Eve Jeffers knows who she is and where she’s going. She’s also clear about where she’s from, as she announces in “Philly,” a track off her debut album, Eve: Ruff Ryders’ First Lady: “We gon hold it down for illdelph for life.”
Eve’s loyalty and determination are visible in her presently rotating video for “Gotta Man.” What also comes through is her urban savvy and sense of irony. The song’s nursery-rhymish chorus contrasts with its street-love narrative (“Always be his extra back bone, quick to let a nigga know / Always by his side, EVE the apple in his eye”), while the visuals reveal yet another angle on this hiphop romance: there’s Eve striking the familiar rapper’s pose (gesturing into a wide angle lens), pawning her diamond bracelet to get her man out of jail, and then, at last, enjoying a rooftop dinner for two, accompanied by some upfront signs of climactic bliss (fireworks, fountains, and a fleet of jumping low-riders).
Through it all, Eve maintains her signature provocative aspect. She’s sexy without bumping-and-grinding, potent without acting scary, and self-assured without dissing other women. While some might think she’s an overnight success, at twenty years old, Eve knows something about the vagaries of the business. She’s been rapping since high school, made an early unreleased album with Dr. Dre’s label, and finally hit the big time when she hooked up with the Ruff Ryders (whose previously most famous member was DMX) and did vocals for the Roots’ crossover hit, “You Got Me.”
She’s hot now: her album entered the charts at number one, and she has recently appeared on covers XXL (who call her “Ruff Enuff to Ryde”) and Blaze (“The Pit Bull Princess”) covers, in Source, Rolling Stone, and Newsweek profiles, and performed on Conan and in one of those ubiquitous Sprite kung-fu commercials. While she’s enjoying being the new girl on the scene, Eve also understands that it’s only recently (After Lauryn) that the mainstream possibilities have opened up for artists like her, i.e., female MCs. It’s a change that’s been a long time coming, what with the (enduring) tendency to relegate women in hiphop to shaking their thangs in the vicinity of poolsides and champagne bottles. The current generation is tired of waiting, and they’ve stored up plenty to say.
Eve understands her time is now, but she also means to stay around, by working with inventive producers like Swizz Beatz (who favors synth arrangements instead of samples) and a range of fellow performers. At the same time, her work comes out of her own experiences and ideals, including her allegiance to her girlfriends: as she raps in “Philly,” “I stay grounded, brick house stallion / My bitches keep me real while I make millions.”
In asserting her bond and appreciation, Eve articulates hiphop’s prevailing manifesto (to keep it real), significantly insisting that girls can do it too, with and without men. The industry is finally getting the idea: artists like Missy Elliot, Bahamadia, and “L-Boogie” Hill are making inroads in multiple areas, including rapping, singing, writing, and producing. And an increasing number of women are both claiming and arising from male crews, like Mia X (of No Limit), Foxy Brown (a member of The Firm), Lil Kim (Junior M.A.F.I.A.), Amilion (working with Jay-Z and about to release a solo album), and Rah Digga, as yet best known for being the girl in Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad.
Like Eve’s, Rah Digga’s breakout single, “Tight,” is smart and unradio-friendly (the language being a bit dicey), and she’s been featured in Rap Pages (“The Most Popular Woman in Hiphop”) and Blaze (“Emancipation Proclamator”), and promoted on Arista’s flashy Flipmode website. With the fiercely futuristic “Tight” video all over MTV and BET, the buzz for her about-to-be-released album, Dirty Harriet, is building on her reputation as a political artist (the album takes its name from underground railroader Harriet Tubman, with an ironic nod to Clint Eastwood).
Born Rashia Fisher and hailing from Newark, New Jersey, the one-time elementary school rapper Rah Digga rejects the industry’s predilection for “selling coochie.” Instead, she wants to resuscitate hiphop’s righteous activism. If she and the other emerging women artists have anything to say about it, hiphop, once so intent on changing the world, may have to make good on its promise.