MC Rapsody’s third album follows Laila’s Wisdom, which was nominated for Best Rap Album at 2017’s Grammys, helping open doors for other female rappers who at the time had not won in this category since 1997. Rapsody continues to explore and critique the reasons for this in the feminist hip-hop experience that is Eve.
Eve is largely a commentary on the portrayal of black women, particularly in the rap industry, as well as the systems which have and continue to oppress black people. Permeating the album are strong themes of slavery and freedom, sexism, unity and sisterhood.
Each song is the first name of an influential black woman from history or the present day. From activists Nina Simone and Sojourner Truth to athletes Serena Williams and Ibtihaj Muhammad, the message here is one of black legacy. Rapsody, interviewed by NPR, explains, “I didn’t know who Nina Simone was until I got into Lauryn Hill. In that sense, there would be no Lauryn Hill without Nina Simone, and without Lauryn there would be no me.”
The production throughout is exceptional, allowing Rapsody to play with beats in a variety of fresh ways despite the depth of her lyrics and the sheer amount of references to black culture in every track. The hard-hitting bars with catchy lyrical hooks and samples will have you bopping your head within seconds of each track. Listen to “Whoopi” or “Michelle” and you’ll know what I mean.
From the outset of the album you can notice a much more comfortable and confident flow from Rapsody and this overarching hip-hop attitude only builds. She opens with haunting samples from the song Strange Fruit by the track’s namesake Nina Simone. Rapsody quickly makes reference to the “sunken place” from Jordan Peele’s breakthrough film Get Out. She critiques similar themes of black bodies being exploited when she raps “imitating us in all the Hollywood pictures/ And still they’ll never be us”.
The album transitions from anger at the system to a non-sexualised celebration of the characteristics and strength of black women. Within this, “Cleo” is a standout. It critiques the dynamics that have held back Rapsody and other black women within the music, and more specifically the rap, industry. This continues, especially in “Hatshepsut” when Queen Latifah sings, “Though we sit on thrones we don’t look down on each other”.
Guest artists on the album include J Cole, Mereba, SiR, JID and Leikeli47, all of whom hold their own with Rapsody.
Spoken word artist Reyna Biddy features on several tracks and Reyna’s interlude felt like a refreshing break in the album. It is both a spoken word and love letter from the world to black women opening with “an ode to the black woman’s body/ She’s been through a lot”.
“Myrlie” is a beautifully crafted track with a smooth chorus that juxtaposes powerful lyrics about white supremacy killings and police brutality. I was grateful for the pensive outro, as used on several tracks, as it helps the listener to fully digest the depth of Rapsody’s lyrics after the beat has faded out.