This past Tuesday, May 14, was a good day. I got a chance to kick it with rap veteran and former Ruff Ryder Eve (through the phone) on the official album release day for her first project in 11 years, the much-anticipated Lip Lock. For Eve, it was an activity-laden day filled with seemingly endless phone interviews and appearances, but when I spoke to her, she was absolutely right in the pocket and in her element. During our conversation, not only did Eve share the inspiration for her long-awaited return to music, but also her thoughts on living large in London, sisterhood (or the lack thereof) among female hip-hop artists, collaborating with the likes of fellow female MC Missy Elliott and Snoop Lion, and what she’d say to her former paramour Stevie J if she were to bump into him on the street.
VH1: So you went through a few names before settling on Lip Lock for your fourth album. Can you explain the intriguing and somewhat erotic title?
Eve: I like things that you can do word play with, and Lip Lock is smooches, kisses. It’s lips — my lips are one of my favorite features on myself. And then it’s like lyrically locking the game down because I’m a lyricist.
Like the Miguel song says, “You’re international baby!” What do you miss about America the most when you’re in London, and vice versa?
What I miss about London is, while it is kind of busy and it’s lively, I still have room to breathe. New York is so full on, like constant everyday, nonstop. And it’s almost like sometimes you don’t have room to breathe. London, when I go there, it feels like I can breathe a little bit and relax more. But when I’m there, I miss the craziness of New York! It’s a double-edged sword because I kinda want to get away from [New York] but then when I’m [in London] I’m like awww, I miss that craziness. New York has an energy like nowhere else.
On the VH1 show La La’s Full Court Life there was an episode where La La went to London and wasn’t too particularly happy with the food there. Have you found anything that you like?
Yeah! They have this tradition in London that I love, Sunday roast, and that’s like my favorite thing. They literally have what we would for Thanksgiving, but they don’t have turkey – it’s usually chicken and vegetables and gravy. Every Sunday that is something that people do in London, and that’s something I love.
The collaboration with Cobra Starship frontman Gabe Saporta on “Make It Out This Town” seems like an unlikely albeit successful one. How did it come about?
Gabe is someone I actually met, I think we had to do something for MTV or something like that and we just kind of hit it off—like we clicked—and I winded up going to his concert and I was like wow. His band is really good and I think he’s really talented. When I was writing the song, for some reason his name and his voice was the voice I could hear [on it]. And knowing him as a person, although his music is different, I knew he would be into the subject of the song.
I saw pictures recently of you with Estelle, Melanie Fiona, and Chrisette Michele, who appears on your new record, at your NYC album listening party and you ladies looked like you were friends. Do you think that feeling of sisterhood is easier to achieve in the R&B/soul music world than the rap world because of the innate competitive nature of the rap game?
Yes, it seems to be. You know it’s funny, because after I looked at those pictures too I was like damn, it’s funny how these ladies came out for me in the industry, but they all happened to be R&B – no hip hop. It is kind of crazy, and even in R&B the ladies are definitely friendlier to each other, so I don’t know what it is with hip hop that females can’t get along. I don’t know what it is. They guys [in hip hop] do it all the time – they run around together, do songs together, all kinds of things…
But you do have a single on Lip Lock with rapper Missy Elliott. How was it working with her?
It was great. I mean, Missy’s someone I’ve known since I’ve been in the business, so that was really, really great, and we also got a young girl on it named Nacho who’s an up-and-coming female rapper.
How was it working with Snoop Dogg aka Snoop Lion on your album? Was that an experiment or was it a collaboration destined to happen?
The song actually had him on the hook already and I believe the song was for him, and I kinda begged and was like, “Oh my God is he going to use this song? If he’s not going to use it I want it and would he stay on the song.” So it kind of organically just happened.
Speaking of collabos, your ex Stevie J. was co-writer on your Grammy-winning collabo with Gwen Stefani, “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.” If you by any chance or coincidence ran into Stevie J in the street what would you say to him?
Hmmm… Hi? [Laughter]. I don’t know. There’s really not much to say.
What’s the biggest change you’ve witnessed in the rap game specifically and the music world in general since you dropped your last album (11 years ago?!), and how has it impacted your return?
So many things have changed, even the way that music is. I mean there’s a lot of music out that, when I first came out, a lot of things would not have been accepted with hip hop—just even some of the sounds and collaborations would not have happened, which I like. You’re able to experiment more [now] as a hip-hop artist. I think with this album I felt that freedom… I didn’t feel like I had to stick to a certain thing and I could do what it is I felt like doing. If I heard a track, even if it was really different, I could just do what I wanted.
What’s the biggest challenge of having your own independent label, From the Ribs Music, and what’s the greatest reward?
I think the biggest challenge is, while it is good and I’m excited because I’m able to make decisions, it’s still kind of scary that I am the last person to sign off on things and make those major decisions. It’s a bit scary because I come from a major-label world where other people were able to make those major decisions. But at the same time I really like being in that position. The greatest reward is trusting myself enough to actually make it happen and get it done – that’s an amazing reward.
When you say or think about From the Ribs music does it make you hungry?
[Laughter] No, for me it’s just a play on words, my name, you know, Eve, Adam and Eve, from the rib, you know they say we came from the rib… It’s just a play on my name.
In this pop-culture era we live in where someone’s always calling somebody else out as not being “relevant” or being a “non-factor” how do you manage to stay current and relevant?
Honestly, I don’t even really take it into account. I don’t think about it. If I thought about things like that I think it would stress me out even more than I’m already stressed out. For me, as long as I’m visible, as long as I’m making the moves I’m supposed to make—especially with this album, I’ve been working my ass off – and you know getting the right looks, because I think all of that is important, it’s not something I consciously think about. That’s what you hire publicists for. That’s their job. Other than that, I can’t do anything but put out good music and make the right moves, because you can’t predict with music.
With your return to the music scene with this album, you’re giving the rap game more….
Reality. I think I’m more accessible than a lot of artists that are out, so I think more reality.
Even with the hectic day you’re in the midst of with the official album release, the one thing you plan to do for you is….
Definitely take a moment to give thanks. I’ve actually been doing that all day, but before I go to sleep I usually take a minute and say thank you, because I do definitely feel blessed. And happy.