The Eve of Construction

Before she introduced her album with an ode to Nina Simone,
Before she introduced a track listing that featured the names of esteemed Black women,
Before she even thought to name that album after the mother of all living,

Rapsody created a masterpiece.

When we think of the word “tease” in association with women, it harbors a negative connotation. We think of it in terms of sex — which is pretty much how society defines women. 

The very genesis (pun intended) of Rapsody’s latest studio album, “Eve,” was presented in a way that was not only sisterly, but spiritual. It was also presented in a way where we had to praise not only majesty, but mystique.

This is not what we ask from Black female artists. In fact, there was a shortsighted indictment of “female rap” from Jermaine Dupri last month that basically equated the genre to “strippers rapping.” That assessment inspired backlash from the likes of Cardi B, who was brutally honest:

“First of all, I rap about my p***y because she’s my best friend and second of all it’s because it seems like that’s what people want to hear. I ain’t even gonna front. When I did ‘Be Careful’ people was talking mad s**t in the beginning like, ‘What the f**k is this? This is not what I was expecting,'” she continued. “It’s like if that’s what people ain’t trying to hear then I’m going to start rapping about my p***y again.”

It’s also worth mentioning that Cardi did shout out a few women who made music without sexually overt themes — and mentioned Rapsody by name.

For her part, Rapsody has graduated from those conversations and criticisms. That’s what happens when you put aside petty debates and align yourself with a goddess.

Typing in will take you to the site of Rapsody’s latest project. That web address, along with a upside-down triangle, represented the initial “teases” of the project.

“Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” — Genesis 3:20

That level of intricacy is what makes this project truly brilliant. It’s one thing to appreciate Black women. It’s something entirely to celebrate Black women not only collectively, but individually — pain, progress, “flaws and all,” as Beyonce once expressed.

It’s the attention to detail in a logo to accompany the project — an upside-down triangle which is “female, lunar and symbolizes Mother,” according to Rapsody’s Instagram post from July 24. 

Those gestures, in addition to an article from Essence Magazine, were the eve of construction. 

“Women are realizing we can support each other,” she said. “We can talk life and good things into each other. We can compete musically because we all should compete musically. …When you compete like that, it helps the art, and outside of that, you still can respect each other and love what each other brings to the table.”

Again, graduation. That followed with “Ibtihaj,” a project which featured D’Angelo and GZA. A song about an accomplished Black Muslim female fencer with a guest appearance from he of the liquid swords himself. Oh, and the video took place in Harlem — the Black mecca.

And then came the track listing. 

Nina. Cleo. Aaliyah. Oprah. Whoopi. Serena. Tyra. Maya. Ibtihaj. Myrlie. Reyna. Michelle. Iman. Hatshepsut. Sojourner. Afeni.

Those names are standards for not only Black women, but for the best their respective fields have to offer. And so it is with Rapsody’s “Eve.”

From the punctual and passionate intro — complete with Nina Simone sample — to “Afeni,” with its nod to her son Tupac and inspiration from Deniece Williams’  “Free,” Rapsody celebrates Black women with incredible detail and depth.

Oh, and there are bars. Or, in her words:

I don’t speak on it nowadays, I just meditate
Y’all can have the bars n—, I spit hard metal gates
Henry Louis Gates when I cop me some new estate
Make room for myself, I’m in a way different mental place

She draws lines without showing her body — again, her words and her skill. Intricate wordplay has always been part of Rapsody’s forte, but adding an intricate concept to her natural gift has the potential to change the way we look at rap — regardless of gender. This album is that important, even down to the final track, which is less a rebuke of Black men and more a plea for togetherness. 

The Tupac vocals from “Keep Ya Head Up” are familiar and iconic:

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?

The vocals from PJ Morton also take a page from Tupac, expressing that Black women are “appreciated.”

That appreciation is about more than five stars or awards of critical acclaim. It’s about finding your lane, and realizing that lane is the Euphrates River. Or the Milky Way. That’s the standard which Rapsody has created with her latest project — truly, the Eve of construction. 

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