The Ruff Ryders were one of the largest rap posses in the late 90s, and Eve – AKA the label’s First Lady – helped propel them to Grammy-winning dominance. With the genre’s lack of female representation at the time, the paw print chest-tattooed Eve was a unique voice: A slick lyricist that shifted the male gaze of rap to a female’s perspective on sexuality, self-worth, and stacking your coins.
Eve Jihan Jeffers Cooper is a proud Philadelphia native. She initially found a place as a singer in an all-female R&B cover group called Dope Girl Posse, but when the group’s manager suggested they take a rap approach, Eve began sharpening her lyrical pen. After initially signing to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath and appearing on 1998’s Bulworth soundtrack and The Roots’ “You Got Me,” Eve moved to Ruff Ryders Entertainment/Interscope and was properly introduced on “What Ya Want.” The 1999 single, found on the compilation Ryde or Die Vol. 1, was sharp and assertive, with Eve rapping over a catchy Swizz Beatz production.
As Eve became an established name in the rap world, she also expanded her reach. She dabbled in fashion with the launch of clothing line Fetish, which launched in 2003 and closed in 2009. The rapper also found a home in film and TV, starring in the Barbershop film franchise, her own Eve sitcom (which ran from 2003-2006 on UPN), and serving as a co-host on CBS daytime talk show The Talk starting in 2017. Nonetheless, music has always remained at the forefront, and these are her best songs.
(“Hot Boyz,” “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” “Rich Girl,” “Gangsta Lovin’”)
A few months after Eve stepped onto the scene, the rapper quickly scored her first top ten single on the Billboard Hot 100 – thanks to Missy Elliott’s “Hot Boyz.” A still beloved posse cut (also featuring Lil’ Mo, Nas, and Q-Tip) from Elliott’s 1999 sophomore album Da Real World, the song showcased Eve’s now-signature sassy flow. The rapper kept the momentum going by linking up with Gwen Stefani for the Dr. Dre-produced “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.” The buzzy single, found on Eve’s sophomore album Scorpion (released in 2001) soared to No. 2 on the Hot 100.
Eve followed up with “Gangsta Lovin’,” the lead single from 2002’s Eve-Olution. Featuring Alicia Keys, the affectionate single displayed Eve’s softer side – and also peaked at No. 2. “Rich Girl” – the second team-up from Stefani, the rapper, and Dr. Dre – sampled Louchie Lou & Michie One’s 1993 song of the same name. The single, from Stefani’s debut 2004 album Love. Angel. Music. Baby., received a 2005 Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Prior to the 2010s streaming takeover, it was a challenge for rappers (let alone female rappers) to earn such chart success. But Eve was proof that it was possible.
Boss Lady Anthems
(“What Ya Want,” “Eve,” “Satisfaction,” “She Bad Bad,” “Who’s That Girl?”)
Along with crafting chart smashes, Eve was also admired by fans for the confidence she helped give them. And it was all due to braggadocio lyricism that made listeners feel they were the most important person in the room. Eve first made that clear on the song “What Ya Want,” where she proved that women were secure enough to not fall for a man’s weak pick-up lines. “Who’s That Girl?”, the lead single from 2001’s Scorpion, may not have been a major hit (it peaked at No. 47 on Billboard’s Hot 100) but it quickly became a fan favorite thanks to the bold melodies that matched Eve’s equally in-your-face lyricism.
The Grammy-nominated “Satisfaction,” found on 2002’s Eve-Olution, is a more subdued production that allows the rapper’s flow to take center stage as she spits about putting all her haters to rest. “Eve,” which features Jamaican personality Miss Kitty, came later in her career (2013 to be exact). The powerful tune reminds everyone that while she may have taken a little hiatus, she’s still got the fire. “She Bad Bad,” found on 2013’s Lip Lock, is an experimental tune that fuses electronic beats with Afrobeat-inspired hooks.
The Island Jams
(“Give It to You,” “Reload”)
A handful of Eve’s songs reflect her love for Caribbean influences, and she first experimented with the island sound with 2007’s “Give It To You.” Produced by fellow Ruff Ryder Swizz Beatz, the sultry single features dancehall star Sean Paul and finds Eve at her most seductive. 2019’s “Reload,” marked a major comeback from Eve. (It was her first official single in six years.) But instead of returning with a vengeance, she opted to slow things down a bit alongside dancehall singer Konshens. All the reggae-rap song needs is an ice cold cup of rum punch.
(“Gotta Man,” “Love Is Blind,” “Got It All,” “You Got Me,” “Caramel,” “Not Today”)
What makes Eve such a relatable rapper is her natural ability to connect with the ladies and their journey of discovering love. Eve doesn’t shy away from the real-life (and sometimes jarring) struggles that relationships can bring. Lifted from 1999’s debut album Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady, “Love Is Blind” sees Eve telling a story about her best friend surviving domestic violence and how she’d use any means to protect her life.
On the lighter end, “Gotta Man” is an adorable showcase of puppy love. The 2000 single “Got It All,” featuring Jadakiss, as well her feature on City High’s 2001 single “Caramel,” is Eve telling men that she is an asset all on her own. Meanwhile, the rapper hopped on Mary J. Blige’s 2004 single “Not Today” to show how quickly she’ll kick a guy to the curb, while her feature on The Roots’ 1999 single “You Got Me” finds her longing for her lover to come home.
(“Tambourine,” “My Chick Bad,” “Like This”)
Eve is mainly known for her attention-grabbing wordplay, but don’t be fooled – she can also write one heck of a club anthem. 2007’s “Tambourine” will have you rushing to the dancefloor thanks to Swizz Beatz’s jangling production and Eve’s catchy flow. That same year, the rapper linked up with Kelly Rowland for the latter’s “Like This” single. The slinky Top 40 tune was more R&B-leaning, but it still captured the hip-shaking groove that is necessary for a party hit. In 2010, Eve turned the volume all the way up when Ludacris recruited her (along with fellow female rappers Diamond and Trina) for the “My Chick Bad” remix. Eve closed the song with her signature confidence: “Cause I’m that b—h and still keep a mean fetish/Still stack lettuce, huh, still stack cheese/And I got a bad temper, tell your n—a say please.”
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