Wednesday, March 30, 2011


One of the really great things about E-40's massively unprocessable amount of output--releasing two nearly twenty track albums on the same day--is that the sheer volume makes it impossible to shove tracks into the slots that you would expect a rap album to have. There is no one strip club track, no one track for those who didn't make it, no one track about 40's lady etc. While there are a couple of obviously radio intended exceptions, this glut of tracks doesn't necessarily create a lot of diversity. Instead, the album has an overwhelming consistency that allows the tracks to differentiate between each other much more subtly.

That being said, I'm not attempting to say that any of these tracks present anything that you might call expected. Everything about most of the tracks here serves to form a consistent sound that is at the same time subverting some serious emotional and sensory expectations. Much of that I can attribute to 40 himself. You can never pin down the man's attitude. He is at once viscerally and unavoidably serious and undeniably silly. This line is a perfect example: "I had to hand wash my clothes/didn't have a washing machine or a dryer/momma used to have to hang her period panties out on the clothesline wire." This line, from "Born in the Struggle", is an intensely embarrassing statement about of the psychological consequences of poverty. At the same time, to put it simply, it is ridiculous, and furthermore, vile. And yet 40 almost never cracks a smile. He always succeeds in being larger than life but in a world thats a little bit cartoonish, working his way into our expectations and the pushing outwards on both sides, both towards the real and the fantastic. In terms of style, I can compare him in some ways to Scarface, in that he seems to have an incredible disregard for the number of syllables in his lines, being constantly off beat up close but on beat with a wide lens. It was, for example, not necessary for him to say the word "machine" or the word "a" in this line, but it works wonders, like all of his lines, lifting off dramatically yet always sticking the landing.

Most importantly, the sort of head spinning ambiguity that pervades his flow and lyrical content is definitely communicated through the songs as whole pieces of music. Most of the songs have a blow-you-off-your-feet fullness coupled with unexpected and unnerving amounts of well-placed naturalistic emotion that you cannot help but be effected by. But it all has a certain hint of whimsy, with fat-tongued bass lines, voice acted snippets ("BUMBUMBUM") being used as important song elements, and cartoonishly round yet kinetic synths.

The song "Me and My Bitch" is a perfect example of 40's powers. The beat consists of a continuously ominous yet undeniably silly mouth-like synth line. The lyrics, while they initially seem to be based around a boring rap cliche, are actually a complex and relatively disturbing portrait of a horribly turbulent relationship. At the same time, 40 raps in a tone that makes him sound like he's telling a ghost story with a flashlight under his chin, spitting lines about his girl loving his dirty underwear and about how "cum is thicker than blood". Even his ablibs ("Hawhooo!") are at once disturbingly visceral and playfully ridiculous.

Overall, if you're looking for a highly original rap experience this album is definitely worth the money. I'll definitely keep supporting E-40 in the future, despite him being 43.

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