Born Eve Jihan Jeffers c. 1979, in Philadelphia, PA. Addresses: Record company--Interscope Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., 3rd Floor, Santa Monica, CA 90404, website: http://www.interscoperecords.com.
While many women in the male dominated world of rap and hip-hop often opt to sell records by using blatant sexuality, rapper Eve has chosen to compete on her own terms. Female hip-hop artists who could equal the record sales and street credibility of male rappers are rare, but Eve has joined that exclusive group, which also includes Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot and Da Brat. The self-proclaimed "pit bull in a skirt" got her start as the sole female with the hip-hop label Ruff Ryders. Her debut solo release, 1999's Let There Be Eve: Ruff Ryders' First Lady, debuted at number one on Billboard's Top 200 and reached platinum sales that same year. Eve escaped one-hit wonder status when she released her sophomore effort, Scorpion, in 2001, prompting Newsweek to call her "hip-hop's most respected female presence."
Eve Jihan Jeffers was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, c. 1979, and raised by her mother, Julie Wilcher. They lived in the Mill Creek housing projects until Eve was 14 years old, then moved to a better neighborhood. Eve regularly saw her father when she was younger, but he eventually drifted out of her life. She performed in Philadelphia talent shows with an all-girl singing group called D.G.P., or Dope Girl Posse, as a teenager. She noticed she got more attention as a rapper than she did as a singer, so she switched to rapping at the age of 13. During high school, she rapped under the nickname Eve of Destruction, but she later decided to simply use the name Eve.
Before she was 18 years old, Eve got an incredible break. Some friends arranged an impromptu audition for Eve with high-profile hip-hop artist and producer Dr. Dre. Her friends didn't tell Dre she was coming, and he was taken aback when a tape was played and Eve, out of nowhere, rapped for him. Dre saw she had talent and immediately signed her to his fledgling Aftermath record label. Eve moved to Los Angeles a week later to begin work with Dre. Though her start was promising, Eve slipped through the cracks at Aftermath, as Dre was preoccupied with the business of running a new label. After a year passed and Dre still had not done anything with Eve, her contract lapsed and she was back in Philadelphia.
In 1997, on a recommendation from Dre's parent label, Interscope, New York's Ruff Ryders record label picked Eve's career up where it had left off with Dre. Ruff Ryders subjected Eve to writing and reciting drills to polish her raw talent. She likened the experience to boot camp, but felt she had to prove herself to them. "That's what made me a better MC," she told Newsweek. Her skills refined, Eve appeared on the Ruff Ryders Ryde or Die album. In 1999, she released her first solo album, Let There Be Eve: Ruff Ryders' First Lady. Although Entertainment Weekly critic David Browne found that Let There Be Eve "wasn't the knockout it was supposed to be," he wrote, he admitted that "unlike most of her peers, ... [Eve] radiated power." The record-buying public agreed that Eve was at least a powerful record-selling force; Let There Be Eve had sold more than two million copies as of 2001. Hip-hop fans adored Eve's throaty voice, tough persona, and empowered lyrics. "I just want women to know how strong they are," she told Time.
Another of Eve's strengths was that where other female rappers were using blatant sexuality as a tool to compete with the men of hip-hop, Eve refrained, relying solely on her skills. Though she did work a brief, difficult stint as a stripper, "Eve plans not to seduce Adam but to beguile him," wrote Marie Elsie St. Leger in People. Time writer Christopher John Farley noted that hard-core rappers Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim "compete with male rappers by using sex as a weapon. Eve has found a balance: she's tough enough to run with the big dogs and sensitive enough to hug a small one." Let There Be Eve, he continued, "established her persona--sexy but not pornographic, in your face but somewhat introspective."
The release launched the meteoric rise of Eve. Suddenly a double-platinum-selling recording artist, her life changed virtually overnight. She underestimated the drain that touring, publicity, and her other professional responsibilities would have on herself and her personal relationships. On the Ruff Ryder/Cash Money three-month, 30-city tour in 2000, Eve thought it would be fun to take along a few girlfriends. Little did she know that when she stepped offstage exhausted every night, her friends would be ready to party. Her friendships suffered. Though she made a strong showing on the tour and audiences loved her, the offstage pressures proved too much. Eve left the tour prematurely and later admitted the period after the release of Let There Be Eve took a toll on her. The trials of success she faced over the next two years even resulted in a mild depression. "Anybody who tells you that they haven't been depressed their first time out is lying," she told Billboard.
In preparation for her second release, Eve underwent a subtle makeover. Irritated by criticism of her weight, she lost about ten pounds. Stylist Kithe Brewster became her constant companion, overseeing the artist's fashion choices, which became all top-designer. Leading designers like Chanel and Gucci welcomed Eve to choose freely from their lines of high-priced, high-fashion clothing, relishing the media coverage they would receive when the star wore their fashions to high-profile events.
Many artists don't live up to the hype of their first release and Eve clearly felt the pressure was on for her critical follow-up album. "It was harder," Eve admitted in Vibe. "But I try not to think about the pressure." The young artist's personal changes affected the process as well. "It's all about growing up," Ruff Ryders' co-CEO Chivon Dean pointed out in Vibe. "Eve's a young woman, and young women go through changes. She was only 20 when she came to us. There's more maturity now."
Critics agreed that Scorpion, released in 2001, showcased a broader range of musical styles and was a strong second release. Browne cited the record's roots in "hard-core stomp, rhymes, boasts, and slams." But Scorpion also incorporated Latin horns, reggae sounds on a cover of "No, No, No," co-produced with legendary reggae artist Bob Marley's son Stephen, and gospel, heard on the duet with 1980s R&B diva Teena Marie called "Life is So Hard." In addition to cameos by Da Brat and fellow Ruff Ryder labelmate DMX, rock band No Doubt's Gwen Stefani made an appearance on "Let Me Blow Ya Mind." Former mentor Dr. Dre reappeared as producer on two of the record's tracks. When Scorpion was released, Browne called it "more than just a dramatic improvement over its predecessor.... Scorpion pumps up the volume, the rhythms, everything." One of the record's strengths cited in several reviews was Eve's exploration of her singing voice in addition to her rapping skills. It was a risk for her to sing, wrote critic Dmitri Ehrlich in Interview, but one from which Eve emerged as "tentative but credible." Scorpion has been proven both a critical and popular success; the album was certified platinum in May of 2001.
Eve's second release reflected more of her own creative vision than her first. Songs like "Love is Blind" and "Heaven Only Knows" on Let There Be Eve led Entertainment Weekly writer Barry Walters to criticize Eve as an artist "struggling to shake a gang mentality." It was clearly a criticism Eve heard, because on Scorpion, she demanded more creative control. "Before, the lyrics were mine, but the vision was pretty much theirs [Ruff Ryders]," she told Newsweek. "After that, I promised myself I would never make a song about shooting, robbing, anything like that, 'cause it's not me." Ehrlich wrote that on Scorpion, Eve demonstrated that hip-hop has a "human, vulnerable side." "I just do what I feel," Eve said in an interview with Jet. "I do exactly what comes from my mind and from my heart. I would say it's more reality than a lot of rap that's out." Scorpion was proof that Eve's vision was right on. "Her intensity never flags," wrote St. Leger, and declared the release "a hip-hop tour de force."
by Brenna Sanchez
Rapped under the name Eve of Destruction as a teenager; signed with Dr. Dre's Aftermath record label, 1996; signed to Ruff Ryders record label, 1997; released Let There Be Eve: Ruff Ryders' First Lady, 1999; appeared on Ruff Ryders/Cash Money tour, 2000; released Scorpion, 2001.
- Selected discography
- (Contributor) Bulworth (soundtrack), Interscope, 1998.
- (Contributor) Ryde or Die Vol. 1 , Ruff Ryders/Interscope, 1999.
- Let There Be Eve: Ruff Ryders' First Lady , Ruff Ryders/Interscope, 1999.
- Scorpion , Ruff Ryders/Interscope, 2001.
- Billboard, February 10, 2001.
- Entertainment Weekly, October 8, 1999, p. 72; March 9, 2001, p. 78.
- Interview, November 2000, p. 155; April 2001, p. 80.
- Jet, April 9, 2001, p. 58.
- Newsweek, March 12, 2001, p. 70.
- People, March 19, 2001, p. 41.
- Time, March 19, 2001, p. 74.
- USA Today, March 6, 2001.
- Vibe, March 2001.
- "Eve," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (May 31, 2001).
- Record Industry Association of America, http://www.riaa.com (August 30, 2001).
- Ruff Ryders Records, http://www.ruffryders2000.com (May 31, 2001).