Nobody in hip-hop cherishes the word bitch more than Eve, and that's saying something. Male rappers use it all the time as an ostensibly neutral term for all women besides their mothers (or, in the case of Eminem, all women). But on her new CD, Eve-Olution (Interscope), the Philadelphia-bred queen of Top 40 rap applies it to herself and with fervid conviction. Eve sings about being a bitch the way Bob Marley sang about being a Rastafarian: it's what her album is about.
Flowing from Eve's glossy lips, the word most often means "woman to be reckoned with," whether that woman is a rival with an eye on Eve's chart position or an average Jane who talks back to her man. She can still be sexy and get along with the boys; the only cover on Eve-Olution, Prince's Irresistible Bitch, describes in its title exactly what Eve aspires to be.
Eve-Olution expresses Eve's strong-woman credo by dramatizing a series of debates that approach The O'Reilly Factor in feistiness. In a skit between songs, a homegirl who ascribes Eve's Grammy win to luck is accused of wearing a rusty nipple ring. On the track Double R What, Eve dismisses a musical competitor with "I'm like a glass; you just a coaster, bitch."
That kind of humor, along with Eve's delivery, as loud and rhythmic as the whirr of a helicopter blade, sets Eve-Olution above 2002's mediocre crop of hip-hop CDs. The beats are merely competent, never original enough to stand on their own, but Eve-Olution's worst point, inadvertently suggested by its name, is its self-righteous social Darwinism, an outlook voiced 9 million times in hip-hop. "I got to win at any cost," Eve raps on Satisfaction, and she won't tolerate jealousy from those who haven't made it. She's witty and talented, but don't mistake her for the kind of feminist deeply concerned with the plight of other "bitches." --By Benjamin Nugent