Throughout his time as the head of the Aftermath Entertainment dynasty, Dr. Dre has amassed quite a roster. Not everyone stayed for very long. Rakim, Busta Rhymes, and Eve all enjoyed noteworthy yet ultimately brief tenures with the label. For the Ruff Ryders first lady, her time with Aftermath was only eight months, a period that yielded little in the way of actual music. That came later. First came the forging of an intense and creatively fruitful relationship. And to think, it all began with some good old fashioned duplicity.
So the story goes, Eve was a young Philadelphia emcee seeking a break. At the time, her managers were the “local drug dealers in town,” as per her own description. As it so often does, fate would rear her head with an opportunity. Dr. Dre, himself at the dawn of a new era of his career, had recently launched a brand new label — Aftermath. When Dre’s right-hand man came to Philly, he set out on a quest for marijuana, a quest that would place him directly in the path of Eve’s managers. It didn’t take long for a plan to be hatched, simple on paper. Eve would take on the role of the weed girl, and upon arriving to deliver said weed, her managers would win the right-hand man’s heart with an on-the-spot performance. “And that’s exactly what happened,” reflects Eve, during a conversation with Luc Belaire CEO Brett Berish.
“We got to this house. I stood up, they put on a tape, and I started rapping. And then he was like…what the fuck is happening?”
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Despite the awkward circumstances surrounding the initial showcase — presumably done without the benefit of weed — Dre’s consigliere was ultimately wooed by Eve’s rhyming ability. Before long, she had relocated to Los Angeles to record a demo for Dre, only to find herself dropped eight months later, with only one surviving song from her time with the label — “Eve Of Destruction,” a piano-driven banger off the Bulworth soundtrack. Despite a brief state of depression, it didn’t take long before she was presented with an opportunity: cyphering her way onto the Ruff Ryders roster, a team that would go on to embrace her as the “first lady.” In 1999, she dropped off her debut album Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady, produced in its entirety by Swizz Beatz.
Things tend to come full circle. See, Ruff Ryders was housed on Interscope, run under the watchful eye of Jimmy Iovine. The same man who happened to be one of Dre’s closest confidantes, and at the time, one of his lone supporters. With that in mind, Eve wasn’t entirely removed from the Good Doctor’s vicinity, and it’s likely he kept his eye on his former protege. When the time came for Eve to deliver her sophomore album, Dre returned to the fold once more. Of Scorpion’s sixteen tracks, two instrumentals were laced by the tandem of Dr. Dre and Scott Storch, who was actually introduced to Dre by Eve during her Aftermath tenure.
The first happens to be one of Eve’s biggest hits to date, the Gwen Stefani-assisted “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.” Dre’s drums are the first giveaway, as they often are: clean, massive, and never doing too much. Coming off the release of both his own 2001 and Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP, his first Eve beat felt like a departure from his traditional sound. For one, it wasn’t dark or menacing in the slightest, but rather sensual, classy, and assertive. His bag of tricks does eventually open once more as the bassline slinks in, another telltale sign. Eve proved more than up to the task of blessing the instrumental, though doing so would once again find her facing an interesting challenge. One that many emcees have openly reflected on with equal parts fondness and frustration — the art of crafting a song with Dre. A notorious perfectionist, Dre would accept nothing less than his vision exactly as intended, sometimes leading to Stanley Kubrick-esque repetitions of single lines. In an interview with Live Nation, Eve likened their collaborative process to shadowboxing, recognizing that Dre’s studio methods ultimately led her to pen some of “the best records of her life.”
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Alas, the pair’s partnership only managed to yield a handful of tracks. Scorpion housed the aforementioned “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” as well as the Styles P-assisted “That’s What It Is.” A darker counterpart to the Gwen Stefani duet, Eve and Pinero’s deep cut finds the Ruff Ryders navigating a simple yet hard-hitting instrumental, imbued with the Doc’s signature menace by way of a melancholic synth-string. “Heads boppin’ never fails once the Doc’s around,” raps Eve, as the piano arpeggio ascends and descends. “That’s What It Is” also gains additional credibility for being the lone collaboration between The Lox and Dre, and while it’s not a full collaboration, it’s a welcome crossover all the same.
Two years later, Dr. Dre and Eve would reunite once again on Eve-OLution, the Ruff Ryders’ rapper’s third studio album. As was the case with its predecessor, the album featured a pair of Dr. Dre beats, a near-mirror image to their last go-around. This time, Eve would set things off with “What,” a stylistic successor to “That’s What It Is” in sonic direction. Once again, Dre opts for an imposing minor-key piano over a one-two drum-arrangement, occasionally emphasizing a moment with a ghostly synthesizer. The track is easily one of the album’s hardest bangers, with Eve flexing her flow as she declares her newfound coldhearted temperament.
While it might have been tempting for Eve and Dre to continue along this warpath, it appeared they had grander designs in mind. “Satisfaction” is to Eve-OLution what “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” was to Scorpion; once more, Eve’s biggest hit arrived courtesy of Aftermath’s surgeon general. This time, Dre steered away from his bag of tricks, opting for a rare indulgence — working in the major key. With Mike Elizondo holding it down on the bass, Dre laces Eve with a low-end groove with an old-school feel, sliding in a few slick guitar riffs to keep momentum. It’s arguably one of the most out-of-character beats of Dre’s career, not quite triumphant but certainly feel-good. Those unfamiliar with his sound might not even recognize “Satisfaction” to be his handiwork, his identity revealed by a typically clean mix, and the presence of an orchestral string section.
Unfortunately, Eve-OLution marked an end to their partnership, though they would indeed ride again on Gwen Stefani’s classic “Rich Girl,” a standout single off 2004’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby. The track marked another interesting direction for Dr. Dre, who showcased his adaptability while working with a more pop-focused artist, allowing Eve to part ways with the Doc on a high note, which is to say setting the radio ablaze. Though their collaborative union only elicited five tracks, including two major singles, it’s evident that Eve and Dr. Dre found harmony in the studio, a pair of unlikely collaborators that bridged the gap between two of hip-hop’s powerhouse movements — Ruff Ryders and Aftermath Entertainment.