Eve and Gwen Stefani’s sauntering smash Let Me Blow Ya Mind still thumps, even 21 years after it was released as a single on Eve’s second album Scorpion – so we’ve turned up a few neat li’l facts for your edification.
Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
“I got told that it was never going to work,” rapper-singer-actress-presenter Eve said last year, about the song that would go on to sit next to Outkast’s Ms. Jackson and Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious as one of the biggest hits of 2001. “I got told that people would be like, ‘Why are these two chicks together?’ I was like, ‘Look, let’s try it. If it sucks, no one ever has to hear it.’ But of course it didn’t. I knew it wouldn’t. Thank God. And you know, I won a Grammy. That was my first Grammy.
“I’m pretty much annoying when I want something done, so I did not give up on it.”
Gaaah! The unknown!
But why, you ask, were Eve’s Ruff Ryders label heads so afraid of a stylistic combo that we know always slaps? Rappers and pop singers go together like mainstream peas and carrots – just ask The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber.
Well, it was because it had barely been done before – and it definitely hadn’t been done with two female leads.
Save for Mariah Carey and Jay-Z’s ’99 track Heartbreaker (which we’re reluctant to count; firstly because all verses are sung by Mariah, with just a few bars from Jay-Z appearing as a middle-eight; secondly because Carey’s music has historically been considered hip hop-adjacent), the closest the industry had come to a pop-rock and rap pairing was the Run-DMC and Aerosmith cover/collab Walk This Way (1986).
Gwen was scared poop-less of Dr Dre
“I went in the studio with Dre, terrified,” Stefani told DJ Khaled (on the artist’s podcast) last year. “He was so hard on me. He’s a perfectionist. I went in there thinking I had practiced, I’m gonna do my style, it’s so easy.”
It turns out the problem was a matter of approach; Gwen, a pop-rock artist, didn’t understand how to deliver her vocal leaning back on the song’s hip hop beat.
“He was really intimidating… He was like ‘No, you’re ahead of the beat, Gwen. You need to get behind the beat.’ And I was like ‘What am I doing wrong?’” Stefani said. “I had no idea. I was so outside of my culture – so outside of my genre.”
She added that she left the session bawling, and thinking: “’That was the worst. I’m so embarrassed!’”
Eve detested Dre for a minute there, too
Eve already had a history with Dr Dre by the time the two were in the studio together to record Let Me Blow Ya Mind. The rapper was one of the first artists to Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment, but was dropped after Dre signed Eminem in 1998. The two buried the hatchet for the Let Me Blow Ya Mind project, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t butt heads.
“Dre was like, ‘You’re not leaving the studio until this song is done,’” Eve said in 2021, of how Let Me Blow Ya Mind unfolded. “I write my own stuff, but usually I get lazy after I write verses. I [didn’t] want to write the chords. I hated him that day, but I’m so happy he made me stay. It’s the one song that I wrote fully. Like literally, every single thing, every word.”
A pioneering pairing
Just as Eve and Gwen broke the ground on this fresh meshing of genres, a new category was introduced to the 2002 Grammy Awards – that of Rap/Sung Collaboration, which was to honour “a newly recorded Rap/Sung collaborative performance by artists who do not normally perform together.”
The inaugural trophy was won by Eve and Gwen for Let Me Blow Ya Mind – and kicked off the most hotly-contested category you’ll find at the Awards, which has since been won by some of the most enduring tracks of all time: Nelly and Kelly Rowland’s Dilemma, Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Crazy in Love, Rihanna and Jay-Z’s Umbrella, and Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ New York State of Mind.
The song’s clip – which won the 2001 MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video – includes a few famous faces. When Eve and Gwen crash the posh party in their four-wheelers, one of the gobsmacked attendees is famed German actor Udo Kier, who has worked with auteur directors such as Lars von Trier, Gus Van Sant, Werner Herzog, and Dario Argento. (If you’re more into slapstick comedy than avant-garde, you may know him as the creepy billionaire Ron Camp in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.)
The livid woman who calls the cops is intended to portray famously flamboyant, criminal businesswoman Leona Helmsley (whom you may know by her nickname ‘the Queen of Mean’, or from her alleged quote: “We don’t pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes”).
And yes, that is Dr Dre himself who turns up in the clip’s closing moments to dump a load of cash on the warden’s desk, bailing our gals out of the clink.
Could Monica BE any more mind-blowing?
In a 2001 episode of juggernaut US comedy Friends – then in its eighth season, and at the peak of its popularity – Monica chooses Let Me Blow Ya Mind as the song to which she does a very awkward striptease for her fiance, Chandler. Cringe along with us below.