First Lady of Hip Hop raps with A&U's Dann Dulin
about condoms, High School Aids Awareness,
and getting teens scared straight!
Eve is not who you think she is.
Beyond the sassy, rugged, hip-hop exterior lies a feminine damsel who
loves the movie The Sound of Music and adores reruns of I Love Lucy. Although
she's famous for her growling pit bull attitude, and even sports a claw print
tattoo on each breast, her best friends are her two little Yorkies named
Spunky and Bear.
Eve may be the only femme fatale at Ruff Ryders–a New York-based
recording label—but she is more than just one of the boys. Eve is
a self-confessed girl. "I love to play with my hair, and my nails. I'm
a shopaholic. I love shoes, and accessories—I'm a clotheshorse."
Whether Eve is dressed to the nines in Chanel,
Versace, Gaultier, or Gucci, she is a mega trendsetter, though she
does think there should be some conformity when it comes to what
people wear—sexually, that is. "It doesn't take
that long to put on a condom!" she pleads, speaking via telephone
from her hotel room in Chicago where she is shooting her second movie, The
Barbershop, a comedy starring Ice Cube. (Her first movie,
which should be a summer 2002 blockbuster, is a spy thriller called XXX with
Vin Diesel and Samuel L. Jackson.) "No matter how raging
your hormones are, no matter how hot and bothered you are, there
has to always be that voice in the back of your mind that says, 'This
person may be infected.' You have to take the time to think!"
This homegirl can't imagine feeling so lackadaisical
about a tragic disease, and it distresses her to hear about the high
numbers of HIV infections not only among African-Americans, but teens,
"People seem to really disregard the AIDS epidemic these
days. AIDS is out there!" she fervently announces. "Being
an infected teenager along with all the other teen pressures—you
don't even want to put yourself through that."
teens will listen to Eve's message with as much interest as they
listen to her music. Eve's 1999 debut album, Let There Be
Eve—Ruff Ryders' First Lady, sold two million copies and
came in at number one on the pop, rap and urban charts. Her
second and latest CD, Scorpion, is more ambitious and showcases
her versatile pipes, which can belt out gospel, reggae, as well as
The disc is a mother lode of talent and includes contributions
from Dr. Dre (her former mentor), Teena Marie, Drag-On, DMX, and
Eve has brightened the television screen, as well. Over
the past year, she has been a guest on Politically Incorrect,
Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Saturday Night Live,
though she still looks forward to sitting alongside Jay Leno on The
Tonight Show. "Being on that show means I made it," she
remarks excitedly, indicating that 2002 will be the year she conquers
This gal is determined, though little over a year ago she suffered
a meltdown. How does she deal now with the career pressures? "Well,
I learned a lot from that period. Most of the stress came from
letting things build up. I now deal with situations as they
come." She pauses to reflect. "Also, I pray
a lot, and I have positive people around me. They are a great
support team!" she says confidently.
Though presently reveling in her recent Grammy
award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" with
Gwen Stefani, Eve's excitement is mixed with concern about her peers
and the AIDS epidemic.
"I think most of the rappers I hang out with seem to use
condoms. Some don't though. And as far as I hear, most
of the women are making their men wear condoms. Those who don't
wear condoms, I think know about AIDS but they think it can't happen
to them. They feel invincible. They're in denial. They
don't want to deal with it," she says.
AIDS and the African-American community increasingly intersect, Eve
is part of a growing trend that sees hip-hop culture as an important
medium for HIV outreach. Recognizing the power and popularity
of music as an educational tool, the Rollins School of Public Health
at Atlanta's Emory University has undertaken a study—Project
Hip Hop—to develop ways to use hip-hop music as a means of
delivering health information to African-American adolescents. In
March 2000, Bush Radio in South Africa launched its youth AIDS campaign,
which uses the power of radio, hip-hop, and live performance to build
a higher level of awareness about sexuality among teens.
Black Entertainment Television (BET) has also joined
the ranks and launched a national HIV/AIDS awareness campaign called
Rap-It-Up to educate African-Americans on the epidemic and to encourage
safer sex practices.
Rap-It-Up provides up-to-date HIV/AIDS information on its interactive
Web site and it also mantains a hotline number (see end of article). It
produces PSAs, provides a mobile health service to inner city and
urban communities, which includes HIV testing, and conducts teen
forums in schools nationwide. "We also sponsor events," adds
Jackie Willis, Vice President of Public Affairs, and Events at BET. "Presently,
Ja Rule is our spokesperson for a Rap-It-Up Auction that begins on
May 18th and runs for about six weeks.
He's also done PSAs for us. Our goal is to get as many
musical artists involved with Rap-It-Up as we can. Eve will
soon be working with our campaign and we are very excited about that,
especially since our main focus is women. Two communities that
are most affected with the virus these days are African-American
women and women of color."
Case in point: Several years ago, Eve's friend,
Trina Patterson, lost her forty-six-year-old mother to AIDS. In
fact, Eve points out that Trina is soon to have a book published, Diary
of a Fashion Sylist, where a portion of the proceeds will benefit
a memorial fund set up in her mother's name and also SisterLove,
Inc., an HIV/AIDS organization for women.
Eve first became aware of AIDS in her high school's
sex education class. "We were taught about STD prevention
but there wasn't much talk about AIDS. It was not fully explained," she
"I attended Martin Luther King High School and we were
told that it had the highest rate of young people infected with HIV." Born
in 1978, Eve Jihan Jeffers was raised by a single mother, and lived
in the Philadelphia projects until she was fourteen. In Eve's
preteen days she was part of a girl band, Dope Girl Posse, that performed
around the local talent circuit but then she turned to rap.
After high school she landed a one-year record
contract with Dr. Dre's Aftermath imprint in Los Angeles.
She moved to the West Coast, turned eighteen, and debuted as
Eve of Destruction on the Bulworth soundtrack. The following
year, though, Eve was back in Philly with no record. Soon after,
she signed with Ruff Ryders. Between deals, she briefly performed
as a stripper in New York City, which was definitely not a highlight. "I
really didn't enjoy it, and when I left, I felt much better," she
recalls. Eve eventually met fellow artist/producer, Stevie
J. For two years, sparks ignited between them until they cooled
it last summer. When she's not on the road, Eve resides in
her home in New Jersey, just twenty minutes outside New York City. About
her single life she asserts, "I'm chillin' and lovin' it."
won't have much time to chill after The Barbershop wraps,
as she returns to the studio to record her third album. She
hopes to have it in stores by the end of summer. And since
Eve has a mighty passion for travel, her thoughts will then turn
to Europe. "I would just love to backpack around for a
few months. I love experiencing the different cultures, eating
new foods, meeting various people. It fuels me personally and
musically." Eve has a dream to cut a record across the
great pond with a Euro-artist.
On either continent, Eve is known for her classy
eclectic looks, so I casually ask her what her hair color is today. She
explains that because of the character she plays in the movie, her
hair is styled in a weave that trails down to her shoulders and is
streaked in brown and blonde. She likes it, though knowing
the Eve tradition, it will soon be red, or blue, and/or white. Another
Eve trademark is her breast tattoos. "And I'm thinking
about getting more tattoos, though I really don't need anymore," she
laughs, then exclaims, "My mom would kill me!" And
for the first time in print, though she hesitates to say, Eve reveals
that she has one pierced nipple—"I love it but it was
a lot of pain." Does she have any other tattoos? Yes. A
flower; a scorpion; and an apple with two symbols that spell out "Strong
True to that motto, Eve presses the point that
we need stronger AIDS education programs in our high schools.
And she has her own take on its presentation: "The classes
need to be vivid. They should bring HIV-positive people into
the class to speak to these kids and explain to them what it is like
to be infected; what it is like to take a bunch of pills everyday. Perhaps
the students could also view a documentary about the journey of an
HIV-infected person: from healthy person to an HIV-infected person
to an AIDS diagnosis.
The film could portray the brutal daily ritual they go through. Perhaps
students could visit a hospice and see firsthand what it is like
to die from AIDS," suggests Eve. "This kind of curriculum
will definitely make a lasting impression on the student. You
know how they have these..." She stutters for a slight
moment as she searches for the right word, then continues: "Scared
Streaight programs? We need more programs like this but about
AIDS. AIDS is a horrible, horrible, horrible problem and at
this point we need to take drastic measures to rid society of this
disease." With Eve's popularity and role model status,
I propose to her that she produce and host this kind of documentary
because it would be valuable to teens–they would definitely
take note. Eve is quite receptive and for a few moments we
brainstorm ideas for the series. "People are still in
denial," she declares with surprise. "We need to
go strong and pound it into everyone's head." And what
would this bombshell yell to these kids on her new program, AIDS:
Scared Straight? She replies in a stern, rhythmic beat: "Listen
up! Don't be stupid. Protect yourself at all times. Avoid
a life sentence, and use a condom. Use two!"