"An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times."
And reflecting the times is exactly what the Grammy-nominated artist does in "Eve."
In the album, which was released on Friday, Rapsody pays tribute to a lineage of black women who broke barriers across time and industries in a series of soulful songs with titles that include Aaliyah, Oprah, Whoopi (Goldberg), Serena (Williams), Tyra (Banks), Maya (Angelou), Ibtihaj (Mohammed), Myrlie (Evers–Williams), Michelle (Obama), Reyna's Interlude, Iman, Sojourner (Truth), Afeni (Shakur), Hatshepsut and Cleo — a song named after Queen Latifah’s brave and unapologetic character in the 1996 movie "Set it Off."
"I think all of them, what they have in common is to be unwavering, to never quit," Rapsody, whose given name is Marlanna Evans, told ABC News in a phone interview Monday. "There’s a beauty and a strength that all of them have because to break the barriers that they had to do, you had to be unwavering, you had to have this undeniable, undying fight within you. And you know, that’s what I appreciated about them."
"Eve" is an ode to the history of the civil rights movement and a reflection of today's age of revitalized activism. And this harmonious weaving of past and present is embodied in Rapsody's connection to Simone, who also hailed from North Carolina.
Simone's dreams of becoming the first black concert pianist were stunted after she was denied admission to the Institute of Music in Philadelphia, but she turned to song. And in 1964 — at the height of the civil rights movement — Simone wrote her first protest anthem.
"Mississippi Goddam," which was a controversial song at the time, was a response to the 1963 assassination of American civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Mississippi amid his fight against Jim Crow laws.
And today, in the age of "Black Lives Matter," the enduring struggle of violence in the civil rights fight comes full circle in "Eve," with the song, "Myrlie," featuring Mereba.
It is named after Myrlie Evers-Williams, Medgar Evers' widow, and Rapsody begins with these lines:
"Black widow, young kiddo/ Tear stained pillow, 'nother black man died / Wade in the water, I don't mean baptized /Dark a-- times, can't bat no eye."
And in "Nina," Rapsody reflects on Simone's influence and references "Mississippi Goddamn":
"I'm from the back woods where Nina would/ Sing about the life we should lead/ A new dawn, another deed, I try to do some good/ I felt more damned than Mississippi was/ They deny Nina in Philadelphia/ And still we persevere like all the 400 years of our own blood, Africa/ Old panthers lookin' back like who gon' come up after us?/ Outside the movies, I make sure before it move you/ It moved me, now bow down to a queen, please. Survival."
The album includes collaborations with J. Cole, GZA, D'Angelo, Elle Varner and Queen Latifah — who broke barriers in hip-hop and served as an early inspiration for Rapsody, herself.
The concept for it developed last summer, Rapsody said, after she wrote a song about being a tomboy and decided to name it "Aaliyah" after the R&B star, who died tragically in a plane crash in 2001.
"I wanted to do a song about being a tomboy and I thought I’m just going to name it Aaliyah because in a space and a time where how I dress is not always accepted — or thought about as the cool way to dress or [the way] for a female to dress in hip-hop — there was a time when the sexist and flyest woman was Aaliyah and she was tomboy," Rapsody said, "so I wanted to show how much she inspired and influenced me."
Rapsody also teamed up with Queen Latifah, who she described as one of her "biggest influences," on the track "Hatshepsut," which is named after a female Egyptian pharaoh.
"The theme of that song was about being a queen and understanding where we come from and that we should be respected and demand respect ... that we’re worthy," Rapsody said, adding that she learned those same lessons from the music of female hip-hop artists like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and Missy Elliot.
"I always approach things from a human standpoint and understand that we all are flawed but the greatest thing we can do is try to be better every day and learn more and uplift each other," Rapsody said. "... I wanted people to hear this album and I wanted them to know and remind them that we can’t let anybody else define beauty for us."
Rapsody's last album, "Laila's Wisdom," which was named after her grandmother, was nominated for best rap album at the Grammys in 2017 and her song, "Sassy," was nominated in the best rap song category.