at No. 16 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and has sold 99,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Expect extensive promotional appearances in support of the album. In addition to a showing at Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards, look for Queen Latifah on NBC's "Today" (Sept. 24), CBS' "60 Minutes" (Oct. 3) and "The Late Show With David Letterman" (Oct. 6) and "Live With Regis & Kelly" (Oct. 7).

A "Saturday Night Live" appearance is also likely, as is an hour-long prime time special in December on yet-to-be disclosed network.

All of the musical activity will not take Queen Latifah out of Hollywood, though. On Sept. 3, she'll make a billed "special appearance" in Lion's Gate Films' "The Cookout," which boasts an ensemble cast also featuring rappers Eve and Ja Rule.

Next up will be a starring turn in the 20th Century Fox remake of the 1998 French action film "Taxi" opposite Jimmy Fallon, due Oct. 8 in U.S. theaters. Finally, Latifah also headlines MGM's "Beauty Shop." Further developing the character established in "Barbershop 2," she plays the confident proprietor of Gina's Salon in the film, the opening of which is yet to be scheduled.

Here is the tentative track list for "The Dana Owens Album":

"Baby Get Lost"
"California Dreaming"
"Mercy Mercy Mercy"
"Simply Beautiful" (featuring Al Green)
"I Put a Spell On You" (featuring Herbie Hancock)
"Close Your Eyes"
"Moody's Mood for Love" (featuring James Moody)
"Hard Times"
"If I Had You"
"Same Love That Made Me Laugh"
"Lush Life"