The Underrated: Eve's Let There Be Eve... Ruff Ryder’s First Lady

By @CherchezLaPorsh 

1. First Lady (Intro)
2. Let's Talk About (featuring Drag-on)
3. Gotta Man (featuring Mashonda)
4. Philly Cheese Steak(Skit)
5. Philly Philly (featuring Beanie Sigel)
6. Stuck Up (featuring C.J.)
7. Ain't Got No Dough (featuring Missy Elliott)
8. BM (Skit)
9. Love Is Blind (featuring Faith Evans)
10. Scenario 2000 (featuring DMX, The Lox, Drag-on)
11. Dog Match 
12. My Bitches (Skit)
13. We On That Shit! (featuring P. Killer Trackz)
14. Chokie Nikes (Skit)
15. Maniac (featuring Swizz Beatz)
16.  My Enemies (Skit)
17. Heaven Only Knows 
18. What Y'all Want(Remix)

Since 1998, I’ve loved DMX and the whole entire Ruff Ryders camp. I kept up with all of DMX’s releases, headlines, and concerts, so the following year when DMX shows up at some interview and there’s this girl as a member of his crew, she had everyone’s attention. What I remember most was her badass leather ensemble, shaved head and those paw print tattoos that were always visible. I have to be honest, at the time I had no clue who she was or what she was about, or if she would even bring anything of real value to hip hop. However, I came to know that her name was Eve and almost immediately I would stand corrected. She was about hip hop culture, she would bring her great lyrical ability, rugged and raw east coast qualities and a fresh style to the female side of the industry.

Eve would drop her debut album “Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryder’s First Lady” and thank God she did, because the album essentially established her as a force to be reckoned with and truly a talented gem. The album is primarily produced by Swizz Beatz, the main Ruff Ryders producer, and the featured MC’s are complimentary to her style and voice. It works for the album as a whole. Let's take a look at what she put together.

Ruff Ryders have a whole lot of talent within their clique, so it’s dope that the first track “Let’s Talk About” features Drag-on. Here’s what I appreciate about this track:
1) Eve’s flow, lyrics and voice in general
2) Drag-on and his extremely unique sound
3) This is the perfect “debut artist” introductory song because they reference everybody in the RR family
4) Production! That background bouncy beat you hear would become such a signature and recognizable sound for Eve.

I also love the way the lyrics start, as she introduces herself  perfectly from the start:

“Let's talk about who I am/
Blond bee, find me in the hood with my peoples/
Love y'all, hate the rest of y'all that I can see through/
Above that, I can't feel nothin' unless it's lethal/
Testin' your moves, never that, make your position fetal/”

and then Drag-on’s first verse ties the clique together:

“I wanna talk about Dog nigga, L-O-X, Eve, and me/
Now that's the hottest thing in the streets/
Our beats is Swizz/
Cheesed up with holes in the shit/
Double R roll thick/
And ain't nothin' sweet but Drag-Eve tracks”

Also, look how cleverly they work together on the chorus:

"Now Drag-on will show ya niggas how we lock this shit/
Now Eve gonna show y'all niggas how we rock these hits/
Now we gonna show y'all niggas how we pop this Cris/
Drag (E) dash (V) on (E)"

“Drag E dash V on E”, I love the back and forth! The next track is  Eve's first of two singles off this album, "Gotta Man". This was a fan favorite for sure and it showed in its commercial success. It peaked at 26 on the charts. Mashonda is the featured vocals on this song and Swizz killed it on production. These two ladies are a perfect pair and I attribute this largely to Eve because her flow is unstoppable, and she meshes well with just about anyone. Although I wasn't a huge fan of this song initially, I do have to say that the chorus is one of the catchier ones I've heard and the lyrics are great too. Personally I think this is the song that showcases Eve's feminine side and gives us ladies something to connect to. Just sappy enough to be emotional, but she doesn't over do it (which makes the fellas like it too)

We go from the catchy chorus and beats to a fun and short skit in "Philly Cheesesteak", which obviously is a perfect segue  to the track "Philly Philly" and this is an underrated track for sure. It is also easily one of my favorites, and here's why: First, Beanie Sigel is the featured artist. I thought it was weird but then I remembered both Eve and Beans are Philadelphia natives so it makes perfect sense that they would link up on this track. The beat is great, so once again we have Swizz to thank for that and then their lyrics are really dope. I really can't stress enough how much I appreciate the way Eve delivers her songs in general, but the lyrics and delivery here are something special.

Next up, we've got the track "Stuck Up", and this one is a slower beat, which is a very good thing. Up until this point we've had some pretty high energy beats, so it's nice to hear it mellowed out a bit here. This song features C.J. and this is done like a conversation between Eve and him on what sounds like a phone call. Basically, this is the song that she yet again shows allegiance to Ruff Ryders and shows herself as a tough and rugged chic which is definitely inline with her portrayed image:

"....but you know you was with them Ruff Ryder niggas I ain't really fucking with it like that"

And then Eve starts the song with this opening line:

"Yo, yo nigga if you shy move on/
Only room for a thug that can hold on/
Keep me right in the night, early in the morn/
I need a dog that can buy it if the pressure's on/"

(I like the dog reference here, since this was the biggest identifying thing of RR). So essentially, the song goes on and insinuates that she's become "stuck up" since becoming affiliated with the group and there we have the back and forth between the two. I like this technique in rap songs, I think it provides some insight and involvement from the listener. I give this song a bunch of credit because I think Eve shows her versatility, not only with different artists, but also with different approaches. This one definitely works in her favor.

I've been waiting to talk about the one,  as "Ain't Got No Dough" has 2 of my all time favorite ladies on one track. I really like everything about this track, well for the most part, but I'll get to that in a second. Even though Missy has a short chorus, she's on throughout the song, which is fantastic and she actually raps rather than the "spoken word" style she's typically known for. The beat on this one has a bit of a rock/metal feel to it. It's more aggressive than what both of these ladies usually deliver, not to mention the explicit nature of what they're saying. Where this song might get a tiny bit of critique is within some of the lyrics perhaps, which go slightly against her image as the woman that will ride for her man and hold him down.

"...and I'm here to let you know
My time is priceless, so if you iceless, babygirl gotta go..."

"Wildin' out I dash/
To that type of thug that's about they business/
Piling out that cash/
Long line of credit cause I like my thug to last/
See they like it when I talk back"

That's the only issue here, otherwise the track is solid. Both Eve and Missy give us fantastic rhymes and as usual the chemistry is great.

Next up, we get the second single off the album, "Love is Blind". Partnering with Faith Evans (who I also love), they tackle the issue of physical abuse within relationships from an outsider looking in. Eve talks to both her friend and the dude. I like the approach. It adequately conveys her anger and the lyrics are uncensored and raw. I was never able to directly relate to this song, but regardless I can feel the anger, hurt and frustration through the lyrics. Here's why I think Faith was a brilliant choice, as her voice is incredibly soothing, soft and calming. On a song that is laced with so much anguish and anger, which we can clearly hear in Eve, Faith sort of comes in and softens it. I can't imagine a better person to be on this track, so once again the voices are incredibly complimentary. In true Swizz form, the beat is somewhat upbeat, which seems a little misplaced. I think it would have been a bit more powerful if the beat was different, maybe slower and less bounce to reflect the words, but that was the signature sound and it still works.

Another track I can't wait to talk about, "Scenerio 2000" is probably my second favorite song on the entire album for the simple fact that everyone is on it. DMX, The Lox and Drag-on. Perfect all around. Each person gets a verse and each one delivers perfectly. All of these guys are great with flow and lyrics and Eve proves she can keep up with any of them. I think each comes with such a unique style that works so well. There isn't any crazy impressive wordplay, but what we do have is some fun wordplay from both Drag-on and Eve.

"Turn my face when I bust a cannon/
'cause I don't wear sunblock/
Ask Drag if the fire is hot (Flame On baby)/"

"...whats the difference between fire and water?/
You rather drown or die off torture, cause yo skins off ya/
And watch ya burn off fat/
 dog I'm off the thermostat/"

The beat once again is awesome and inline with the whole sound of the album, so the cohesiveness is there for sure. It's also nice that each artist was equal in quality from verse to verse, that's when you know it's done well.

The track immediately after is "Dog Match" which features DMX (of course) and primarily used to reiterate Eve as part of RR and the tightness of the crew. Definitely a solid song here. Now, let's skip these skits and get to the first song NOT produced by Swizz. Thirteen tracks in and we get "We On That Shit", produced by P.K. and overall it was well done. It provides variation, which is nice, but it has a Mobb Deep feel to me. It's definitely more instrumental and doesn't have the signature bounce I keep talking about. What I don't like is all these background sounds of gunshots and sirens and all the extra. It doesn't take away from the lyrics, but it breaks my focus and the continuity. I could have done without. Overall, I think the album benefits from this song, but it definitely isn't one of my favorites.

At this point we are left with 5 tracks, 2 of which are skits and one is a bonus track, so let's talk about the other two, one which is"Maniac" which is appropriately titled, because I don't know what to make of this one, as there's a whole lot going on. We get Swizz back on production AND he's the feature. This is probably the most fast paced song on the whole album. It's a whirlwind, a ton of cheer squad type shouting and a plethora of crazy production. As a listener, I'm pulled in every direction, literally "maniac-like", this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's different and a tiny bit out of place because it doesn't fit or go with the flow of the album.

So after another skit, we get the most heartfelt song on the whole album and my favorite. "Heaven Only Knows" is definitely my type of song. The producer on this one is DJ Shok, as this is another non Swizz produced track. I love hearing insight and perspective when rappers pair that with personal life experience, so to me that's a gem. This is exactly what is happening here, as listeners get to know the story of Eve. Where she came from, what she's been through, her thought process, pretty much everything. The lyrics here are great because this is truly a story and once again shows Eve's ability as an artist. Here are some snippets of her perspective.

"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 place/
My mami was my shelter but I broke free"

"Who was I to tell and what would they think of me/
No one understood the pain that was sent to me/
Broke down from the things men would say to me/
Selling drinks to a naive kid, I blame me/"

"Now I'm 20 years old and look where I'm at/
I thank the Lord every night and pray there's no turning back/
I wanna keep my family happy and that's that/"

Eve really does an amazing job of sharing her life from the beginning until "present day". Track placement on this is amazing, because it's the second last song. We go through the rough exterior, the badass claims, the rugged image and just before she closes out, she lets you know how it all started. This is a full circle moment and I'm not sure many other Hip hop albums have achieved it quite like this. I appreciate it immensely.

So there you have it, Eve, "The First Lady of Ruff Ryders" clearly showed us that she's not only the badass, leather-clad, tatted up Philly girl, but that she has a wealth of skills, talent and ability for the genre to benefit from. She set out to create a debut album that would not only introduce her to the industry, but would cement her spot as a leading lyricist. She did exactly that. Eve is definitely a female MC that is on top lists everywhere. This album is where it all began.



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