Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Your Guilty Pleasure: Drop Your Glasses, Shake Your Asses

"I just do me."

Best four words in a song I needed to hear at the right place/right time. I'll explain in a minute.

Eve seems to always have just done herself. Philly-born, she came up as an MC out in Los Angeles through the Ruff Ryders posse, whom she joined after auditioning via a rap battle. Right now, I'm giving tracks off of her Ruff Ryders-produced/released first album Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders' First Lady a cursory listen; you can tell why the singles were singles. On the whole, not my cup of tea -- but that's not the point of this mini-essay or highly personal, unauthoratative-authoritative review, or navel-gazing nostalgia--or whatever it is.

Her first album shows Eve is a tough woman -- tough-on-the-inside, sure-of-herself tough. Toughness that was buffed to a fine sheen by the time she emerged from the ubiquitous chrysalis of the early 00s known as Dr. Dre, as--and I love this handle--Eve of Destruction. Yes. She lives up to that brash moniker --and this is why Dre nurtured her in the first place: she's an f-ing hot MC. Allegedly, she turned her first networked meeting with Dre into an audition. And nailed it. Not surprisingly, after her second album, Scorpion, plowed up the charts and out the radio in 2001, kicking up catchy, huge hits, "Who's That Girl" (nanana na-nanana-na-nanana) and today's Guilty Pleasure, "Let Me Blow Ya Mind," Eve quite tidily became a triple-threat (music-acting-fashion).

I totally forgot she had a sitcom, an eponymous one that ran for three years. Not that I ever saw it, except while skipping across channels. And every time I did see her onscreen, I thought about how the really good (and good-looking, but very sweet) trainer/instructor at 3-W gym (Women's Workout World), the one who'd actually push us instead of just watching us execute moves, who had us doing those planks with feet on a ball and then scrunch your legs in kind of ab work, had moved to Los Angeles to be Eve's trainer because he'd hooked the same gig in Chicago while she was in town filming Barbershop. My abs' loss was Eve's biceps' gain.

What's happened to Eve? Any recent recordings have gotten stuck in the ass-in-head revolving door at the top level of her record label, apparently. And she's been kind of supplanted by Ciara and, God, I hate to say it, the likes of Ke$ha--who is a reminder that we need more Eves in popular music. Stat.

But she's doing alright. She's guested twice on Glee apparently. And, since that's not like guesting on, uh, trying to think of a sinker TV show in a multi-billion channel, whatever is on Fridays at 9:00 pm on CBS, she'll be fine.

Oh wait. She guested on that, too.

This was the sound of the summer of 2001, at least for me. I listened to the radio a lot; it was one of those times when you have to exile yourself from a lot of familiar music, due to memories, or the thoughts that can spring from the shape of a verse or the name of the track or just that it's part of the 20 frikin percent of your personal collection that you have to just put aside (okay, avoid) until you can reclaim it as your own once enough healing time has passed.

Frequently, my radio dial would land on 103.5 FM. This was a brief, strange period when that station's format was Top 40, and Top 40 during the summer of 2001 was weirdly tolerable--at least during, or because I was engaged in, a music embargo. Missy Elliott, Janet Jackson, Eve, Pink, Destiny's Child -- a rare surfeit of really rather good female singers/rappers making solid pop music, and, because Autotune was a production tool and not a requisite style, really singing it themselves. You couldn't get away with a lot back then. Only Britney did, really.

So this song was welcome in my earbuds. It felt like feeling the hard edges of  myself where I'd previously felt bled out, soft, weak. It made me feel, not think.

With each hesitation-BEAT, hesitation-BEAT, I felt stronger, somehow. My chin would rise and head nod during the sassy playground rhyme chorus.  

And if I had to give you more
It's only been a year
Now I got my foot through the door
And I aint goin nowhere
It took a while to get me in
And I'm gonna take my time
Don't fight that bull shit in your ear
Now let me blow ya mind

Taking in my surroundings. "Beware, cuz I crush anything I land on," she winds up at the end. I can pin this experience with this song very specifically to walking to the old Kozy's location in the South Loop to pick up my bike -- the same bike I have now. I rode away a lot of stuff on that bike that summer. I became tough. Like Eve.

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