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Eve on Breaking into the Boys’ Club of Rap

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As a Gen Y feminist, I have tried surround myself with endeavors and friendships that are largely made up of supportive women. But last week, I attended an event at the 92Y that made me rethink the value of being a girl in a guy’s world and the power of breaking into those structures, while still working to build female support systems. Pioneer female rapper and producer Eve redefined for me the benefit of being the only girl, of learning through trial and error, and sticking with your authentic self as a guide through your career.

With breakthrough fame after collaborating with the Ruff Ryders and DMX, Eve went on to a successful solo career, including a Grammy-award-winning collaboration with Gwen Stefani for the single “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.” Since then she has had two other solo albums, a movie career, and a clothing line, Fetish.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Eve said she found that the city lends a feistiness to the music made there, probably because it sits in the shadow of New York City. Philly has “it’s own kind of style and sound,” she said. Eve said she took tons of trips to New York, trying to make it as an artist.

Though she was a singer first, Eve said she liked hip hop because it got her more attention because there were so few female rappers. Breaking those barriers she learned to be fiercely independent, she said, telling stories of trying to meet every music producer in New York. She said she always told them, “I’ll rap right now.”

Sometimes people took advantage of her outgoing nature, often inviting her into their homes under false pretenses. “It was disappointing because I knew I was talented and I knew I wanted to do it the right way,” she said. Young women shouldn’t let that happen to them in their path to success, she said.

Women should never take “no” for an answer. As she approached a male-dominated industry, Eve said she didn’t really care that she would be the only . “Whatever, move over,” was how she interacted with her male counterparts, she said, using the prove yourself kind of mentality that came with being a woman as motivation. Her original role models in music were always women who held their own with the men, like Queen Latifah and MC Light.

Being with the Ruff Ryders, Eve said she was probably the most protected woman on the planet. In her second album, she wrote a song by herself for the first time at the urging of Dre. Eve said she’s so happy he made her stay there. Eve spoke of her fellow artists with praise and familiarity. Dre can scream and kick and punch things sometimes, she said. Swizz Beatz has an infectious energy, she smiled.

When she was young, Eve said the studio was all about drugs and booze and people, but now she can’t have all those distractions. “It’s an energy thing,” she said, “you can get knocked off your game.” She said finding out what worked took a lot of trial and error.

Working with Gwen Stefani seemed natural for Eve because she had always been a fan. The two singers are a lot alike in that they sing with lots of boys and balance a style that is both feminine and tomboy-like. Winning a Grammy for that collaboration was an “incredible moment,” she said.

As for what’s next for Eve, her newest album, Lip Lock, just came out this spring. It was independently produced and released because she wanted more creative freedom in her process. Her dream collaborator is Lauryn Hill who also has shown a lot of creative freedom in her works. Music is one of those industries where you have to stay relevant as you age, and women are judged much harsher than their male counterparts, Eve said. There needs to be female unity, artist to artist, to combat this disparity, she said.

Eve said she comes from a long line of strong women who instilled a serious drive for success in her. At the end of the day, she said she feels a responsibility to other young women, and she hopes to empower them. Though she wouldn’t call herself a feminist, Eve said she does think that hip hop is oversexed and that women should be taught to take the power back. Don’t oversex yourself out of your comfort zone. “Stay original,” she said.

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