For all of her femme-bomb aplomb, rapper Eve understands the benefits of leaving a little breathing room between beats. Her Dr. Dre-produced hit with No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, ''Let Me Blow Ya Mind,'' was a minimalist triumph whose pop-o-matic synth riff scored a blow to the solar plexus. But that track stood out like a Lamborghini in a lot full of Jettas on her second CD, 2001's ''Scorpion,'' a fine collection of shaken and occasionally stirring hip-hop jams.
On Eve-olution, her aptly titled third album, Eve moves forward from the sometimes monolithic block-rocking of ''Scorpion'' into a more complex and sophisticated sound that dexterously mixes up moods and tones. Shocking, really, considering the laundry list of guest stars on her ''Eve-olution'' payroll: fellow Ruff Ryders alumnus Swizz Beatz, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Truth Hurts, Alicia Keys, and Irv Gotti. But instead of the record coming off like a pu-pu platter -- a little R&B from column A, a little pop from column B -- it maintains its focus, making it a wholly satisfying experience.
The clumsy hip-hop elocution that marred ''Scorpion'' has been replaced by a fluid flow that glides effortlessly into double-time imprecations and snarling put-downs. Eve wields her new vocal weapon fearlessly, venturing into the stark noir-hop of ''What,'' with its ominous staccato string section cooked up in Dr. Dre's lab, before emerging into the bright daylight of ''Gangsta Lovin','' with its funky harpsichord (!) fantasia.
Elsewhere, Eve flips Prince's ode to female objectification ''Irresistible Bitch'' into a sharp stab of self- affirmation. On ''Satisfaction,'' she returns to the wide-open spaces of ''Let Me Blow Ya Mind.'' Relying on little more than a three-note bass riff and a slow-drip beat, Eve raps for her right to party -- men be damned -- and creates a starkly evocative successor to her breakout single. Prepare to have your mind blown, again.