Does Eve’s Debut LP ‘Ruff Ryders’ First Lady’ Stand The Test of Time?
During the late ’90s, hip-hop witnessed a resurgence of female rhymers emerging on the scene. While the late ’80s saw a rennaissance of its own with rappers such as Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt & Pepa and many others, their songs was more party hearty and socially conscious than lusty and criminal minded like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown.
In 1999, a New York-based record label Ruff Ryders Entertainment — riding high off the multi-platinum success of their franchise player, DMX — introduced a femme fatale of their own from Philadelphia named Eve. Formerly known as The Eve Of Destruction, the rapper joined the label after a failed stint on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records.
Eve manage to score a radio smash with ‘What You Want’ from the label’s compilation album ‘Ryde Or Die Vol. 1′ compilation and was chosen to follow behind DMX.
On Sept. 14, 1999, Eve released her debut album, ‘Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady.’ The collection debut on the Billboard 200 chart in its first week of release, becoming the third female rapper in history to do so behind Foxy Brown’s ‘Chyna Doll’ (1999) and Lauryn Hill’s ‘Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ (1998).
The album, powered by the radio-ready singles ‘Gotta Man’ and ‘Love Is Blind,’ would go on to sell over two million copies and establish Eve as one of the top female artists in the game.
Today marks the 15th anniversary of the album’s release, so we decided to review each track and see if Eve’s ‘First Lady’ still stands the test of time.
‘Let’s Talk About’
‘First Lady’ begins with the Drag-On-assisted ‘Let’s Talk About.’ On the song, Eve wastes no time proving that she is more than just the token, cute-faced rap chick. “Let’s talk about platinum plaques / Hanging on my wall, see me decorated / She’s the one, heard em’ say it, see me celebrated / I pop s— when it’s necessary, not for nothing / I use clips for the big beef, see me busting,” she raps. The two Ruff Ryder rookies bounce off one another effortlessly over the Swizz Beatz production.
The “pitbull in a skirt” gets a little lovey-dovey on the Swizz Beatz-produced ‘Gotta Man.’ Serving as the album’s lead single, Eve dedicates a few bars to her boyfriend and promises him love and loyalty for life.
Fellow Philly rhymer Beanie Sigel makes an appearance on the piano-driven, hometown anthem ‘Philly, Philly.’ Showing love to the gritty streets that raised them, Eve manages to slightly best the Roc bully with her verse, lending more evidence to the fact that she can do more than hang with the big boys.
On ‘Stuck Up,’ Eve makes it known that no scrubs and broke dudes are allowed in her cipher. Over a melodic synth groove, she raps, “Bratty type, spoiled by the best black / Caddie Escalade, ’99 edition, get that / And what you in equals to a Shwinn and I ain’t with that / Not impressed by ‘all of this is mine’ but we can split that.”
‘Aint Got No Dough’
‘Ain’t Got No Dough’ continues Eve’s bashing of guys who are low on the funds. While she delivers lyrically, the atrocity comes when Missy Elliot sings the hook and the lackluster beat derails this track. Skip it.
‘Love Is Blind’
The cautionary tale ‘Love Is Blind’ features Eve weaving a second-hand account of domestic abuse between a female friend and her partner. “I don’t even know you, but I hate you / See, all I know is that my girlfriend used to date you / How would you feel if she held you down and rape you / Tried and tried, but she never could escape you,” she raps. The song was a bright spot on the radio airwaves and positioned Eve as not just the run-of-the mill, sex-driven female rapper, but one with a little substance to match.
Eve calls in her Ruff Ryder brethren — DMX, the Lox and Drag-On — for the epic posse cut, ‘Scenario 2000.’ Each member delivers vicious rhymes, with Eve proving her worth as a lyrical tyrant with bars like, “E-V-E, my dogs believe in me / Petty thugs hide ya cake, never teasing me / I show love to all my bitches hustling ones / Tussle wit’ thieves, making moves, second to none.” Top bragging rights also go to ‘Kiss who goes completely bonkers on the track.
The “pitbull in a skirt” teams up with Dark Man X on the Swizz Beatz-produced banger, ‘Dog Match.’ Both go for broke with rewind-worthy bars, making for one of the more superior cuts on the album.
‘We On That Shit’
The P.K.-produced ‘We On That Shit’ sees Eve rhyming about violent robberies and leaving no witnesses. Dropping three quality verses, the First Lady of RR continues the LP’s winning streak and making herself a terror on the microphone.
Eve turns up the tempo on the LP with the horn-blowing ‘Maniac.’ Swizz Beatz’s high-octane track matched with Eve’s performance on the mic make this joint a winner.
‘Heaven Only Knows’
The ‘First Lady’ closes out with the reflective rap ballad ‘Heaven Only Knows,’ which was produced by DJ Shok. On it, Eve reflects on her rise in the rap game. “Went from dancing on table-tops to making labels pop / For the love of the money, so I can cop everything from icy rings to drops-tops / And, now I’m on top / But to look back on my reality, happy I stopped.” Overall, the song puts an unexpected, yet satisfactory end to her debut album.