March 15, 2001

The Sting Of The Scorpion

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Life under the scrutiny of the camera’s eye isn’t easy, especially for females. Even more so than their male counterparts, women celebrities are open to more intense analyses of who they’re sleeping with, what they’re wearing, and whether any nude photos of them exist on the Internet. That being said, it can be taken as no surprise that since Eve’s 1999 debut, all signs of vulnerability have disappeared.

While First Lady of Ruff Ryders was an assertive introduction to hip-hop for the self-dubbed “illest pitbull in a skirt,” Scorpion ascends to new heights of self-assurance. No songs on the album even approach the biographical “Heaven Only Knows” in terms of addressing anything other than fortitude. Instead, her sophomore release concentrates mostly on variations of the “baddest bitch” theme. Even “Life Is So Hard,” her ode to God (featuring a wailing hook courtesy of Teena Marie), gives off a conquering vibe.

Even if Scorpion proves to have a one track mind in terms of lyrics, it musically strays far enough from the expected onslaught of Swizz Beatz so as to avoid getting overly monotonous. Guest producers Dr. Dre and Stephen Marley (on a straight cover of Dawn Penn’s reggae classic “No, No, No”) allow Eve to spread her wings and embrace newer styles.

While in-the-know fans might have picked up on it from her work on the TV tribute to Bob Marley, Scorpion’s biggest revelation is Eve’s singing. More in the vein of Queen Latifah’s “Just Another Day,” than Notorious B.I.G.’s horribly out-of-tune crooning on 1997’s “Playa Hater,” she proves to be more than credible as a singer. On the hook to the precocious “Let Me Blow Your Mind,” she even holds her own while dueting with No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani.

But no matter how great her singing turns out to be, Eve still has significant shortcomings as an MC. Whether it’s because her songs all revolve around the same theme, none of the verses are sharp enough to leave any kind of an indelible mark on the listener. In fact, the only memorable lines on the entire album come from guest stars. When Drag-On’s request for a “soul clap” on “Got What You Need,” and Trina’s references to her diamond-studded thong on “Gangsta Bitches” are enough to overpower a whole album’s worth of lyrics, serious work needs to be done.

Theoretically, there is no reason why Eve shouldn’t be a critically successful solo artist. Her flow is far superior to a lot of other rappers, and Ruff Ryders’ star producer Swizz Beatz, along with his proteges Teflon and DJ Shok, know exactly what kind of beats best compliment it. The hooks are catchy, and the guest stars are used in all the right ways. But even with all the puzzle pieces intact, the big picture just doesn’t come through clearly. But then again, maybe I’m too critical, seeing that her first album has sold well over a million copies.

Even in my nit-picking critic’s state of mind, there is no denying the pure pop confection of Scorpion’s lead single “Who’s That Girl?” A welcome respite from the bad ’80s MP3 onslaught of one of my roommates, the tropical island vibe of the track manages to straddle the line between having artistic merit and being irresistibly infectious. In that respect, it parallels her debut song “What Y’all Want.”

However, such displays of her hit-making abilities only increase my frustration over the unsatisfying listening experience provided by Scorpion. Instead of growing and learning from the mistakes she made on her debut, she instead falls victim to the same pratfalls, a slightly-less disasterous version of the 1993 New York Mets: fantastic on paper, but just not up to the task in real life.

Archived article by Mike Giusto