By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
We feel you, Snoop. It's not hard to love Eve. She's a polished stone, every facet reminiscent of something desirable and trapped in amber: Black femininity, hiphop, cosmopolitan style, the swagger of the self-possessed. Puns for album titles are never a good idea, and even worse if they're based on the artist's name. Eve-Olution doesn't redeem this conceit, but it fits her fineshe the Darwinian endgame of the female-MC line that began on wax with Zulu Nation's Lisa Lee and the Funky Four Plus One More's Sha-Rock, took on nutcrushing efficiency with Roxanne Shante, racked up mad gold with Salt-n-Pepa, gained BK b-girl authenticity with MC Lyte, got womanist (and all-media savvy) with Latifah, ladypimped-out with Lil' Kim, Afrocentrically supercharged with Lauryn. Hill went on to transcend the genre of female MC by becoming as important for us as a songstress, songwriter, social conscience, pop star, and lyricist. Nevermind her issues around appropriating but not adequately crediting some of her musical collaborators, or her current interest in becoming the greatest threat the world has yet seen to Tracy ChapmanLauryn, the Black Valkyrie, soars above terra ghetto, like Storm out this piece. But down here on the ground, Eve is The Woman in hiphop, right now. Top Ten album and Number One movie Barbershop? Even my a-materialist ass is impressed.
She arrived to us through Ruff Ryders, DMX's doggish clique, memorably singling herself out as the "pitbull in a skirt." But on her anything but jinxed sophomore joint she made her name bigger in brand-name visibility than her parent company. "Let Me Blow Ya Mind"her collaboration with Dr. Dre, Scott Storch, and Gwen Stefaniturned out to be a genius move, responsible for the second-most-perfect pop single and video of 2001. ("Get Ur Freak On," hello?) The album Scorpion proper was full of sweet spots that keep me coming back: the soaring first singles "Cowboy" and "Who's That Girl," her remake of Dawn Penn's "No No No" where she got to show off her singing and Jamaican chatting skills, and "Life Is So Hard," the overly dramatic mini-opera featuring Teena Marie. Not to mention the seduction dance in rhyme that is "You Ain't Getting None," notable because it catches her in Cartesian confessional mode, mind and body split around the age-old question of To Fuck Him or Not to Fuck Him. Hell, even the skits are still funny a year laternone more so than the one where she catches her ex using a friend to engineer a three-way call and blows up their spot with an ire and outrage that sounds too damn spontaneous. Said to-the-curb fella also takes a lyrical beating on "You Had Me You Lost Me," an exposé likely to cold shrivel up any potential suitors unsure as to whether their egos could survive the global reach, scorn, and wrath.
It's too early to tell, but Eve could be on her way to being the first MC since Ice Cube to build a noteworthy Hollywood résumé and be a playa at the same time. Eve-Olution, however, poses the question of whether she has anything else to say as a lyricist that she hasn't already said better before. She proves she can still spit battle rhymes with dander and aplomb, as she does with Truth Hurts on "What." She dominates the desirous with insouciant sensuality on her Prince revision, "Irresistible Chick," flirts with bad boys only to remain just beyond their reach on "Gangsta Lovin'" and "Figure You Out," then sets it off in vintage Salt-n-Pepa style on "Satisfaction." All these tracks are state of the art crunkwhen it comes to dibs on the freshest beats out the lab, Eve is on the A list, and as on Scorpion her ear for yummy-gummy ear candy keeps pop hooks and boom-poetics good and stuck up in your earhole. (If only the equally enthralling, industry-trashing, anti-imperialist-rhyming Jean Grae could afford productions as seductive.) For all that, Eve-Olution lacks its predecessors' element of surprise. There's a hint of poor-little-rich-girl pathos that suggests the lady doth protest a bit much. So call me a nitpicker, because on the other hand, for my money, Eve remains in the increasingly scant selection of MCs we don't mind spending an entire album with. And she has come to be an epochal refiner of what hiphop has become.
In Eve's lifetime, hiphop has evolved from a people's culture to a self-conscious artform to a pro-Black enterprise to a cheesy capitalist tool. From folk art to commodity fetish in two shakes of a rat ass. Eve as artist, sex symbol, Philly homegirl-feminist icon, and fashion plate embodies and encapsulates all those stages of progression and regression. She's also creating the mold as she goes of the one woman in hiphop who can ride and rumble with the hardcore guys and be uncomplicatedly embraced and not considered an embarassment by the Official Culture of African American Women.