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E-40 - The Block Brochure: Welcome To The Soil Vols 1, 2, 3

I have a friend who talks. I don’t mean he pipes up with the occasional opinion. This man does not stop talking, life with him is like living with your own personal commentator. You may think there are many professions where this is an asset. Sporting commentator aside, I can’t think of a great deal more. Except for rapper, and that is where E-40 comes in to the equation. This man is a prolific talker. The only rapper I can think that comes close to the work ethic of E-40 over the last 3 years is Lil Wayne during his blessed period between the Carter II and the Carter III. But unlike Lil Wayne, you get the feeling that E-40 is such an institution now that he has the hip-hop equivalent of tenure. He isn’t going to fall off.

Which brings us to his latest offering, 54 tracks released all on the same day, March 26 2012. Audacious indeed, a triple album. If it was his first foray into the multiple album on the same day tactic you might even call it stupid. But he comes in to this release on a purple patch of great music. Around the same time in 2010 we were introduced to the Revenue Retrievin’ series, Night Shift and Day Shift on that occasion, then in 2011 Overtime Shift and Graveyard Shift. I don’t want to oversell it, but these 4 records were some of the best and strongest music I’ve ever heard. Period. The production was absolutely insane, and 40’s lyrics never got tired or boring. Of course the 4 albums were kept running with a plethora of guest verses, but these just allowed E-40 a chance to catch his breath and come back harder on the next track.

So when I obtained my copy of The Block Brochure, I was excited to say the least. Pitchfork gave it a glowing review, and I figured if it was anything like his previous efforts it would feature heavily on my daily music rotation. I was painting at the time, and I was home alone, so I turned the volume up quite loud and settled in. And.. I was disappointed. On first listen, I was underwhelmed. E-40 was still spitting relentless fire, and his guests were still on point, but it was the beats! Ahhhhh!!! The production on the Revenue Retrieven’ series was absolutely flawless, considering it was 4 albums of material. I was getting mates who hated hip hop to thump their heads to it. And this album? Well, Droop-E was on hand with the most production credits, as he was on the aforementioned quad albums. But instead of feeling fresh and ‘hyphy’ to use an E-40ism, they felt played out and tired, dry somehow. It’s not exclusively Droop-E’s production that falls short, almost every track feels like a cast off from Revenue Retrievin’.

So in to the meat and potatoes. Vol. 1 starts off with Fast Lane. I don’t know how to describe it. A poor man’s Barbarian? E-40 still comes hard, as he always does. But the production! They Point, with excellent guest spots from Juicy and 2 Chainz, picks the beat up a little, as you would expect from a Bangladesh track. The synth has the properties of a police siren, boring in to your head and staying there as the trio run off a series of rhymes about, what else, they’re superiority and ghetto celebrity status! E-40: Like Ricky Ross, everyday I’m hustlin’/ Gettin’ off weight (like who?) Jennifer Hudson / Pack a hammer, Thor/ Shooter, score.

It’s just a simple 4 lines but it’s filled with wit and drama that only E-40 can deliver.
So you’re thinking ok, this is more like it! But then we fall in to that lull again. The next few tracks are nothing spectacular until we get to the surprisingly nice Cutlass, and the devilish and at times extremely graphic Let’s Fuck, which is probably the strongest beat on the record. If E-40 is being 100% honest about his bedroom exploits, and Gangsta Boo seems to confirm his vast statements, you have to respect the man. Vol. 1 closes with the excellent Help Me, a cry for help from a struggling man living a hard life, something that is hard to believe now but could once have been a reality for E-40, and a situation he re-tells with such accuracy that he must have had or seen an experience like this.

Vol. 2 houses the best track on the triple, Function with Y.G., Iamsu and Problem. Production from Trend is absolutely THUMPING! E-40 falls in to the track as if he fell out of a plane in to it. After a bit of friendly banter he engages in a frenetic stanza of spitting, I’m toasted and sloppy, off of broccoli and Bacardi / 151 out my body, about that green like wasabi. It continues up to the defining E-40 lyrics, his most apt description of his unique ability, he explains: Gift of gab sell the white house black paint. I mean it’s true! How else could he have dropped 54 tracks on the same day?
But from there we fall again. The production dies. This Shit Hard is a bit of a thumper, Zombie is an excellent track featuring the surprisingly well rounded Tech N9ne. Vol. 3 opens slowly again, boots up a bit with Catch A Fade, and then just slips back in to the album track quagmire that is the entire relase. The perfect example is the T-Pain track. On Revenue Retrievin’, Serious was incredible, auto-tune used perfectly, the chorus was excellent and the beat was stunning. On Tryna Get It it sounds like a bunch of synths jumped in to a bath full of auto-tune and then someone threw a toaster in, and everything died a very loud death. It’s awful. Maybe E-40 has run his race? I seriously would have listened to this trio at least 15 times EACH. That’s right. And those are the stand out tracks.

E-40s lyrical content. On this release is again of an extremely high quality. You can easily place all of his lyrics in four broad categories: Making money, having sex, drug use and sales, and E-40. And that was the case on his previous releases. Rappers are notoriously boxed in with relation to lyrical content, rarely does a mainstream rapper branch out from these 4 broad areas. Does it become tiresome? With some artists, see Rick Ross, yes, to the point where you wonder if it really is that easy to make money just by telling the world how great you are. But the genius of E-40 is it’s as if an OG is sitting you down at a table with a hot meal and a bottle of red and explaining ghetto life to you. For me, a 23 year old white male from Australia, that is a big help, because my view of ‘The Block’, as it is, is established only through listening to hip hop music. And whilst I may not be the most authoritative on the subject, the way E-40 tells it, it’s very hard not to believe him. He creates these landscapes that others can’t seem to do, and it immediately transports the listener straight in to the heart and the bones of the story, as if you’re on the street living it with him. It’s not a new thing, on Revenue Retrievin’ this was vividly brilliant. On The Block Brochure, his beats let him down, but he still paints the picture of a ‘ghetto celebrity’ making clean money after a life of pushing drugs. It’s another endearing quality that E-40 has. So many rappers are prone to the exaggeration of facts. Wacka Flocka Flame, does that guy really have a Bugatti? I doubt it. E-40 raps that he drives a Prius because it’s incognito. He calls himself a local superstar, not a world wide mega star like everyone else. He has created an image of himself that leads you to believe he hasn’t created it at all, that he is re-telling facts. It’s quite amazing, he is the most believable artist in the game in my opinion. It’s his lyrics and his delivery that save this release.

So, a huge disappointment. I have to give the album a 4/10 just because of what the man can do and this project had such promise, and it was such a huge let down. It’s a pity.
Stand out tracks - Function, This Shit Hard, They Point, Help Me, Zombie

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