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Eve: The Return of Rap’s Queen Bee

Eleven years since her last big hit, female rap luminary Eve is set to take a new direction with her upcoming album, Lip Lock. Styled by Richard Shoyemi. Makeup by Kym Menzies-Foster for MAC. Hair by Vernon François. Nails by Stephanie Staunton. Photographed by Salim Langatta. Creative Director: Alessandra Orsi

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Hip-hop’s queen bee is back, and this time, it’s with a kind of vengeance you might not expect from Ruff Ryder’s first lady, Eve. Known for her strong lyrics loaded with female empowerment—and the fierce mirror image paw-print tattoos on her chest—it’s with Lip Lock, her comeback album out on May 14, that Eve will prove she never left the game.

“I’m going through a lot of emotions,” she says over the phone from her apartment in New York. “I’m anxious, I’m excited. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was kind of scared.” Over a decade since she released her last album, Eve-olution, and after years of delays, the 34-year-old rapper is finally ready to put out her fourth album—this time, under her own, new, independent label, FTR Music. (The initials stand for From The Rib, a play on her Biblical first name). “I didn’t wanna put out a record if the business wasn’t right,” she says. “Finally, it’s right.”

With her new pop-heavy singles “She Bad Bad,” “Make It Out This Town,” and “Eve” already met with critical acclaim—the video for the former garnered over 1 million views on YouTube in less than a week—and the album packed with collaborations with the likes of Snoop Lion, Missy Elliott, Dawn Richard, Chrisette Michele, Juicy J, and Pusha T, it’s clear the Grammy-winning rapper’s instincts are on track.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Eve Jeffers grew up singing in choirs and later experimented with rapping. After a few smaller collaborations with Prince, The Roots, and Dr. Dre, Eve joined DMX and the Ruff Ryders in 1999. Her second single with the crew, “What Ya Want” became a top 40 hit on Billboard, effectively launching her name into pop hip-hop vernacular. Her debut album, Let There Be Eve… Ruff Ryders’ First Lady, was wildly successful, and became the third album by a female rap artist to hit number one on the Billboard 200 after Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) and Foxy Brown's Chyna Doll (1999).

Eve continued to release hits. Her albums Scorpion (2001) famously featured a collaboration with Gwen Stefani ("Let Me Blow Ya Mind") that won a Grammy. The next year, her album Eve-olution (2002) went certifed platinum and gold.

But for the next five years after that, the singer would only appear on guest singles without releasing a new song of her own. In the meantime, she concentrated on her fashion line, Fetish, and appeared in several films and television shows, including Barbershop (2002), XXX (2002), The Woodsman (2004), Whip It (2009), Glee (2009) and her eponymous TV series, Eve (2003-2006), among others.

In 2007, she came back on the scene, releasing two singles “Tambourine” and “Give It To You,” both meant for the forthcoming Lip Lock. Due to issues with her label at the time, Interscope Records, the album was delayed six years. The songs were scrapped from the album and completely remade under her own label from scratch.

By now, the rap scene has expanded since the early days to include many more female artists, and only continues to grow with acts like Azealia Banks, Kreayshawn, Nicki Minaj, K. Flay, and international stars like M.I.A. and Lady Sovereign. “I am happy that there are some more females that are trying to come out,” she says of the new musical climate. “There’s too much testosterone, and we definitely need more of a female voice in hip-hop.”

For Eve, the new genre-straddling album is as much about showing off how she’s grown “as a person, as a woman, as an artist,” she says, as it is about staying true to her long-time fans. “I always feel like I’m the voice of independent women and girls,” she says. “And hopefully, they’ll feel good when they hear this record, and they’ll hear the strength that comes from the record.”

While her new song “Make It Out This Town retains the sense of good-will and positive energy typical of her original hits, the new album is full of high-energy dance club anthems, taking her music in a different direction from anything she’s made in the past.

But with younger artists like Kesha and Rihanna adopting UK electronic dance music (EDM) and Chicago house music in the pop arena, Eve was wary to incorporate similar sounds. “I just didn’t want to have people think I was trying to conform to the fad,” she says. “But ultimately, if the beat is hot, it’s hot.” A dub step rhythm holds down the self-titled “EVE,” featuring Miss Kitty, and other EDM surges and drops appear in songs like “She Bad Bad,” “Keep Me From You,” and “Zero Below.”

“Hip-hop has now become so intertwined with other music,” she says. “When I first came out, it kind of had to stay in its own lane. Now it’s so much more broad, so that’s exciting for me.” The record boasts other influences as well, including reggae and Middle Eastern melodies—an eclecticism she attributes to her recent move to London with her billionaire boyfriend of three years and Gumball 3000 founder, Maximillion Cooper.

As an interracial couple, Eve has taken some heat from fans and critics. But the rapper focuses instead the healthiness of her relationship and returns the focus to the album, exuding a sense maturity and confidence that comes through as much in her music as it does in her social life. “I think my hunger from before was just having to prove myself to people,” she says. “Now, it’s proving myself more as an artist, proving myself to me.” —Sasha Levine (@sashalevine)

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