Before she got all glammed up, Eve was the girl who wasn’t afraid to rumble with the boys. Breaking out of the pound in 1999, the West Philly MC moved just under two million copies of her debut, Eve…First Lady of Ruff Ryders. Although the pit-bull-in-a-skirt image clearly worked, Ms. Jeffers opted for a semigangsta, semiglossy approach to her last effort, 2002’s Eve-olution. In the five years that have passed, things done changed even more.
With her fourth LP, Here I Am, the rapper turned actress makes it clear that, even with an Aftermath affiliation, Eve isn’t seeking to reclaim her rough-and-tough roots. Thus, a sole Dr. Dre jewel resides amid tracks by Cool & Dre, Pharrell and Swizz Beatz, who adds his schizoid flavor to five cuts, including the high-octane party starter “Tambourine.”
In lieu of using the hard beats and fiery 16s that fueled her three preceding discs, Eve elects to craft singsongy tunes, like the inspirational “Get That Money,” where the blonde bombshell reflects on her youth in between a stuttering Southern-jacked hook. For “Step Back,” Timbaland provides an ominous “Promiscuous”-esque backdrop as E-V-E insists she’s “got a plan guaranteed to increase [her] fame.”
Unfortunately, that plan entails a few misguided reggae joints. While a droning piano riddim steers the Sizzla-assisted “Turn Me On,” the fast-paced “Give It to Me Girl” finds Eve phoning in lyrics while Sean Paul spits mo’ fiyah. In attempting to dim the lights, she misses the switch completely, sounding like an uninterested lover on the Robin Thicke–featured “Fantasy,” and strains to match Pharrell’s off-key falsetto on the Arabian-style “All Night Long.”
Despite upgrading from Timberlands to Jimmy Choos, Eve isn’t totally deserting true-blue rap fans. On “Cash Flow,” she trades boastful bars with T.I. over Swizz’s majestic trumpet flares: “You can act crazy, thinkin’ it’s a game, but it’s too clear/Gimmicks in ya lane/Tricks, it’s over, this is my year.” Ah, there she is. —CLOVER HOPE