Dana Elaine Owens, better known to the world as Queen Latifah, has done something that only a handful of golden-era artists have: transcended the genre and become a household brand. From her humble beginnings as a beatboxer and original member of the 45 King's Flavor Unit, to internationally renowned singer, actress, movie producer -- and now talkshow host -- she's helped expand the possibility of not only what hip-hop can achieve, but more specifically, women in the music industry.

From the onset of her first 12-inch, "Wrath of My Madness," she positioned herself as a straight up lyricist -- and the release of her debut album, "All Hail the Queen," gave hip-hop its first girl power anthem, "Ladies First." Queen Latifah had an unquestionable charisma that could be felt right down to her vocal cadence. She had a street edge, which her upbringing in Newark, N.J. provided, meshed with a certain grace and likability that seemed to come naturally. By the time her third album, Black Reign, rolled around in 1993, she'd become a weekly sitcom mainstay, not unlike Will Smith.

It was during this period that she solidified her name in hip-hop with her most well-known single, the Grammy-award winning "U.N.I.T.Y." Aside from her five-year stint on Living Single, Latifah popped up in the seminal films such as Juice, the heist film Set It Off, and Kid N' Play's House Party 2. However, it wasn't until she starred as Mama in the Academy Award-winning Chicago that she entered a whole other orbit -- and tax bracket.

The turn of the millennium saw Latifah star in numerous films, such as Barbershop 2 and the spin-off, Beauty Shop, amongst others. She subtly transitioned to singing and added numerous awards and accolades to her credit, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She's a daily talk-show host, and recently was nominated for numerous awards for her role as Bessie Smith in the film Bessie, but, it's often easy to forget the breadth of material she released throughout the 1990s. Today, as she celebrates her 45th birthday, XXL takes the liberty of digging through her crates and pulling out our top 20 gems. Did we miss anything? Sound off in the comments.

  • "Ladies First"

    Queen Latifah Featuring Monie Love
  • "Weekend Love"

    Queen Latifah Featuring Tony Rebel
  • “U.N.I.T.Y.”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Just Another Day”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Wrath of My Madness" Remix

    Queen Latifah Featuring Defari
  • “It's Alright”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Court Is In Session”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Elements I’m Among”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Rough”

    Queen Latifah Featuring Treach, Heavy D & KRS-One
  • “Paper”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Latifah’s Had It Up 2 Here”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Dance For Me”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Mama Gave Birth to the Soul Children”

    Queen Latifah Featuring De La Soul
  • “Bananas (Who You Gonna Call?)"

    Queen Latifah Featuring Apache
  • “Fly Girl”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Bring the Flavor”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Black Hand Side”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Give Me Your Love”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Fast Car”

    Queen Latifah Featuring Missy Elliott
  • "Go Head"

    Queen Latifah

More From XXL