Where do you go after you’re nominated for a Grammy for what is only your second proper album? If you’re celebrated North Carolina MC Rapsody, you go only wherever your heart desires—for her, that was down a path forged by historic black women before her. “When I think of why I am who I am, it's because I'm inspired by so many dope women,” Rapsody tells Apple Music. “Dope men, too, but mostly dope women.”
The MC’s third album Eve (named for that biblical mother of humanity) is a series of dedications to these women—some literal, others figurative, and still others simply named for individuals who embody ideals the artist felt compelled to extol. “It was easy once I had a concept,” she says. “All these women have different energies and they represent different things to me. And the bars just connected on their own, to be honest. Once you have the idea, the basis of what you want to write, everything else is just freedom and truth.”
Lead single “Ibtihaj” (as in Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics) features a sample of GZA’s “Liquid Swords” along with guest spots from D’Angelo and The Genius himself. Elsewhere, the voices of rising New York MC Leikeli47, Los Angeles singer K. Roosevelt, and the legendary Queen Latifah ring out to help Rapsody tell the tales of “Oprah,” “Maya,” and “Hatshepsut,” respectively.
Eve also features fellow generational talent and early Rapsody supporter J. Cole, who, during the sessions for “Sojourner,” helped distill his and Rapsody’s shared purpose as educators. “That whole song came from a two-, three-hour conversation that myself, J. Cole, and Ninth Wonder had in the studio,” Rapsody explains. “We were talking about Ninth’s generation versus me and Cole's. Everything is on the internet; they don't have to go and talk to each other face to face. In school they don't learn about all our black heroes. Some of them don't even want to know who Malcolm X is, who Betty Shabazz is. So that turned into: What is our responsibility as artists? We teach through our music. We should have fun, we should vibe out, but we have a responsibility to be reporting and talk about what's going on.” What that means for Eve is that the MC gets to honor some of her biggest inspirations as she earns a place among them.