I don’t remember where I was when I first heard Eve on my radio. All I know is that when I did, I made that face you make when you hear something different. Something so dope, you weren’t ready for it. At all. And that was just on a guest verse. Since that first time, the self-proclaimed pit bull in a skirt has been one of my favorites.
Eve Jihan-Jeffers was born and raised in West Philadelphia and always knew she was talented, even if she didn’t always show it. She would rap on occasion, and was a stripper for a while before fellow rapper and friend Ma$e convinced her to quit. Once she took her wordplay seriously, things started to manifest for her. She was down with Dr. Dre‘s Aftermath Entertainment and went by the moniker Eve of Destruction when she made her debut on the Bulworth motion picture soundtrack. Soon after that, she appeared famously on The Roots‘ “You Got Me” alongside Erykah Badu. And just before releasing her project, she collaborated with DMX and DJ Clue on her first single, “What Y’all Want.”
And then came 1999’s Let There Be Eve… Ruff Ryders’ First Lady. The rap world was never the same.
The album was released September 14, 1999 on Ruff Ryders/Interscope Records and was produced almost exclusively by Swizz Beatz. His production mixed with Eve’s vocals were pretty dope. Some would say ambitious, even. They gave us a little bit of everything. It was so 90s, featuring an intro as well as skits throughout, and even gave a hat tip to A Tribe Called Quest with a Ruff Ryder version of their classic “Scenario” titled “Scenario 2000” featuring DMX and The Lox and Drag-On.
There was more star power where that came from, with an album full of guest appearances including MIssy Elliott (“Ain’t Got No Dough”) DMX, and Beanie Sigel (“Philly Philly”). The three singles released from the album were the “What Y’all Want” remix featuring Nokio of Dru Hill (peaked at #29 on the Billboard 100), “Love is Blind” featuring Faith Evans (#26), and “Gotta Man” featuring Swizz’s then-boo thang Mashonda (#34). The project was soon certified Double Platinum, selling more than two million copies. Eve was also only the third female rapper in history to have her album peak at #1 on the Billboard 200, joining Lauryn Hill and Foxy Brown with that distinction.
What made Eve amazing was that she was different. Sensual and street. Her wordplay was bananas. And she gave all of that to you in the first video, mixing motorcycles with ballroom dancing before you could even focus on what you were seeing.
A very dope beginning to a very dope career that has seen Eve win the inaugural GRAMMY for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2002, star in film (Barbershop, Barbershop 2: The Next Cut), her own sitcom (“Eve“), start her own fashion line (Fetish), and ultimately become a permanent host on a daily talk show (“The Talk“).
It all started with Let There Be Eve. And today, in honor of Women’s History Month, we celebrate that project on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. Congratulations to Eve on this dopeness. May you continue to give the masses what they really want. Respect.