She started her career beatboxing for rap group Ladies Fresh and released her first album, All Hail the Queen at the age of 18. In 1995, she was the victim of a carjacking, in which a friend of hers was shot. Her older brother Lance was killed in an accident on a bike Latifah just bought him. She still wears the key to the bike around her neck. Her debut, All Hail the Queen (1989) was critically acclaimed as one of the best hip hop albums of all time. This was followed by Nature of a Sista, another well-reviewed album. After that, Latifah began working on Living Single, a FOX sitcom. She was also arrested in possession of a small amount of marijuana and a gun. In 1992, her brother died in a car accident and Latifah released an album dedicated to him, Black Reign, which was a hit partly because of a hit single, U.N.I.T.Y.. In 1998 she made an album entitled "Order in the Court". In 2003 she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Matron "Mama" Morton in the movie musical "Chicago". In 2003, she co-starred with Steve Martin in the marginally well received comedy Bringing Down the House (2003), as a woman who is 'mismatched' through a legal advice chat room with Martin's character. She can currently be seen in Scary Movie 3 and Barbershop 2. Upcoming movie projects for Latifah include Taxi (2004), a remake of a French movie of the same name.
She stands 5'9". Her name Latifah, meaning "delicate" and "sensitive" in Arabic, was given her when she was eight by her cousin.