We’ve Got A File On You: Eve

Sarah Louise Bennett

We’ve Got A File On You: Eve

Sarah Louise Bennett

We’ve Got A File On You features interviews in which artists share the stories behind the extracurricular activities that dot their careers: acting gigs, guest appearances, random internet ephemera, etc.

Eve may have started out as an MC from Philadelphia, but her decades-long career now fills so many categories — rapper, singer, songwriter, actress, TV presenter, talk show host — she’s one of those people who definitely doesn’t, and will never, need a last name. Calling her a household name might even be too on the nose; within the last two years, Eve was literally in most American households (well, on their TVs, anyway), co-hosting CBS’ roundtable daytime show The Talk.

In the late 1990s, though, Eve was in a markedly different position. Briefly signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment label as Eve Of Destruction, she was dropped shortly after Eminem came on board — before having the chance to record anything. Soon after Eve rap-battled her way into DMX’s millennium-era hip-hop posse Ruff Ryders, which also showcased music from DMX, the Lox, Jadakiss, Swizz Beatz, Styles P, and Sheek Louch. That unique collective arrangement, where Eve happened to be the only female rapper, allowed her to join forces with a number of high-profile MCs and stand out as her own powerful entity, most notably on the 1999 single “What Ya Want” and “Got It All.”

These days, Eve is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her 2001 sophomore effort, Scorpion, which, like its 1999 predecessor, Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady, hit #1 when it was released and later went platinum. Scorpion also brought pop culture the gift of a rap-pop crossover hit “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” produced by Dre, and featuring then-No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani, who, a few years later, returned the favor by placing Eve on her solo single “Rich Girl.”

After Eve’s initial success, she started popping up on the big and small screens, taking roles in Ice Cube’s Barbershop franchise, roller derby comedy Whip It, Vin Diesel action vehicle XXX, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, and even her own eponymous sitcom on UPN, which ran from 2003 to 2006.

Speaking to Stereogum over the phone, Eve looked back on her many career achievements, including being Ruff Ryders’ “pit bull in a skirt,” convincing industry execs to take her Stefani collab seriously, being asked “Who drank my apple juice?,” and more.

“What Ya Want” (1999)

In the earliest point of your career, it looked like you were moving back and forth between launching in a group or launching as a solo act. Did you have a preference at the time?

EVE: Yeah, I think back then, because it was high school, really. So it was kind of just like, okay, me and this girl have this group and this is our plan, but then she has a life plan, her life plans were to go to college and my life plan was to completely pursue my music. Anything that wasn’t music for me just didn’t make sense in my life. It kind of got decided for us in the sense that she obviously had to pay attention to school and that timeframe just didn’t work for my life and what I wanted. Now that I have been on my own so long, it was definitely — it made more sense.

How do you see your time with Ruff Ryders playing into your career? Did it seem at the time that you were launching as a solo act within a collective?

EVE: I think the thing with Ruff Ryders is although it is a collective, you are an individual. It never felt like, “Oh, I’m compromising me to fit this group.” Essentially, we weren’t a group as such. It was more just, “This is the crew and we all have our own thing.” So thankfully I never had to think about it. I think they always saw me as this entity, this one solo artist.

Something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, ever since it dropped in early February, is Framing Britney Spears. Did you have a chance to see it?

EVE: I didn’t catch it, but people sent me screenshots of things.

Well, it really made a lot of people rethink how the media spoke to women in the public eye, especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s. When Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady went #1, were you ever frustrated at how journalists overemphasized your being a female rapper?

EVE: I mean, yeah. Of course, it was like, “Oh, you’re a female rapper that…” It was always “female rapper” in front of everything, which was annoying. I had a situation where a male rapper in the industry who really was successful at the time called me and actually said to me when the album came out, “Congratulations, but don’t expect to go #1. Don’t expect to go platinum because that usually never happens to females.” And of course, thank God my album did great and I held that position. So back then it was definitely so gendered… Are you serious?

And for me it was annoying because I always, always throughout my whole career, especially when I first started, I never wanted to just be good for a female, I just wanted to be a good MC, period. And back then it was always, “Oh, you’re good even for a female.” A guy said to me, “I listen to you, I usually don’t listen to female MCs but for a female, you’re good, for a girl, you’re good.” It’s like, “Shut up.” It was so annoying.

Yeah, of course. Tale as old as time. You know, I was wondering if you were aware that “Who’s That Girl” is the intro to a super-popular podcast, Who? Weekly. I have to admit, that’s what I think of now if and when I hear that song.

EVE: No, I haven’t. I need to check that out. What’s it called?

It’s called Who? Weekly. The name is a parody of Us Weekly, only the podcast focuses on “Whos” — celebrities of the B-list variety.

EVE: I love that, I’ll definitely check it out.

“Let Me Blow Ya Mind” (2001)

Moving into your collab with Gwen Stefani — nowadays, cross-genre collaborations happen all the time in popular music. But when you said, “I want Gwen to sing on ‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind,’” how hard was it to convince your team that it was worth trying?

EVE: I mean, when I did that record, [Gwen] was the first person I thought of. I’ve always listened to all types of music and I always have felt that good music is good music, no matter what. So I was like, “She would be amazing.” But when I mentioned her to some of the people that were in Ruff Ryders, some of the people that helped us put the songs together, A&R, whatever, it definitely was, “Eh, I’m not sure. I’m not sure if that will match. How people are going to feel about it.”

Thankfully, Gwen was on my label, so getting her was not the hard part. It was convincing. “Well, let’s just record it and if it sucks, it sucks, and we never have to put it out.” I think there were equal parts “Hell no, this is not going to work” and “Hey, let’s just try it.” And thankfully, I mean, I’m pretty much annoying when I want something done, so I did not give up on it and thankfully it all worked out. And then once they heard it, that’s when everybody came around, they were like, “Actually you know what? This might work.” And thankfully, it did.

Yeah, I can’t imagine that there was a ton of precedent at the time. The only thing I can really think of at the moment without doing an internet deep dive is Run-D.M.C. with Aerosmith.

EVE: Yep. Yep, exactly. That’s all I think of at first, that’s the first thing that popped to my head because I was even thinking just now, what else could it have been? But that is the one collaboration I would say. I’m sure it might be more, but I can’t think of any right off the top of my head.

Are there many other aspects to the music industry you came up in the early 2000s that you see as being different today? Aspects that you wish you hadn’t had to contend with at the time?

EVE: I do think some of the things that have come out in the last years, whether it’s collaborative, whether it’s the way that songs are set up, the way that some artists were able to express themselves. Or whatever… I have had some frustrations, I’m not going to lie. I have heard people talking like, “Damn. That’s something I tried to do years ago.” And what was the confirmation for me was years ago, about three years ago, an A&R of mine, he called me and actually apologized and said, “You know what? I just want to tell you, I wish I would’ve listened to some more of your ideas back then, but I just wasn’t there and I don’t think we were there as an industry.” And that was confirmation for me, I’m like, “Fuck, I wasn’t crazy.” You know what I mean?

Because I’ve always been the type of person… I mean, I’m like this in my life. I do not believe in limiting boxes, even back then as an artist. Yes, of course I’m a female MC, I do hip-hop, but I listen to every type of music. And like I said before, good music is good music, why can’t it be a collaboration? And back then, I definitely got turned down for some of the ideas I had, but ultimately, I cannot complain. My life has been amazing and we’re going into the 20-year refresh of this album [Scorpion] that is… It’s a celebration. So I can’t be upset, everything happens how, and when, it was supposed to. It only leaves it open for me to be able to experiment now the way I want to when I get back to music, so it’s all good.

“Rich Girl” On The Voice With Gwen Stefani (2019)

I enjoyed your guest spot on The Voice, teaming back up with Gwen to revisit “Rich Girl.”

EVE: I think this is the thing with me and Gwen, we’re always going to be connected because of those two songs. I think no matter what. Both of us did a lot for each other musically, with both of those records. When she did “Blow Ya Mind,” it gave me a new audience and vice versa. And then us doing “Rich Girl” solidified the fact that, “Oh, we can continue to make another hit.” We’ll always be intertwined. Whenever we see each other, it is all love. We don’t keep in touch, I’m not going to lie, we don’t text or email. But when we see each other, it’s all love and it goes straight back to that moment. And I love her forever, you know what I’m saying? She got me a Grammy. We made some really great records and great videos.

Speaking of collaborations, is there any chance you’ve seen the MADtv parody of your and Alicia Keys’ “Gangsta Lovin’” video? With Debra Wilson portraying you?

EVE: No, I’ve never seen that. I have got to YouTube that.

Yeah, I’m not sure it would make it to air today, to be honest! The sketch takes the “gangster” angle to, uh, extremes.

EVE: Oh shit! Oh my God. I’m definitely going to look that up today.

Behind The Music (2010)

I watched your 2010 episode of Behind The Music, and I found it interesting — VH1 kind of glossed over the mental health stuff you were dealing with at the time. It was presented very simply, very two-dimensionally. I bet that discussion around depression would be much more nuanced today. What do you think?

EVE: Yeah, definitely. But back then, nobody wanted to talk about that stuff.

I’ve done a lot of work, and I’m still doing a lot of work on myself. And I think that the older I get, what I understand is, you have to let things out, whether that’s finding someone that you feel comfortable talking to or whether that is letting it out, whether it’s on your social, whatever that is.

I do truly believe the more and more you release, the more you’ll see you’re not alone. And I refused to shut up about it and it feels good. I used to actually [feel] — I won’t say scared — but definitely hesitant to let people in on how much my anxiety bothered me or how much I was having issues, but it feels so good to let it out, so now I won’t shut up about it.

Hosting The Talk (2017-2020)

What we’re veering into right now, it reminds me of the time you spent co-hosting The Talk. The Talk, unlike The View, discusses current events but tries to keep discussion amongst the co-hosts light and tame. [Editor’s note: This interview took place before racist speech allegations surrounding The Talk co-host Sharon Osbourne arose.] What did you take away from that experience, as someone who likes to address issues in a more straightforward manner?

EVE: I think… I would say this. One, I am so thankful and grateful for the experience of being on The Talk because I wouldn’t be as open as I am if I hadn’t had that position. I think while we did have to tread carefully around certain things, the one thing that was always encouraged was to be authentically yourself, no matter what that means, whether it be funny, whether you’re fat, whether you’re talking about some personal experience. So, I appreciate that because I actually opened up a lot as a person and a woman.

That being said, yes, there was definitely things that they didn’t want us to dive into, political things. And I think some of that slightly changed during the Zoom era of TV, which we still are in. But having to do the show on Zoom and having the unrest and the craziness of, after George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. But all this stuff that happened after we came out of quarantine and the killings and the police brutality, we were able to then step up and talk about it because we had to. It got to a point where all of America is talking about this, so how can we ignore it? And CBS did allow us to have our voice in our time. I haven’t watched it recently, but I don’t know where that has gone and I don’t know if the ladies are now being more political. I don’t think [they are], because like you said, it’s not The View. But I do appreciate the experience because I wouldn’t be the person [I am], I wouldn’t be as open for sure.

xXx And Barbershop (2002)

As long as we’re talking about TV and film, when you first got started acting, I like how you did a lot of comedy, but also got a little action in there. I tried to find a clip of you starring in xXx with Vin Diesel, but nothing showed up on YouTube.

EVE: It’s such a quick scene, if you blink, you definitely miss me. So I’m not surprised.

How about Barbershop? How was that presented to you at the time?

EVE: It was funny because Barbershop, that literally was my first role. That’s the first role I ever got an offer to do. I went on a full audition, all of that. xXx was by chance. It was supposed to be another rapper, someone else in that movie, but they couldn’t make it to set, and I happened to be in LA at that time and they called my manager like, “Yo, will she come and do this?” And I was like, “Okay.” So yeah, that’s how that came about, that was a pure mistake. I had no idea what Vin Diesel was, I had no idea what the movie was about. Literally it happened, I got a phone call and the afternoon was on set that night and it was hilarious because I kept cursing and they kept saying, “You can’t curse.” And I’m like, “Why not?” It was weird, I’d never been on a movie set before then. But with Barbershop, I studied and I worked with my acting coach and all this stuff and yeah, it’s crazy.

I have to imagine that people still ask you, “Who drank my apple juice?”

EVE: People love to say that to me. People say that to me all the time, I love it.

Eve (2003-2006)

I’d love to ask what memories you have around working on your sitcom with Natalie Desselle-Reid, who recently passed away. I recently watched her in Disney’s Cinderella starring Brandy and Whitney Houston, and, oh my gosh, Natalie was so funny as one of the stepsisters. I loved watching her growing up, and on the sitcom, not to mention B.A.P.S., of course.

EVE: Oh my God. Natalie was so incredible. Natalie treated you like family immediately. Her and Allie Landry are both from the South, from New Orleans. Natalie was everybody’s mom, everyone’s sister. She was incredibly funny. But her heart, she literally cared for everyone. Everyone on set, not just the cast — the crews and everybody in between. And it was so shocking and so sad because she was so young, you know what I mean? And such a light. It is very weird, still to even talk about it, it’s weird. It’s very, very weird. And I hadn’t seen her in years before this. Yes. Very sad. Very, very sad.

Whip It (2009)

You know what I totally forgot about that I loved you in — Whip It! Such an underrated movie. When I moved to LA, a friend of mine tried to get me to join roller derby and I was like, “Hard no, I will fall and never get back up.”

EVE: Yeah, I had known Drew [Barrymore, Whip It director] because I did a cameo in one of the Charlie’s Angels… the dream sequence. So I got to meet Drew, but I hadn’t spoken to her for years. And then I get this call to do this movie and I was like, “Oh my God, this is amazing.” And I mean, I took it for many reasons — roller derby, plus it was Drew Barrymore, obviously. But then I also took it because I was like, “There’s no way they’re going to make us do these scenes, that’s not good for their insurance.” They can’t use actresses really doing roller derby.

And turns out they wanted us to do pretty much all of our stunts. We had to because of the way that it was shot, otherwise it would just look fake. So I had about three weeks to learn how to skate on an incline, which was terrifying. I still never learned how to stop properly. But it was a challenge, and it was amazing, and it was literally that experience. We spent one month in Detroit, one month in Ann Arbor, Michigan and it was amazing, we definitely all bonded. There were real roller derby girls on that set. I mean Elliot Page, we all know now as Elliot, who was incredible and such a sweetheart.

How do you feel, 12 years later, your derby name in the movie — “Rosa Sparks” — has aged? The reason I ask is because it made me think a little bit about the show G.L.O.W., where the wrestlers take on racially skewed “show names.” Though I acknowledge the two scenarios are not the same.

EVE: I think it’s okay because it’s a Black girl doing it. I think if it was anyone else, it would not be okay. But I think, listen, if you come at it in a way of paying homage to an amazing, strong, beautiful Black woman who stood her ground, Rosa Sparks is perfect. It’s just paying homage and being that strong, powerful Black woman which I feel like that’s what hopefully, especially in a — I don’t know how it is now, but back then, this was a real conversation where they really couldn’t find a stunt double for me because there’s not many Black girls who do roller derby or there weren’t at that time. So that’s even another reason to wear that name proudly in that way. Rosa Sparks, I am this one Black girl here representing.

Sarah Louise Bennett

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