With over 20 years in the game you’d be hard pressed to find someone more qualified to rep California’s Bay Area as an ambassador to the rap game than E-40. Having navigated through both major and independent label routes, the slang scholar has a vast knowledge of the inner workings of the recording industry and like a competent delegate, he’s always there to offer assistance to other artists from the Bay. On his 11th solo album, The Ball Street Journal, 40 Water moderately succeeds in satisfying the multitude, by forsaking a cohesive album for a smorgasbord of styles and sounds.
Lyrically, E-40 is colorful & sharp as ever as he twists and bends the fine print to formulate his rhymes. Although he never strays far from the familiar topics of the Bay, women, drugs, and partying; his ever changing vernacular keeps things somewhat fresh. On songs like “The Recipe” with its savory guest spots, and “Earl,” he shows that he’s still adept at whipping up hard edge drug rhymes. The latter, which pays a nod to Ice-T’s “Colors,” he paints a chilling depiction of coming up in The Bay and the justification of some of the decisions he’s made.
On the other end of the spectrum, tabloid fodder like “Give Her The Keys” and “Wake It Up” are breed for crossover appeal, although E-40 sacrifices some of his flair to fit into T-Pain and Akon’s respective formulas. Either one could easily be mistaken for one of the countless other songs they appear on.
Sonically, the album sounds familiar as well, and for good reason. A majority of the backdrops rework specific songs or could’ve been taken from another’s artists catalog. It’s not entirely his fault either. Rick Rock (“The Ambassador”/ Snoop’s ”Candy”), J.R. Rotem (“Pain No More”/The Game’s “California Vacation”), and Lil’ Jon (“Break Ya Ankles”/“Snap Ya Fingaz”) all received free checks by dusting off an old Pro Tools session. These songs aren’t exceptions as almost every song can be seen as an interpolation of recent songs if one takes the time to rack their brain.
To his credit, E-40 makes the most of this literary endeavor, although it does begin to wear thin near the end of the album. He also tends to coast by tracing other songs established templates rather than creating a new mold. It’s just ironic that the role of ambassador that has helped E-40 reach a larger audience, he’s also lost a majority of what made him a unique artist to begin with. The Ball Street Journal is still a nice addition to his ever-expanding catalog, but will not be remembered as a decorated periodical.
Previously Posted – E-40 – “Earl,” “Wake-Up,” & “Got Rich Twice” Videos