What do you do for an encore?
Queen Latifah's second album, Nature of a Sista, begs that question like no other. I mean how do you top a classic debut album like All Hail the Queen, which produced four hit singles -- "Ladies First," "Come Into My House," "Mama Gave Birth to the Soul Children," and "Dance for Me" -- and reached the Top 10 on Billboard's R&B chart? In comparison, Nature of a Sista peaked at #32 on the same chart. The biggest reason this album tanked, I believe, was the absence of DJ Mark the 45 King as producer. 45 King is one of the most innovative, unsung, producers in hip hop. Without his grimy drums, sax loops, and Latifah's gale force rhymes, Nature of a Sista just sank.
"Fly Girl," the lead single off the album, leaves me wondering what they were thinking in terms of the melody and rhythm. It is so down-tempo, especially for a first single release, that at best you may nod your head to it but that's about all. They used male vocal harmonies for the chorus, in an attempt to give it a New Jack Swing flavor. However, New Jack Swing was not a down-tempo sound either, thus the "Fly Girl" experiment failed.
When the beat first drops, Nature of a Sista's title track could easily be mistaken for Eric B. and Rakim's "Juice (Know the Ledge)." This is where Queen Latifah's verses become all about her rhyme skills, which we didn't need to be convinced of. As a result, I can hang with this song through the first verse before it becomes monotonous. "Sexy Fancy" is just okay as a dancehall track. Queen was clearly influenced by the growing Jamaican dancehall scene at the time, but this track just feels forced and uninspired.
One slept-on gem on this album is the surprisingly funky "If You Don't Know," which samples "The Payback" by James Brown. I'm not sure why this was never released as single. I may never have even played it, had I not seen Queen perform it on Fox's In Living Color. I'd just skipped it on the CD because the intro sounded corny to me, but after hearing more on the show, I immediately snatched the liner notes out of my CD case to figure out what track it was.
While I wouldn't dismiss Nature of a Sista entirely, with a very few exceptions, it is forgettable. Today, I would download "If You Don't Know" and pass on the rest. This album just buckled under the weight of All Hail the Queen's brilliance. Anything Queen Latifah came with after that would have sounded inferior in comparison.