These days, it seems that every rap crew/conglomerate sports a feisty female--Mia X with the No Limit Army; Lil' Kim, the made woman in Junior M.A.F.I.A.; and now Eve, who rode to the top of the charts with the Ruff Ryders anthology "Ride or Die," which included her No. 1 rap single, "What Y'All Want."
Two weeks ago, Eve's debut, "Let There Be . . . Eve--Ruff Ryders' First Lady" (Interscope), opened atop the charts, testimony to the hip-hop audience's eagerness for new product and new voices. Though Eve can be as thuggishly tough and testosterone-influenced as her male peers--witness "Dog Match," her rough-hewn duet with mentor DMX, or "Scenario 2000," which matches her against DMX, the Lox and Drag-On--she clearly has lyrical skills to match. "A pit bull in a skirt," Eve calls herself in the Latin-flavored "What Y'All Want" (unfortunately, the version here is an uninspired remix).
On her debut, Eve serves up a variety of styles, including the exuberant hometown shout-out "Philly Philly," where she's teamed up with Jay-Z cohort Beanie Siegal. What holds the album together is the smart, sharp production of Swizz Beats, who handles 11 of the album's 14 musical tracks and specializes in light guitar and piano loops. Among the best: "Gotta Man," a testimonial to fidelity where a simple guitar vamp works against a nursery rhyme hook. Eve also addresses rap's current No. 1 crime--would-be suitors having "insufficient funds"--on two tracks: "Stuck Up," teaming her with rapper C.J.; and "Ain't Got No Dough," where she's joined by Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott in a generally genial, sometimes caustic diatribe against "fake hustlers" without big wheels. "What you in is equal to a Schwinn and I ain't impressed with that," Eve declares gleefully.
On the autobiographical "Heaven Only Knows," Eve soberly addresses her hard-knock life, including the absence of a father figure leading to confused adult relationships and dependencies, but the album's best track by far is "Love Is Blind," whose supple guitar vamp and sung chorus actually underscore the horror of its topic, the abusive relationship endured by a friend. Speaking to the abuser, Eve raps, "I don't even know you and I want you dead/ Don't know the facts but I saw the blood pour from her head." She spits out her words. "See, I laid down beside her in a hospital bed/ And about two hours later, doctor said she was dead!" Eventually, she exacts horrible revenge.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8174.)