The year was 2002, and Eve was still riding high on her GRAMMY win for the first-ever Best Rap/Sung Collaboration prize with No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani, “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.” Her third album, Eve-Olution, would peak at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 album chart, thanks to the Alicia Keys-assisted, No. 2 single “Gangsta Lovin’.”
Now more than a decade later, the woman once known as the “First Lady” of the Ruff Ryders hip-hop crew led by rapper DMX is back with her fourth album, Lip Lock, released last week (May 14) on her own record label, From The Rib.
“All of my decisions are tough right now, because it’s me,” she told Radio.com, adding that she now has the final word on everything from music videos to choosing her singles. “But I still have a huge support system. I have an amazing team of people. Not that I didn’t have that at Ruff Ryders, but there were extra hangers-on. I don’t have hangers-on like I used to. It is more of a business now. I love it, I think it’s fun. I definitely know a lot more information than I ever thought I should know!”
The new album, Lip Lock, feels very big. Was that intentional?
With this album, there were two things. One, lyrically, I definitely wanted people to recognize me. But then musically, I wanted it to be global, because I do travel a lot. I guess it is bigger it some sense. I just wanted a global sound.
How important were the lyrics on this album?
I’m a lyricist, first and foremost. It’s important for me to be recognized lyrically, for myself and my core audience. I want my audience to hear it and be like, “that’s my girl. That’s the girl I feel in love with!” It was important for me to do that for them.
How did collaborations with artists like Missy Elliott, Snoop Dogg, Dawn Richard and Gabe Saporta from Cobra Starship come about for this album?
The collaborations on this record kind of just happened. There was no premeditated collaboration. It’s like I made the record, and the record told me who to put on it. If we couldn’t get in touch with maybe one person (for a song), it just so happened that the person that wound up on it made it perfect.
Talk about the album’s first single, “Make it Out This Town,” which features Saporta.
It’s a song about struggling, and being in a dark place. Or you can take it literally – being in your hometown and feeling like you need to get out of your hometown because you have bigger dreams and aspirations. It’s a positive record. I’m now the ambassador for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and that song is dedicated to them.
What advice would you have for today’s crop of female rappers?
The most advice I could give them is to have a level head, if you can. Try to pay attention to what’s going on. But obviously things happen so fast sometimes, you just get caught up. If you could take a second to step back and see everything, and see what’s happening, and feel what’s happening, I think it makes for a better life. I think that’s something I had to learn, because I got caught up in so many things. There were times when I was completely miserable, or just hearing the wrong information. But I think that happens when you’re a young artist.
If you could record a fantasy posse cut with four or more female rappers, who would you choose to be on it?
I would do [artists from] back in the day and now. It would be me, Missy [Elliott], there’s a new girl named Nacho who is so dope, that no one knows (she appears on Lip Lock album cut “Wanna Be”). I would put Azealia [Banks] on it, I’d put [Lil'] Kim on it. It would be a long-ass record, but I’d put Nicki [Minaj] on it, you know what I’m saying? I don’t have any issues with anyone. If it’s going to be a hot record, let’s do it. I’d put Foxy [Brown] on there, I don’t care.
How would you describe your musical tastes?
My music has always been eclectic. I barely listen to hip-hop. I mostly listen to reggae. If anybody knows me, they know my heart is reggae. But I also listen to songs from Fiona Apple, I like Alex Clare, I like Beyonce. I listen to everything. I can’t help it. If I like a song, I buy it.
How has it been living in London? (Eve relocated to the U.K. to be with her boyfriend, British race car driver Maximillion Cooper.)
London is a place that I’ve always loved. I’ve been going back and forth for years. But to live in London is different. Yeah, they speak English, but it’s different. You definitely have to get used to certain things. I think I’m kind of there now, but it was a bit of culture shock. They have cool slang in London.
What’s the London music scene like?
The music scene in London is exciting. Not that it’s not here [in America], but there are so many different little underground movements there. Whether it’s dubstep or Afro-pop, obviously there’s grime, there’s grunge, there’s garage… I think that you can hear all of those influences in music over there, especially the hip-hop.
What do you like to watch on TV?
I love to watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Either one, they’re both hilarious. I’m obsessed with Scandal. It’s juicy. It’s sexy, it’s just everything. [Kerry Washington] kills that role. She’s great.