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Eve: Ruff Ryders' First Lady

Album: Ruff Ryders' First Lady
Label: Ruff Ryders/Interscope

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At 20, the artist formerly known as Eve Of Destruction has already experienced a career's worth of highs and lows. After a brief stint as a stripper, Eve received a big break that wasn't (a deal with Dr. Dre's Aftermath label that went nowhere), a second big break that wasn't (an impressive cameo on The Roots' brilliant "You Got Me" single that most people incorrectly attributed to Erykah Badu), and finally a partnership with the red-hot Ruff Ryders crew that has the potential to turn her into a genuine superstar. There hasn't been a debut album by a female rapper this highly anticipated since Missy Elliott's back in 1997, and Ruff Ryders' First Lady is the rare hyped debut that actually lives up to the build-up. Eve's first album doesn't get off to a particularly good start, with a silly and obligatory intro that leads into an unremarkably thuggish collaboration with fellow Ruff Ryder Drag-On that wouldn't have been out of place on Ruff Ryders' massively overrated Ryde Or Die compilation. Fairly early on, however, Eve displays the sort of singular talent that has led to her deserved status as the Next Big Thing. With a unique flow that's capable of streetwise swagger, girl-next-door vulnerability, and improbable sweetness, Eve draws on but sets herself apart from strong female-rapper forebears like Queen Latifah and the aforementioned Elliott, who guests on "Ain't Got No Dough." While Eve indulges in her share of thuggish Ruff Ryder anthems (including two collaborations with DMX), she also shows a more conscientious, reflective side on "Heaven Only Knows," the sweet love song and first single "Gotta Man," and, most strikingly, the fierce anti-domestic-violence diatribe "Love Is Blind." It's this rare maturity and sensitivity—as well as dynamite technical skills that perfectly complement producer Swizz Beatz's simple keyboard melodies—that sets Eve apart and establishes the Philly native as a rare talent.