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Album review: Queen Latifah's 'Persona'*

August 24, 2009 |  6:29 pm
Latifah_persona_240_ On her seventh studio album, "Persona," Jersey-born rapper-singer-actress and Cover Girl and Jenny Craig spokeswoman Queen Latifah, with the help of producers Cool & Dre, updates her sound to include everything du jour: autotune-tinged techno banger with Missy Elliott, bottle-service electronica, mellow reggae with Jamaican singer Serani and club-soul for the working girls. While the production is attentive and her effort to remain timely is appreciated and attuned, "Persona" still feels like a missed opportunity.

It's understandable why Latifah would want to return to hip-hop, the breeding ground of her personal style, but it's jazz that's guided Dana Owens' best efforts. Even her biggest hip-hop single, "U.N.I.T.Y.," borrowed the foundation of its cool progressivism from a Jazz Crusaders loop.

More recently, her 2004 set of standards "The Dana Owens Album," and its Grammy-nominated follow-up, "Trav'lin' Light," earned Latifah her biggest raves. Critics fell for her silk scarf of a voice as it fluttered through smoky jazz numbers, while reworking the songs enough to uncover new pressure points.

"Persona" is stylistically everywhere and yet it skips over some fruitful ground. Queen Latifah is too busy chasing 100 styles of hip-pop, seemingly to prove that she can indeed do it all. She should've let that hit parade carry on by.

-- Margaret Wappler

Queen Latifah
Flavor Unit Records
Two stars and a half

UPDATE: This review originally posted with the incorrect rating of one and a half stars. The correct rating is two and a half stars.

Albums are rated on a scale of one to four stars