Queen Latifah: ‘Joyful Noise’ Role Brings Her Closer to God
Queen Latifah and country singer Dolly Parton join forces on Jan. 13, for ‘Joyful Noise,’ a film chronicling the journey of an underdog gospel choir from Georgia trying to win big at the National Joyful Noise Competition in Los Angeles. The rapper-turned-actress plays Vi Rose, a conservative Christian raising two kids on her own, while Dolly, the wealthy widow of the former choir director, pushes her buttons with each provocative outfit and progressive idea she owns.
The two seem like an unlikely match at first but, after one round of witty barbs, it’s apparent they’re both Queens of their own respective kingdoms and that’s a lot to have in common. In their roles, the lauded entertainment icons fight to boost the morale of their down and out town, which was hit hard by the economic recession, but in the end they must find a common voice to succeed.
Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton sat down with The BoomBox to discuss their respect for one another, Latifah’s surprise dream collaboration with British act Zero 7 and the rhymer’s childhood connection to God.
What drew you to work on ‘Joyful Noise’? Were you ever in a choir?
Queen Latifah: Yeah, I sang in the chorus when I was a little kid and my aunt directed a big mass choir in Virginia where I kinda grew up. I grew up a lot in Maryland and Virginia because that’s where my mom is from so we were always down there for summers, Thanksgivings, Christmas, you know. Church was a requirement, there was no choice in the matter, so was vacation bible school. Gospel has been in me since I was a kid.
Your character in the movie has strong Christian values and your performance on the song ‘Fix Me Jesus’ is very raw and emotional. Did performing the spiritual music in the movie bring you back to any particular crossroad in your life?
QL: Umm, probably a few of them. How many crossroads are you allowed to have in life? I seem to have a lot of crossroads. I think maybe I crossed back across the same road too often. For me doing that [performance], I thought about the challenges of everyday life, personal things going on in my life, family things going on and really just wanting to be connected to God. Just knowing that God can fix me. He can fix me, he can fix you, he can fix everything and that’s a good thing to know.
I think in that particular scene I was able to draw on a lot of personal challenges that I have faced over the last year or two and really just put it into that and always keep coming back to God.
Watch ‘Dolly Parton Vs. Queen Latifah in ‘Joyful Noise”
How are you different than your characters Vi Rose and G.G. Sparrow, in the movie?
Dolly Parton: Not much [laughs]. Just the fact that my name’s Dolly Parton and her name is G.G. Sparrow.
QL: I think I’m cuter personally but people may debate that [laughs]. Well, I’m not a mother of two teenagers but I think I’m not as rigid or traditional as Vi Rose may be. I think I’m a little more open-minded, modern and maybe a little more out there.
Vi Rose is more of a Taurus or a Virgo; she’s more of a perfectionist with things and a controller. I’m a Pisces so I’m more free-spirited. But, I do feel like I have a direct connection with God for some reason; always have since I was a little kid — I would talk to God, talk to the sky.
When did you first realize you had that connection with God?
QL: When I was pretty young and I don’t know if maybe it’s because we had a lot of deaths in our family at a young age. I lost my grandfather at 7, I lost a lot of aunts and uncles who were very close to me at an early age and I just felt an inclination to talk to God. I don’t know how it came about exactly but I never really felt that I was alone. Later on, it developed more into a religion I think, but I always felt connected to a higher power.
Is there any chance that you and Dolly may do a country-rap collaboration?
QL: [Laughs] I’ma do the singin’ though, she gon’ do the rapping and the dancing. That would be awesome! I don’t know if it will be a country-rap collaboration but I think that there is a possibility of a collaboration in our future for sure.
DP: No, I can’t do rap music but we might write something together! Weren’t you impressed with her singing in the movie? I thought her performance on ‘Fix Me Jesus’ was incredible and I think she really can sing it on out there.
Did you learn anything from each other musically or pick up any acting tips while on set?
QL: No, I think I just admired her. She is extremely gifted and talented, I mean she is a hellified singer. You can just feel the soul in her music. She can do runs that the soulful-est soul singer can’t do. She is really, really a great songwriter, a great singer and a great actor.
I was surprised how quickly she was able to come up with songs for this film. It seemed like one day, Dolly’s in, three days later, here’s five records for the movie. I was like, “Wow, she’s so skillful at it,” and I thought that the songs that she wrote were great.
DP: I just liked her and everybody used to say to me, “You and Queen Latifah should do something together. You have a very similar personality, very likeable, very upfront and out there.” I could see that myself, I used to think it would be fun to work with her because I like her. When we both got the chance to do this and found out that we both were looking at the script, we both said yes, we’ll do it if they do.
Watch ‘The Joyful Noise Trailer’
Did you have any influence on the musical direction of the film? For example, on the pop mash-up ‘Higher Medley’?
QL: No, I adjusted some of the lyrics. I know Mervin Warren [the film's composer]. I had something to do with him getting the job, and I know his skill level so I don’t need to do his job for him. I just suggested an adjustment to certain words that I thought rode the line a little too close to secular content.
I brought him a little closer to being more gospel, more praise and God-influenced rather than secular. Those are the things that I kind of influenced, reining some of that stuff in to make sure that it was realistic for what a church choir would sing.
There has been a lot of change in the industry since your first album dropped in 1989. How have you adapted over time and stayed positive?
QL: I think as far as the music industry is concerned, it’s kind of been the wild, wild West in a way with the Internet, which is not necessarily a bad thing to me. I think it’s been tough for us as writers when our music is downloaded for free. But as far as what an artist can do, I think is fantastic. I come from an independent mindset, you know from Flave [Flavor] Unit Management. We come from an independent background so creating your own destiny without a lot of money or creating your own identity and success without a label is, I think, a fantastic accomplishment.
Before the Internet got to where it is right now you couldn’t really do that as easily. I think that it’s been a good thing in that sense for the artists. It’s made you have to work harder but you get the control. You have more ownership, you can create your own identity and you can build something of value for a label to want to invest in. I think that’s a great thing so I think it’s been kind of cool in those ways.
I don’t like that the part where female rappers don’t play on the radio as much. That to me is the big deficit — females in hip-hop. Other than that, I think that there’s a lot of good things happening.
Treach and Vin Rock recently sat down with The BoomBox to discuss Naughty By Nature’s new album and your collaboration on ‘God Is Us.’ Are there any other artists in 2012, that you would like to work with?
QL: Oh yeah, my boys! Hmm, there are a lot of new people that I think are pretty dope. Zero 7, I would love to work with Zero 7. I love their vibe and their instrumentation. I love the various kinds of music they can make as an electronic group. They still sound influenced by so many different types of music that my style could fit into a lot of different vibes that they create and I’m more collaborative like that.
Are there any other artists that you are into right now?
So you like what Nicki’s doing?
QL: Yeah, it’s raunchy as all get-up but I love it! She’s the best at what she does. I think she has a great voice too. She’s a pretty good singer, so I like that she sings and raps. I knew you was going to work that Nicki in there! Nah, Nicki’s dope.