This essay is running as part of the 2019 Uproxx Music Critics Poll. Explore the results here.
Coming in at No. 40 on our 2019 Uproxx Music Critics Poll, Rapsody’s Eve symbolizes a watershed moment both for women in hip-hop and for Rapsody herself. After over a decade in the hip-hop world, Rapsody — born Marlanna Evans in Snow Hill, North Carolina — is finally ready to embrace her role as the vanguard for the women’s movement in hip-hop. For years, it seemed as though rap fans only had one or two options for a female perspective in the rap game — options that unhealthily bought into previously existing frameworks that present only two real categories for female rappers.
But in 2019, the scene exploded with new faces and a diverse array of styles, from Doja Cat and Rico Nasty‘s cutesy “sugar trap” to Kash Doll and Megan Thee Stallion‘s raunchy grown woman-isms. Rapsody suddenly went from being the “alternative” option for fans of woman-focused rap to an elder stateswoman tasked with unifying these seemingly opposed worldviews. Her efforts were underscored by Eve‘s theme of presenting a kaleidoscope of Black female experiences to audiences long accustomed to only seeing one or two.
By highlighting Black women from varying disciplines who’d become prominent for very different reasons, Rapsody was able to reconcile the longstanding visions into a more holistic one that said, “Women can be many things.” While it may have felt as though the message wasn’t all that revolutionary or needed in light of the newfound wealth of female talent in the game, recent comments and controversies involving rap impresario Jermaine Dupri and rising Chicago poet Noname highlighted just how important that message still is — and just how badly someone needs to speak for and to all audiences about Black women’s experiences.
“There’s so much happening in the world,” Rapsody said during a recent visit to Uproxx’s office in Los Angeles. “I don’t think we necessarily always get the opportunity or the space to tell our story and to tell how we feel or to be represented.” That’s why, she said, it was so important for her to speak to those experiences, both to acknowledge her fellow Black women and to present a more complete concept of who they are to the world at large. “It’s important for me while I have the microphone, while I have people’s ears and while I have a platform, to tell that story.”
Rapsody explains how, in contrast to Noname’s insistence that rap concerts must be safe spaces for artists to share their stories with folks who understand those experiences, her work can open doors that rap fans might not ordinarily even notice. “After some of my shows,” she said, “I would get off and just talk to a few people and this white guy pulled up — he was like, ‘Thank you for your album.’ He’s like, ‘I know it wasn’t necessarily meant for me, but I learned something from it and it taught me what my Black girlfriend goes through and I have a better understanding and that helps me.'”
In another example, she said, “I met white women that said, ‘I know this album wasn’t made for me, but there’s something still in it that I connect to.'” That’s the purpose and function of art, Rapsody asserts. “It’s supposed to not only entertain but create conversation and change your perspective and ideas… That educated me, that show me something different. Whether it’s for you or not, you get something from it and it tells somebody’s story. So that’s why the [A Black Woman Created This] tour is so important.”
The tour, which kicks off in 2020, is Rapsody’s second as headliner and most recent after supporting Big KRIT on his own From The South With Love tour. She says she wants the tour to “tell a story through music,” but also use video and an expansive approach to draw out more details of Eve‘s united narrative linking all these influential Black women together. The obvious correlation would be to Jamila Woods’ recent Legacy! Legacy! Unfolded show for Red Bull Music Festival Chicago or even Rapsody’s own acclaimed performance at the 2019 BET Hip-Hop Awards, where she freestyled a verse that reflected Eve‘s uplifting theme and rebutted Jermaine Dupri’s reductive comments by proving that female rappers can coexist and show mutual appreciation for each other’s different outlooks.
“I wanted to give you two sides of the spectrum of my artistry and show you I can do something that really hits you meaningfully and that I can have fun too,” she explained. “I wanted to show that a lot of times there are these narratives and it’s just like at the end of the day, us females that hold these microphones, we have the power to take control of the narrative. Megan’s dope, Cardi’s dope, Nicki’s dope. The past women that did it are dope and I’m going to speak on it and tell you why there’s no better moment than this.”
The freestyle and Eve shared the same sentiment. “I want something to say, ‘That’s how we feel,’ she affirmed. “It was waiting for me to speak to all my sisters and let them know in one fell swoop that if nobody else believe, I respect what you doing, I respect your lane, I respect your artistry, I respect the story that you have to tell, even though it’s different from mine, we need your story.” Eve proves that Rapsody is exactly the right person to translate that message and lead the movement as hip-hop grows beyond its boys’ club mentality and confirms that now, more than ever, girls really do run the world.
Eve is out now on Jamla Records. Get it here.