Rapsody Honors Black Women's Past, Present And Future On 'EVE'
EVE, the follow-up to 2017's Laila's Wisdom, which paid tribute to her grandmother, continues Rapsody's trajectory as one of hip-hop's most recognized and respected female voices. The Recording Academy spoke with the rapper about her album (out now via Roc Nation in partnership with Def Jam Recordings) about how black women are seen in society, how "IBTIHAJ" came about and more.
Oprah, Maya, Serena, Michelle. These are just some of the black women, recognized by their first names alone in entertainment, sports, arts, politics and beyond, Rapsody recognizes on her third studio album, EVE. Over the course of 16 tracks, the GRAMMY-nominated rapper from North Carolina wants to show not only the strength and resilience black women hold, but that "black women come in a spectrum."
"I wanted to have a conversation," Rapsody tells the Recording Academy about speaking to black women through the album. "I wanted to write my letters to them to show that or remind us that we are beautiful, we are strong, that we are human."
EVE is not the first time you've paid tribute to women in the form of an album. Laila's Wisdom was named after your grandmother. Who are you paying tribute to on this album?
Leila's Wisdom was for me, and I wanted to make something that was more broad that all women could gravitate to and see themselves. I wanted to make something that showed that we're not monoliths, that black women come in a spectrum, that we have different flavors and styles and energy and it all should be celebrated and loved, and to show that even I am a reflection of so many different women. I'm inspired by so many different women I know, so many other black women. I learned motherly love from Phylicia Rashad, outside of my own mother and aunt.
I learned the power of words from Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelou. It's examples like that. So I wanted to make a project that creatively told that story in this way. I probably recorded maybe 40 songs coming forth from this idea about 40 different women and I just would wake up every day and think of a different woman. And it was so much fun and so easy because I respect so many and I follow so many. We narrowed it down to the 16 that we have and that was based on sonics; how we wanted the album to sound, what songs sounded good together, but also for a wide range story. So that's kind of how we came to the project that we have now.
I mean, there's so many badass black women out there. How did you narrow it down to 16?
[Laughs.] It was so hard, believe me. I thought about doing a double disc. I thought about doing part one, part two, but I said in the world that we live in people can't consume that much music right now. They don't even have the attention span to. So once we found two songs that we really wanted to build around sound-wise, because when we make albums we make it off what sonically sounds good together, and that also doesn't repeat the same concepts that I did within the album, so I think we built around "OPRAH" and "SOJOURNER" and "AALIYAH." Those were the first three songs that we created that we knew we were going to keep for the album. And we built around what sounded good with those three songs.
That's kind of how we dwindled it down. And we might have two songs that told two different stories, but musically they sounded the same so we just had to pick which one we thought was the best one. But it was very difficult, though. But I think what we ended up with is variety. If you see music in colors, it's very colorful and a bunch of different colors. It shows the world of black women that I wanted to showcase. You're going to get the rowdy chick. You're going to get the introspective one. You're going to get the loving one. You're going to have songs about beauty. You're going to have songs that are political. So it just covered all the stories and energies that I wanted to showcase.
You named the album EVE. How come?
I wanted a title that represented black women. There's no one name that can tell the story of all these different women so I wanted to start with the first woman ever created, the mother of all living things, and that's Eve from the Bible. So that's why I chose Eve. God created man. He took a rib from him and blew life into a lung and He created the first woman and named her Eve. That is a reflection of who we are and where we come from and the beginning of women, giving birth to the world, nurturing the world, feeding the world through our bodies. So that's why I chose "EVE."