Eve's back. Stay out of her way.
Eve’s been out of the album game for a while, and she’s been storing up various forms of fiery energy during her time off. A full-length entitled Here I Am was going to come out in 2007, but a couple singles didn’t do well, and like too many albums, Eve’s got repeatedly delayed by her label (and also renamed). Lip Lock marks her first official long-player since 2002, and she feels that she’s got something to prove, some territory to (re)stake out -- she practically explodes in a dizzying series of boasts and warnings.
Eve came up in the late '90s as the first lady of the Ruff Ryders, at a time when female rappers were beginning to break through to the top of the charts. She had the top producers in her corner, working with the reliably heavy-hitting sounds of Dr. Dre and the lurching funk of the Neptunes. DMX showed up on her songs as a sparring partner, and she collaborated with No Doubt and Alicia Keys. Eve was fiery then too, but after all, one of her biggest hits was "Let Me Blow Ya Mind", not "I Am Blowing Your Mind" or "Your Mind Is Blown".
On Lip Lock, Eve starts with the basics, just naked declarations of her power and international prestige -- "the queen is on the throne/ world-wide my name is known/ stay on top no touching me," or "I live up at the top so you keep climbing/ sit your ass down, ‘cause class is now in session."
As the album progresses, she gets more intricate, and more violent: "yeah that’s right I’m badder than ‘em/ E-V-E a cataclysm/ blow ‘em out the fucking water/ kill ‘em dead ‘cause it’s slaughter." She takes a break from the barrage of untouchability proclamations at one point, on "Forgive Me", but only to apologize for her greatness. She’s"“too sexy in the morning time," which distracts her man, "sorry, for being so fly.” The peak comes on "Grind Or Die", when Eve raps "Call the police because I’m murdering beats," and then, "my albums are the shit, your career never farted."
When she’s not intimidating her naysayers, Eve engages in some lightweight life-coaching. On "Make It Out This Town", she’s rapping about having the self-confidence to escape, "just wanna fly above it all, see where you can land/ Know that you can do it on your own cause you can/ Yeah, never forget this is your life/ Your path, your dream, this is your fight."
Several guests appear on the album, but they don’t make much of an impression since it’s hard to match Eve’s energy. We get Snoop Dogg (not rolling as a lion apparently), Pusha T, Juicy J (formerly of Three Six Mafia), and Missy Elliot, who is hopefully getting back into the business of being Supa Dupa Fly. None of Eve’s old Ruff Ryding comrades show up. One of the most intriguing guests is Dawn Richard, whose been making some appealingly off kilter R&B lately. They work together on "Keep Me From You", one of the albums most explicitly dance tunes, which shoots for euphoria: "I don’t care what they say, I’m in love."
Eve tries to sound current -- Lip Lock is consistently dense with electronics that nod to today’s pop-scape. No Neptunes and Dre here, but plenty of low frequency throbbing and high-pitched glitch noises. Eve doesn’t reach for the dance floor often, but this is hip-hop that acknowledges EDM and dub-step. There are a few songs that sound very different from the rest and instantly seem like outliers. "Make It Out This Town", with a cloying hook from Gabe Saporta of the band Cobra Starship, centers on a guitar lick that sounds almost alien next to the rest of the material.
So Eve hits her marks, warns off competitors and provides encouragement where it’s needed, all over a state of the art electronic sound. A cataclysm? Not quite. But any time an artist survives label hiccups, it’s a small victory.