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by Ryan Harrison
16 January, 2009@4:56 am
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For about 15 years now E-40 has been doing his thing.  He has been around to see a lot and also to live through it.  This covers every aspect, from an emerging Bay Area scene, when he was a lone representer of it, all the way to its resurgence with the Hyphy Movement, by being its ambassador and taking it to a national presence.  Now 40 returns with his 11th solo album, The Ball Street Journal, a highly impressive LP through its sound and rhymes, but also very lengthy and repetitive all at the same time.

What stands out about this LP for starters is the production.  Pretty much every beat on this album is at least decent, but of course some are better than others.  Most notably, the two producers who stand out are Rick Rock and Lil’ Jon.  With the former, Rick Rock sets the tone for the album with two tracks that seem to fuse hip-hop with the whole hyphy movement, “The Ambassador” and “I’m The One.”  But it is when these two team up again for “Tell It Like It Is” where the magic happens as E-40 spits straight gospel while taking folks to church with the truth, or at least how he sees it.  As for Lil’ Jon, his production helps 40 to stay true to his Bay Area roots while branching out to a different coast, mainly to those listeners who reside below the Mason-Dixon Line.  This is evident on the track “Got Rich Twice” featuring Turf Talk.  Another impressive thing is how 40 Water manages to stay relevant.  This is mainly due to the perspective from which he rhymes, mainly as someone looking back and being reflective and not trying to keep up with the hip-hop “Joneses.”  An example of this can be found on another Lil Jon produced track “40 Water.”

Unfortunately, the album begins to fall off after track 12.  This is not due to production, which surprisingly remains strong throughout the album, but due to the length of the LP along with the repetitive subject matter.  These two ideas go hand and hand by that 18 tracks is too long for an LP (at least this day and age) which makes the subject matter after a while seem very redundant with the references to drug dealing and constant ballin’, which really gets old about half way into the LP.  For someone who has been in the game as long as he has it is a wonder how he could not have managed to add some diversity to what he was discussing, but maybe on his next outing that will change.  Who knows, maybe with a more concise and diverse album E-40 and the Yay Area could have been sitting on a classic, or at least damn close to it. – RH

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