E-40: Loyalty And Betrayal

E-40: Loyalty And Betrayal

Like fellow Bay Area legend Too $hort, Vallejo's E-40 began his career selling tapes from hist runk, becoming a wealthy and influential hip-hop fixture without altering his formula or making concessions to crossover success. The Johnny Appleseed of slang, E-40 litters his albums with eccentric phrases both homemade and specific to the Bay, and his colorful verbiage has infiltrated hip-hop throughout the country—particularly in the South, where the Cash Money Millionaires took to his slanguage with religious fervor. In addition to being hip-hop's premier linguist, E-40 has a wild, unpredictable flow that changes constantly, from an exaggerated, slowed-down lisp to a hyperactive, spastic torrent, with countless levels in between. The sometimes Earl Stevens also possesses an underrated sense of humor, which makes it unfortunate that he so often grafts his entertaining, distinctive eccentricities onto dispiritingly generic gangsta rap. Loyalty And Betrayal finds him sticking with his successful game plan, working with his usual producers (Rick Rock, Bosko) and recruiting a familiar mixture of longtime collaborators (Mack 10, The Click, Too $hort) and big names (Ice Cube) for guest appearances. LRP (long-range pimping) is E-40's mantra this time out, and it's also the subject of the album's best songs, from "Ya Blind," an irresistible ode to scandalous women who "like men who shop at the Big & Tall," to "Nah, Nah," the bouncy, Battlecat-produced first single. Like too many of E-40's albums, however, Loyalty scatters a few great songs ("Flamboastin'," "N**** S***") among an abundance of filler and uninspired guest turns. The album also suffers from forgettable production, so much so that when E-40 ad-libs during the unremarkable, Rick-Rock-produced "It's Pimpin'" that the track reminds him of Dr. Dre, it sounds like delusional wishful thinking. Loyalty And Betrayal has its moments, and it should please E-40 diehards—the only market he seems to want to reach—but its mediocrity proves that sticking to the script and artistic stasis can be two sides of the same coin.

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