Writing about Cindy Campbell made me think about the first party I threw for The Gumbo. Writing about Dee Barnes reminded me of the hip-hop news videos I used to host for an internship I held in college. Writing about Queen Latifah took me back to my mom doing my hair on Sundays while we watched old episodes of Living Single. And writing about Big Lez and other women who hosted music television shows brought me back to the 106 & Park–themed birthday party I threw in 2019. I asked all of my friends to dress up in their best early 2000s outfits or reference a moment from the show. I didn’t really care too much about what people wore, though, because the party was really a ploy for me to get the chance to dress up as Eve. I wore a white tank top and leather pants, drew two paw prints on my chest with black eyeliner, and bleached my hair platinum and buzzed it short.
Eve means a lot to me and to hip-hop. She’s the First Lady of Ruff Ryders. She won the first Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration when it was introduced in 2002 for her hit “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” featuring Gwen Stefani. She played the role of fashion designer Shelly Williams on her eponymous UPN sitcom Eve. And she had a clothing line by the name of Fetish. In addition to all of that, Eve is really the first woman in rap that I 100 percent saw myself in as a kid.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t relate to the other women rappers I was listening to growing up, because I did. The thing about Eve, though, is that she’s from Philly. And as a kid growing up in a part of New Jersey that’s largely influenced by the Pennsylvania city, I recognized immediately that we had a lot in common. Eve ate the food I ate. Went to the places I went to. Wore the clothes that I wore.
In the video for “Satisfaction,” the neighborhood Eve is hanging in looks just like my aunt’s in Philly, where I spent plenty of days on her stoop eating pickles she bought me from the corner store. When Eve performed at the 2002 NFL Kickoff Concert in Times Square rocking an Eagles jersey I was hype to see a star repping a team I had worn on my back on more than one occasion. And when she did an interview with Bon Appétit in 2013, she told them the chicken cheesesteaks from Ishkabibble’s are her favorite. They’re mine too, and if you ever stop by the food spot make sure you get a “Gremlin” to drink.*
Eve wasn’t just a part of my childhood. She’s also been the inspiration behind a lot of my fashion choices. When I saw her in a jersey dress I asked my parents for one. When I cut all of my hair off and bleached it blond I brought a picture of Eve to the salon. (I would reference more pictures of her when I dyed my hair red and lavender.) And when I started working full-time I would stop by the beauty supply store to buy scarves to tie around my head like she did.
With countless hits under her belt and a career that’s touched television, film, and fashion, Eve is undoubtedly “that girl.” She’s also my personal style icon, and that’s the reason why I wanted to dress up like her for that birthday party I threw back in 2019.
I wonder if all of this talk about dressing up like a rapper reminded you of a moment you did the same, or when someone’s look inspired you to try something new. There are so many women in hip-hop who have shaped the looks of our favorite emcees, created brands of their own, experimented with different hair colors and makeup, and influenced a lot of the trends we see today. They’re style icons, too.
*A “Gremlin” is the half lemonade and half grape juice drink they sell at Ishkabibble’s. It’s delicious, and take it from me, no matter how many times you try to re-create it on your own it won’t taste like the one at Ishkabibble’s. Oh, they also have a chopped turkey cheeseburger that’s my second favorite thing behind the chicken cheesesteak. So if you’re ever in Philly stop by and try these items. There are two Ishkabibble’s locations now: the OG one that you can walk up to with a few barlike seats and Ishkabibble’s II, which has a lot of tables inside. Both are on South Street. Tell me if you go!
Excerpted from FIRST THINGS FIRST: Hip-Hop Ladies Who Changed the Game ©2024 Nadirah Simmons and reprinted by permission from Twelve Books/Hachette Book Group.
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