North Carolina rappers have dominated hip-hop in 2019. Amid Charlotte’s own DaBaby experiencing a breakout rookie campaign, Durham legends Little Brother returned with May the Lord Watch, a reunion album that exceeded all expectations; J. Cole, a son of Fayetteville, reached the pinnacle of rap fame; Raleigh newcomer YBN Cordae made a great first impression with his debut album, The Lost Boy; and producers JetsonMade, Pi’erre Bourne, Supah Mario, Slade Da Monsta, reshaped the sonic landscape of rap music.
The excitement surrounding Carolina hip-hop continues with the return of Snow Hill’s poet laureate Rapsody and her highly-anticipated, third studio album, Eve. The new album arrives nearly two years after Laila’s Wisdom, the critically-acclaimed, GRAMMY-nominated sophomore release that cemented the 36-year-old as an upper-echelon wordsmith who offered more than jaw-breaking lyricism. From the stellar production to how she pens her songs, Rapsody lifted the bar higher than ever before.
This is the bar Eve is pressed up against. As a 9th Wonder handpicked protégé, Rapsody understands the pressure. Better than before is always the expectation. Rapsody has yet to let us down. So, the question isn’t will she do it, but how? How will she ascend Laila’s Wisdom? Let’s find out.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
Nina Simone? The emotional weight her voice carries is like no other. “Strange Fruit” has to be one of the most consistent samples used in hip-hop. I wonder how difficult it is to clear the sample? [Editor's Note: Not that hard.] Rap is RAPPING. I like the atmosphere, a lot. Her pen is on fire. The anime bar, ha. This is a poetic intro. I love the lack of drums. Wait, there are the drums. A nice drop. I love her voice. So much passion. She’s giving us history raps. “Now, bow down to a queen.” A woman’s voice reciting poetry. The poem continues with the beat. The voice sounds familiar. I’m not sure who, though. “I been here many times before and I never been defeated.” One hell of a way to start. Nina’s voice could cut through steel.
The drums need to be sprinkled with baby powder for slapping this hard. I can’t imagine Rapsody having enemies. I love the power in her tone. Unwavering confidence. She means every word. Oh, she’s discussing how the industry reacted to her. Who hated on Rap? Ah, the Rap Radar bar. This is the speech you make when the wins have been consistent and longevity is more than just an idea. Rap is rapping with her chin up and chest out. Pretty sure this is an “In the Air Tonight” sample. “We haven’t forgot about the shots, jack, they going to be mad when I squeeze back.” Rap said get your money, heard?
Interesting build-up. What she’s doing with her voice and delivery grabbed me. I love the sample loop. “All my ex-boyfriends got two strikes.” Yeah, I’m loving this. “I wish we gave Aaliyah two lives.” This is a great concept. Rap is so sharp. Thoughtful bars are woven with touches of personal reflection. The talkbox effect is a nice, subtle touch. Yeah, production-wise, there’s so much to grab your ear. This is a keeper. The sampled harmonies. Are those Aaliyah vocals? A beautiful tribute.
4. “OPRAH” ft. Leikeli47
Four songs in, the diversity in production is pretty strong. A different sonic palette than Lalia’s Wisdom. “OPRAH” has a nice bounce. Rap’s first verse starts strong. There’s so much swagger in her tone. Not in love with the hook, but I like where she’s aiming. She’s having fun. I like this texture of Rap's voice. Leikeli! She did not come to play. These two are a good contrast. Ha, the bar about not showing her face. A good verse, a good flow. I will revisit this one. Another poem. Loving the themes. Is that Tierra Whack? Sounds like Tierra. “I’m sorry, I’m kind of violent now.” This is gold. “It’s nice that I inspired you.”
Interesting production. A wind instrument and some funky hi-hats. Yeah, this beat is super unorthodox. I don’t see how she’s finding a pocket. She’s rollerblading down this hill with such grace. “I’m left eye with the matches.” Okay, the beat is growing on me, but mostly due to her flow being bulletproof. I’m certain she could rap over any sound. The Viola Davis line got me. I’m paying attention to the money references, a subject she’s touching on more. “Get a bag, get a bag, get a bag.”
Rapsody has to do some G.O.A.T. talking. I didn’t expect Uncle Luke to be sampled. I didn’t like how Luke faded out, but she’s in a zone. Loving how Black and proud the album is. A nice Gloria Carter bar. That first verse was smoother than a house party swag surfing in unison. Almost every line is quote-worthy. Not in love with how they sampled Luke, feels like it clashes a bit, but the verses could start a forest fire.
Loving the build-up. This is supermodel confidence. The production has a nice tempo. It’s nice to see her dip into more trap-esque production. Wish she could’ve got some Metro Boomin beats. “I’m the bomb and the missile.” There are so many verses worth rewinding. I like the way Rapsody wears her success; she’s very proud of what she’s accomplished, but she knows this isn’t the peak. She can go higher and she’s rapping like the sky isn’t the limit.
8. “MAYA” ft. K. Roosevelt
Pleasant production. It’s warm, springtime sunny. K. Roosevelt is bringing the soul. I love the keys and how they complement Rap’s voice. Who is that woman being sampled? I love the Miseducation bar, and the 4:44 reference. This is a good song. Something lighter, easy on the ears. I love the Morpheus line. Oh, that Lecrae bar! There’s just something so fun about listening to a wordsmith get busy. Rap is dancing across the album.
9. “IBTIHAJ” ft. D’Angelo & GZA
D’Angelo! This lineup is one of the craziest I’ve seen all year. The “Liquid Swords” sample is nostalgia personified. “IBTIHAJ” sounds like it could’ve been released 20 years ago. Rapsody is one of those artists that could exist in multiple eras. I wish she could’ve been gifted a ‘90s RZA pack before his basement flood. Might be my favorite thus far. Every element works in perfect unison. The GZA feature is a cherry-on-top moment. We need more legends to resurface on new albums. The Genius sounds good. “Boy you sharp, liquid sword sharp.” Loving the texture of Rap singing back-up with D’Angelo. Spotless.
10. “MYRLIE” ft. Mereba
Woo! This one just throws you into it. I’m not in love with the beat. I like the sample, I just wish the drums had more thump. Rap sounds incredible. So heartfelt. Mereba has a voice that makes the heart melt. Can’t wait for more rappers to call her for golden vocals. As much as Eve is about celebrating, Rap doesn’t take her eyes off the current state of Black America. It’s optimistic, but reality rap. I’m 80-percent sure that’s Tierra Whack doing the poetry reading. The middle of the album is shaping up to be better than the top half.
11. “Reyna’s Interlude”
“An ode to the black woman’s body.” The twinkling keys. The poetry is delivered perfectly. Takes me back to Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Whoever is playing the keys needs to call Sampha. “No one ever tells you how to survive as a Black woman.” Rapsody is doing it for her sisters. This is an album for them. “Black women you are everything they knew you wouldn’t be.”
12. “MICHELLE” ft. Elle Varner
This is fun, like being thrown into a house party. I love that Rapsody is cutting loose with a good time jam. Elle Varner being featured is a nice bonus. Who produced this? [Editor’s Note: Nottz & The SoulCouncil.] The groove is pretty infectious. I need Mary J. Blige to dance in the music video. Is that Elle rapping? I don’t see the kids getting this one, but all the aunts and uncles will know the vibe. Gotta love how joyous she sounds.
13. “IMAN” ft. SiR & JID
A nice change of pace and a gorgeous build-up. Is this 9th? I wouldn’t be surprised; it feels like his kind of loop. I love the JETS magazine bar. So fluid. Rap is honoring her mom. “This for my sisters, my ebony sisters.” Hahaha. That spine bar. This is a celebration of blackness. It’s so wholesome. JID! He’s a great feature. He’s water walking on these keys. Yeah, this is a strong way to close. Ha, Rapsody’s comeback is perfect.
14. “HATSHEPSUT” ft. Queen Latifah
There is no other featured guest more perfect for this album than Queen Latifah. Loving the build-up. We are going to church. Rap is rapping with all her soul. “Latifah is still a queen I’m just trying to follow her path.” AY! Latifah! This beat is perfect for her voice. Such a graceful flow. It’s so crazy that she started as a rapper. Hasn’t lost a step. “All my blood royal.”
15. “SOJOURNER” ft. J. Cole
Ah, I remember this record from the Jamla compilation. Some of the warmest production. Cole went on a wild feature run last year. This verse holds up. He sounds passionate. Boom-bap brings different energy out of Cole. I must disagree with the introspection bar, though. The world needs more introspective raps. They brought the keys in to start Rap’s verse, giving her an atmosphere to dominate. She’s such a good rapper. Each line holds your attention. The Birdman bar is the one. “Carolina to the heart.” Wish these two could’ve got a new one for Eve, but I’m glad “SOJOURNER” gets a second life.
16. “AFENI” ft. PJ Morton
Last song. Oh, this is the soul that you feel in your chest. A 2Pac sample. Always lovely to hear Pac. Rap is giving the real talk. A message to Black men. The production here is incredible; it might be my favorite beat on Eve. PJ’s voice is soaring. The second verse is preaching. “You should never hit a woman.” “I’m not playing the middle like Nadeska.” “At least love your woman, we the closest thing to God.” Pure gospel. One more poem to close out the album. A touching goodbye.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on Rapsody’s Eve
Eve is a celebration. Each of the album’s 16 songs exemplifies Rapsody’s joy, confidence, and respect for all the Black women who came before her. In every line, there’s pride rooted in blackness, and in every reference, glory that uplifts yesteryear legends.
With a poet’s grace, Rapsody successfully created a rap album that centers Black womanhood, allowing for an exploration of the Black woman's layered experience. The language of Eve doesn’t care to explain itself to anyone who doesn’t understand the dimensions of blackness.
Upon first listen, the production doesn’t strike with the soul-tingling electricity of Laila’s Wisdom, but, as a lyricist, Rapsody strides across each record like an elite-class emcee. She finds a balance between fiery and fun, aggressive and elegant. The potency of her lyricism adds to the tribute structure of the album. The poems she reads, the artists she samples, the guests she invites—every detail adds to the album’s Black-and-proud theme.
Rapsody made Eve for Black women. If you’ve felt unseen, Rapsody sees you. If you’ve felt unheard, Rapsody hears you. She is a queen upon her throne, giving out crowns. Hip-hop is lucky to have her.
By Yoh, aka Yohsody, aka @Yoh31