We’ve all seen the MTV documentary and probably saw a few people “going dumb” in the club, but until you hear E-40′s My Ghetto Report Card can you understand and appreciate the Hyphy Movement. Perhaps the most overlooked and underrated commercial hip-hop release of the year, My Ghetto Report Card is such a remarkably consistent and original record, that it could perhaps shift the tide of what the hot sound in the hood is, in years to come.
At this point, we all know what to expect from most major label hip-hop albums, much less an E-40 album in general, which is why this is such a welcome surprise. Producer Rick Rock (Jay-Z Roc La Familia: The Dynasty) handles most of the album’s production, while overseer Lil’ Jon executive produces, and lends a few beats as well (chances are by now you’ve moved your ass to the sounds of Jon’s “Tell Me When To Go” or “U and Dat”).
Sliding in the disc for the first time, imagine the shock of this critic for the first sounds to come out of the speakers are Butterfly’s vocals from Digable Planets’ “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”. As the loop of “we be to rap what key be to lock” plays over and over again, Rick Rock constructs “Yay Area” piece by piece right before your ears, adding layers of sounds, as 40 proudly declares “I’ve got my second wind, punk!” And he does. The club standard “Tell Me When To Go” follows (which to most of us is “old” by now), but Lil’ Jon kicks it into high gear on “Muscle Cars”. This ridiculoid 808 beat pretty much sounds like what DJ Shadow wanted to accomplish with his record, as 40 and Keak Da Sneak broach the topic at hand (a first for hip-hop?). Hyphy founders, The Federation, join up for the bu-bu-bumping, “Go Hard Or Go Home”, while 40′s defines new slang on “Gouda”, delivering hilarious lyrics and social commentary (believe it or not) over another highly original Rick Rock beat. With heavy 1980′s influence in the approach to the production, the Hyphy sound is further defined on songs like “They Might Be Taping”, a paranoid lesson about federal surveillance, and “White Gurl”, which isn’t exactly about a female. Suddenly, you realize you have been listening to this record for almost an hour, and not only are you hanging off of 40′s every word, but also your head hasn’t stopped nodding.
Running 20 tracks long, the album saves it’s worst moments for the end, such as the sappy “Just Fuckin” or the ridiculously trashy “Gimmie Head”. Lil Jon’s last contribution, “She Say She Loves Me” is another failed experiment in his new “crunk rock” sound, while the seriousness of the Rick Rock produced “Happy To Be Here” hardly fits with the silliness of much of the rest of the album. But this is only 1/5 of an otherwise banging LP.
This record isn’t so much about “going dumb”, but more about having fun. The light-hearted approach that 40 Water takes to his lyrics is a refreshing change of pace in a music that has taken itself way too seriously over the past couple of years. Meanwhile, the scary consistancy in production keeps the album moving sonically, leaving never a dull moment. While the west coast has fallen on hard times as of late, perhaps records like this and Game’s Doctor’s Advocate are exactly what it needs to insure it’s survival. ï»¿
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