In an era of fashionista rappers with gangsta attitude, such as Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks, it's awesome — even necessary — that Eve make her return. At 33, Philly's self-proclaimed "pit bull in a skirt" can show up any of her imitators. She proved as much during an intimate (200 people) gig Wednesday at Fishtown's funky Kung Fu Necktie.

From her earliest days as one of the Ruff Ryders to her own pop-hop hits ("Who's That Girl?") and a klatch of smash collaborations with Gwen Stefani, Eve was always the queen of swagger. Her flow was rough but tenderly rendered. Her lyrics were tough but sensual.

Although her most recent album, Eve-Olution, came out 10 (!) years ago, she's been busy with films (Barbershop, Whip It), her UPN series (Eve), and guest raps for the likes of Ludacris. In 2007, she was readying an album, Lip Lock, that was rumored to have been held up by her label.

But to hear Eve — resplendent in a white dinner jacket over a ripped T-shirt and red camisole — tell it from KFN's stage, holding up Lip Lock was her idea: "I just wanted to put out something I loved." (Word has Lip Lock dropping by this autumn.)

The new tunes she and her tight quartet ripped through were surely products of that love. "Tambourine" and "O She Bad" shuddered with crisp, rumbling drums, loopy bass lines, and Eve's patented chatty cattiness. "I'm like a lion," she snarled triumphantly during the latter track. "Give It to You" was slinky reggae at its gutsiest. "Out This Town," the night's closer, was surprisingly soft, an airy, synth-heavy number with Eve rapping sweetly through its singsong melody.

The crowd ate up the new cuts — but they made a whoop and a holler when Eve attacked her back catalog. She was a street tease with an iron kiss during "Hot Boyz" and a slow romancer on the mid-tempo "Love Is Blind."

After the b-boy princess of "Gangsta Lovin' " spit lyrics like "Hair done, outfit crazy/Skirts fit just right/Wife beater wit' a bangin' tan/Walk in demandin' all eyes" through the tune's swinging rhythm, several girls in the front row warned Eve of a wardrobe malfunction. "My girls got my back," laughed Eve. "The men didn't say a word." Maybe they were mesmerized by the music.