Still only 23 years old, Eve is making life choices that promise to take her beyond the multiplatinum sales and the Grammys. With the launch of her own clothing line and a budding acting career, the next step for rap's first lady is all about Eve-olution

This feature originally appeared in Complex's September/October 2002 issue. 

RIGHT NOW

At Studio A of Pier 59 Studios at New York’s Chelsea Piers, Interscope recording artist Eve is undergoing the beautification process. It’s a grueling affair that warrants a virtual coalition to achieve what is ostensibly one goal: to make shorty look good for a magazine cover shoot to support her upcoming third album, Eve-olution. Aside from the photography crew, there’s a publicist, a clothes stylist, a hair stylist, a makeup artist, a personal assistant, and someone whose job seems to be keeping the lipstick at room temperature. And damn-near everyone has an assistant, an intern, or some other majordomo on call.

Which is not to say that they haven’t got their work cut out for them. To see them in action is like watching a swarm of hornets buzzing from one point to the next—some going here, moving this, protecting that, coordinating on this cell phone, talking about that album. Others doing God-knows-what inside a makeshift dressing room fashioned in one corner of the studio from black drapes. Eve will later reveal that much of it amounts to (surprise) “bullshitting”—something that a quick peek into the no-man zone will confirm. 

But, even bullshitting (which, it turns out, involves Eve sitting with eyes closed being attended to by no less than three—hair, face, nails—people) is time consuming. So glimpses of the day’s center-of-gravity are fleeting—like catching the Pope walking around the Vatican. Look, there she is in her long white robe, running across the studio. Look, there she is, smiling and skipping around in too-long pants like a child playing dress-up. And look, now, she’s finally ready.

And when she’s ready, she’s beautiful. Even more beautiful than the pictures you’re looking at suggest. More beautiful than her videos let on. She doesn’t glow so much as pulse, radiating such energy that no amount of cosmetics or styling could enhance it. Rather, Eve’s beauty is only amplified by her professionalism in front of the camera: She’s businesslike; bored but not upset; kinda complacent, yet pliable to the lensman’s whims. As she sits on the hood of the car, she leans over this way, then that, sticking one foot in the air, bending over, accentuating her buttocks. 

Until…the witching hour, by which time she’s tired and drained but still alchemizing the fatigue into sexy come-hither pouts. Sure, Eve should be cursing her lot in life, but she’s not; she’s not stupid. Nonetheless, she wants to go home, take care of her two Yorkshire Terriers, and maybe cook up some egg whites on the George Foreman grill. Seriously, it’s, like, 1 a.m. and all day she’s been primping, priming, and posing for pictures. She wants to back out of the interview. 

SOME RANDOM TIME IN THE QUASI-DISTANT PAST

Eve is at a party aboard the Spirit Of Boston cruise ship, docked in Boston Harbor. If memory serves, it’s some sort of Roc-A-Fella afterparty. She comes through with a small army—smaller than the one she would have at a photo shoot in the way that, say, Al Qaeda is smaller than the U.S. military. The crowd parts before her, then stops and stares, sort of like bowling pins that don’t get knocked down, just repositioned. Even the way-too-cool guys, aspiring ballers, and assorted thugs; even the pigeons, the fly girls—everyone with breath gives her props. She’s respected in the way that Mary, or maybe even Alicia, is, but not Ashanti or Foxy or Kim. And it’s easy to see why.

Eve is the most credible and gimmick-free female rapper since MC Lyte. Tender like a Roni but harder than a jawbreaker; sexy but not coquettish. Dressed to the nines in pointy-toed stilettos and high-end fashion, she’s chic and stylish—haute without being haughty. Walking with crowds and keeping her virtue; talking with kings without losing the common touch. She’s not just the rapper that guys want to take home, she’s the one they want to take home to meet mom and their boys.

Still, Foxy Brown was recently quoted in XXL writing Eve off as someone who “says nothing.” Eve can’t be bothered to respond in print, but the truth is, Eve does talk about nothing. She talks about the nothings that girls talk about when they get together: subtle power struggles within male-female relationships; how much she loves her man; what she had to do to that dude who put his hands on her girl; what she had to do to her man when she found out the nigga was still fucking with his babymoms; why she can’t talk to some of the other girls that she used to talk to.

She’s not talking about cutting keys in the kitchen or stuffing white in her vagina in motel bathrooms. She’s not about popping bottles or coochie or going full throttle on her V. And for a self-proclaimed clothes horse who’s switched hairstyles and colors only slightly less than Lil’ Kim, she’s not bragging about the things on her back. 

 

A LONG TIME AGO

Born Eve Jihan Jeffers in 1979, rap’s first lady was raised in the projects of West Philadelphia. A student of violin for two years, ballet for about three, and piano briefly, by age seven she was a model, due to the influence of her mother, who took part in local fashion shows. A year later, she was a model student, winning school prizes for her short stories, plays, and poems. Eve aspired to be neither supermodel nor scholar, however, wanting, instead, to be a makeup artist, because “they take a real messed-up person and make them look incredible,” she says. In ninth grade, searching for something more substantial than hair and cosmetics, it was then that she discovered Islam.  

“I worship God,” she says, revealing little about her professed distrust of organized religion. Then she elaborates: “Religion and worship are two different things to me. Religion is by the book. I think too many people rely on the textbook: OK, it says to do this and it says to do that, so if I do this, this, and that, then I still can go out and do wrong because I did this, this, and that. 

“God is my best friend,” she continues. “I talk to God every day. And no one can tell me how to talk to God, not no imam, not no priest, not no rabbi, no pastor.”

 

I talk to God every day. And no one can tell me how to talk to God, not no imam, not no priest, not no rabbi, no pastor.

 

She talks to her mother daily. 

A SPECIFIC TIME IN THE QUASI-DISTANT PAST

It’s August 1999 and Eve is preparing to release her debut album, Ruff Ryders’ First Lady (which would go on to sell more than two million copies). In a midtown Manhattan hotel suite, she talks about her past groups—a female quintet called DGP (Dope Girl Posse) that covered R&B hits, and a duo with fellow female rapper Jenny-Poo called EDJP—and waxes philosophical beyond her years about her eight-month stint on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label. 

“[The label] wasn’t ready for me at the time,” she says. “I think Aftermath was taking on too many projects and didn’t know what direction they wanted to take those projects in. I’m happy that they weren’t ready because I wasn’t ready to come out. I’ve learned more about the type of music I want to make and the type of person I am.”

She’s also pretty clear on where she wants to go with her career. “I don’t wanna be known as just a hip-hop artist,” she declares. “I wanna take it to a whole ’nother level. By next year, I want to be doing something with Hole and No Doubt.”

In 2002, Eve and No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani would win a Grammy for “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.” 

 

RIGHT NOW… AGAIN

“I can’t help who I am,” says Eve. She’s talking despite the late hour, the long day. “I’m just doing what I feel like I should do in my heart. If I was walking around with Timbs and a hoodie on, people would see that that’s not me.”

Instead, she’s wearing a wifebeater ripped at the collar to show off the dog-paw tattoos on her breasts, some florescent-orange Chuck Taylors, striped orange shorts, and a sweater wrapped around her waist. 

“I’m very comfortable with my body,” she says. “But I would never wear booty shorts in a picture, because I’m not comfortable like that. I won’t even wear a bikini. This is probably the most I would do. Or the least that I would do.”

And it’s all she needs to do. No matter how she’s dressed, she always comes off “feminine, comfortable, and sexy”—words she uses to describe her apparel line, Fetish, which debuts this August at the Magic Clothing Convention. She’s also working on a lofty and admirable project

 

Black kids, we don’t learn about investments when we grow up. We don’t learn about how to take care of our money when we grow up, or the value of having real estate and buying stocks. I want to be able to teach kids that. 

 

“It’s dedicated to uplifting battered women, battered children,” she says. “I want to take children, not just out of the hood, but to other countries, just so they can know the world is bigger than their block.” 

The project, still in its infancy, is going to involve more than Eve expected. “I didn’t know it took so much,” she confesses. “It takes a lot of money. Then you gotta get people on your board, and written consent and everything. But I’m still gonna do whatever I’ve got to do until it gets up and running. Black kids, we don’t learn about investments when we grow up. We don’t learn about how to take care of our money when we grow up, or the value of having real estate and buying stocks. I want to be able to teach kids that, so we can start having old money and passing money down to our generations.”

At 23, Eve has already bought her first painting, an Andy Warhol
lithograph of screen siren Marilyn Monroe. Her Hollywood aspirations wouldn’t end there, culminating in a bit role in the extreme spy thriller XXX and more significant time in Ice Cube’s upcoming Barbershop. 

And, of course, there’s the follow-up to 2001’s Scorpion, Eve-olution, which features guest spots from Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, and Truth Hurts, along with the requisite cameos from the Ruff Ryders clique. 

“It was fun,” she says. “It felt like when I did my first album. The passion that you have when you know you’re about to come out, like, My shit is about to come out!” She’s gushing unadulterated exuberance; with everything else that’s going on, the album is still where her heart is. She’s prepared for an August release, but “the record company ain’t ready,” she says without going into detail, her tiredness getting the better of her.

And with that, she’s ready to go home. To her dogs and her grill. It’s been an exhausting day.

ADDITIONAL CREDITS: (HAIR) Suzette Boozer. (MAKEUP) Roxanna Floyd. (PROP STYLING) Kristin Sachau. (STYLING ASSISTANTS) Andrea Westinghouse and Damon Peruzzi. FIRST AND COVER IMAGEs: Black leather coat by Thierry Mugler / gloves by Barbara Bui / Leather pants by Plein Sud. SECOND IMAGE: Dress by Vivienne Westwood / sunglasses by Christian Dior / Chain is Eve's own. THIRD IMAGE: Top by Markus Humer / gloves by Barbara Bui / skirt by Charles Chang Lima