Ever since Junior M.A.F.I.A. Paisano Lil' Kim stepped up to the mike on "Player's Anthem," no full-fledged hip-hop crew has been complete without a badass female in the mix. With Mia X among Master P's No Limit soldiers, Foxy Brown playing Bonnie to Jay-Z's Clyde and Eve as one of DMX's Ruff Ryders, you've got girls ready to roll with the niggas -- to bust gats, drink Henny, smoke blunts, bone hard and rhyme tight all night long. They spit verses with a testosterone-charged audacity in their voices and look good in tight clothes. Unlike earlier proud-to-be-feminist MCs, these sisters are a teenage hip-hop boy's vision of a girl: a nigga in a bulletproof bra-and-panty set who won't bother you with talk of romance or ask for money to get her nails done. She's a thug with curves.
You know these girls are serious because they tap into the black boy's oh-so-taboo blonde fetish. They show up in photo spreads looking like Pamela Anderson's spitting image, as did Kim, and call out "blond bombshell," as Eve does on her debut, Eve: Ruff Ryders' First Lady, as though she were born that way. But what exactly are they serious about?
The Philly-born Eve, for one, is serious about MC'ing, powering her debut with more than just blond hair: She has an oven-roasted voice, smooth flows and a thuggish attitude for days. "Now we feelin' it/Drinks all in me/Lady but a thug/Double shot of Henny," she rhymes double-time in the hot drink-and-party anthem "Maniac." "Baby girl grew up/Mommy ain't around/Searchin' for a thug/In the club to hold me down."
On a mellower track, the bold, smart "Love Is Blind," over plaintive guitar picking, she tells the story of a sister friend's abusive relationship, talking directly to the girl's abuser: "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/See, I laid down beside her in the hospital bed/And about two hours later/Doctor said she was dead." A few couplets later, she murders him.
Eve's guest stars include the Lox, Missy Elliott and the great Jay-Z collaborator Beanie Siegal. But this is a Ruff Ryder thang: DMX locks down two songs, and Swizz Beatz produced eleven of the album's fourteen cuts. Swizz gives Eve the same hard, riotously anthemic beats that made him famous, as well as some sweeter tracks with simple melodies and high, light acoustic guitars that could fit Eve, Lauryn Hill or Alanis Morissette. Long after X and Eve's days in the sun are over, Swizz will still be working.
More than once, Eve brings up her parents, the mother she had to grow away from and the father who wasn't present. On the autobiographical "Heaven Only Knows," she mentions smoking pot and becoming physically mature too early for her own good and not having the proper guidance to deal with it. "Thought it was cute to flirt with older cats/Up in they face/Didn't have a daddy/So I put a daddy in his space," she says. "I really never had someone to tell me what to do/Teach me that I'm better than just pussy." Suddenly it's clear why she would dye her hair and act like one of the boys and do whatever it takes to get a man's attention.
Ponder that while you bounce to Eve's club-rockin' head knockers and groove to her softer anthems. One warning to fans: Her best song so far -- the sassy Latin-flavored "What Y'All Want" -- has been replaced here by a lame remix. But Eve's luscious voice and Swizz's beats have made her -- after DMX -- first among equals in the Ruff Ryders. The boys will be paying attention. (RS 823)