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E-40
GRINT AND GRIND
(JIVE)

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Despite having released seven solo albums and drawn up the quintessential blueprint on how regional indie-rap stars (e.g., Cash Money, No Limit) can run game on major-record labels, the Bay Areaís E-40 has escaped hip-hopís ubiquitous embrace. This large and loquacious rapper, one of the musicís best showmen, maintains a loyalty to pristine, laid-back West Coast funk that has limited his appeal to a provincial few. His eighth and latest album, though, aspires to a broader context. "Why They Donít Fuck wid Us" bounces without borders, its spangled guitar licks and charmingly off-key harmonizing echoing the hot club joints of his East Coast peers. On "Automatic," the self-proclaimed "Ballatician" counters his slippery, imaginative slang with the phonetic drone of New York rapper Fabolous, creating a fascinating, almost electric contrast. E-40 could have hired the usual suspects ó the Neptunes, Timbaland, etc. ó instead of his own stable of producers to ambassador him to popularity, but itís more interesting to see him finally take his gift for language and strike a balance on his own musical terms. If this kind of self-aware progression doesnít earn a thug a hug, nothing will.

BY JOSEPH PATEL

Issue Date: August 8 - 15, 2002
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