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Eve, Brandy: 'Queens' revives '90s hip-hop

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Eve, Brandy: 'Queens' revives '90s hip-hop
Singer/actor Brandy plays a rapper making a comeback on "Queens." Photo courtesy of ABC

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Recording artists Eve and Brandy said their new TV show Queens, premiering Tuesday, revives the '90s hip-hop scene from which they emerged.

The two, along with Naturi Naughton and Nadine Velazquez, play members of a disbanded '90s rap group, The Nasty Bitches, who reunite in 2021.

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"When people listen to the music, when they see our outfits, they see our hair, we want them to be transported back," Eve said on a Television Critics Association Zoom panel.

Eve, 42, plays Brianna, who raps under the name Professor Sex and now is the mother of five.

Eve released her first album, Let There Be Eve ... Ruff Ryders' First Lady in 1999 and began acting in the 2002 films xXx and Barbershop. On Queens, the Nasty Bitches perform songs produced by Swizz Beatz.

"We want to bring back the lyricism, which is what I've always been attracted to as an MC," Eve said. "Rap means rhythm and poetry. We want to give emotion and really show how skillful hip-hop really can be."

Brandy, 42, plays Naomi, whose rap name is Xplicit Lyrics. Now, Naomi performs solo at open mic nights to audiences who recognize her from Nasty Bitches, and she has a teenage daughter she rarely sees while on the road.

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Brandy debuted in 1994 with her self-titled album. In addition to hit songs like "The Boy Is Mine," Brandy starred in the sitcom Moesha when she was 17. She said the rapping in Queens is a new challenge compared to her R&B style.

"It's definitely a difference, because this rapping is really, really difficult," Brandy said.

Queens also will give Eve fans long-awaited new music. Her last album was 2013's Lip Lock, with only sporadic singles since.

"If you're looking for new music, this music is going to feed you," Eve said. "This is a great way to kind of dip my toes, actually my whole body, back into music without having the actual pressure of an album."

Naughton, 37, also was teen singer, joining the group 3LW in 1999. She appeared on Broadway in Hairspray and played a teenager singer-songwriter in 2009's Fame, and portrayed Lil Kim in the Notorious B.I.G. biopic Notorious.

On Queens, Naughton plays Jill, whose rap name is Da Thrill. Jill is married to a man, but having an affair with a woman, still afraid to come out.

Naughton said she and Eve crossed paths early in their careers at MTV's TRL Awards. Naughton brought the evidence to the set of Queens by way of a backstage photo they took.

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"Day one of rehearsal, I brought a picture," Naughton said. "I was like 16 or 17, and Eve had her fiery blond hair. It was so dope."

Eve, who remembered meeting Naughton, said rehearsals for Queens were more difficult as they tried to recreate '90s dance moves at their current ages.

"You all remember when I got frustrated that day?" Eve said. "I couldn't get two steps. It's the support of each other that has helped all of us be able to gel together."

Naughton said singing gave her basics she could apply to rapping, adding that adapting her singing style to rap was a challenge.

"As a singer, it does take breath control and rhythm," Naughton said. "I'm having fun discovering the new cadence of what it takes to be an artist in that way."

Velazquez, 42, is the only member of Queens' Nasty Bitches who does not have a music background. She starred on TV shows My Name Is Earl and Six, and movies like Flight and Ride Along 2.

On Queens, Velazquez plays Valeria, aka Butter Pecan. Since Nasty Bitches, Valeria has become a news anchor.

When Valeria gets fired for sabotaging her rival, she turns to the Nasty Bitches for a comeback. Velazquez said she was intimidated to learn rap among three experienced artists.

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"It's like two left feet, but I'm getting it," Velazquez said. "I can't even describe the growth from the pilot to where we're at right now just in terms of my comfort and ability to just be free."

Velazquez said she has been waiting for an opportunity to explore her musical side.

"I am musical in my soul, I am a poet in my soul," Velazquez said. "She's in there, and this job is making her come out."

Queens airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EDT on ABC.

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