Musicians go on hiatuses often. There is a difference, however, from taking a break from releasing music and touring and disappearing altogether. Philadelphia-bred rapper Eve is guilty of the latter, it seems. It has been over a decade since the former first lady of Ruff Ryders has put out a full-length album, and outside of the infectious “Tambourine” single released in 2008, produced by Swizz Beats, she hasn’t made much noise. With her new album Lip Lock finally dropping quietly after two lackluster singles, the jury’s out on whether the one-time “pitbull-in-a-skirt” can get her momentum back.
To expect the return of Ruff Ryders-era Eve wouldn’t be fair. The magic of that sound, orchestrated by a young Swizz, is gone. However, with a decade’s worth of life experiences, many of them making gossip headlines, it would almost be expected that a new album after all this time would offer a mature Eve taking stock of her career, digging into life experiences and even explaining her lengthy hiatus. That’s not quite what she offers up on Lip Lock, which lacks on the production end as much as the topical depth, buoyed basically only by Eve’s unique voice and edgy-yet-sexy raps. One thing’s for sure: electronica influence is pervasive throughout the 12-track album, to its detriment.
Production is uneven throughout Lip Lock, although production credits include The Neptunes, Salaam Remi and even Swizz Beats on the Snoop Dogg-featured (or, more like sampling) “Mama In The Kitchen.” Eve slows down her delivery awkwardly on the dubstep album opener “Eve,” produced by Jukebox and featuring reggae artist Miss Kitty. It’s the same story on “She Bad Bad,” the lead single also produced by Jukebox. If there is any positive, it’s that stylistically Eve hasn’t lost a step. She still comes across as one of the best femcees in hip-hop, and her influence on Nicki Minaj, among others, becomes rather apparent.
The highlight of the album is the guitar riff-driven “Make It Out of This Town,” featuring Gabe Saporta of Cobra Starship. The format of the song is similar to what we’ve heard from Gym Class Heroes and Bruno Mars, but it works well with Eve and Saporta. The album’s introspective track is “Never Gone,” produced by Jukebox and featuring a smooth Chrisette Michelle hook. Although it doesn’t measure up to Eve’s smash hit “Love Is Blind,” it’s the closest Eve comes to being autobiographical without boasting.
Collectively, Lip Lock is decent enough of a record from Eve when considering that her last LP, Eve-Olution, was released in 2002. The music here simply doesn’t have the same fierceness it did more than a decade ago, although Eve, ironically, still manages to deliver raps that can run circles around most rappers, male or female. That said, hearing Eve rap doesn’t get old. Hopefully Lip Lock serves as a tune-up for E-V-E and another decade won’t go by before we hear from her again.