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E-40

Revenue Retrievin’ Overtime Shift/Graveyard Shift

Rating: 4.1/5.0, 3.0/5.0

Label: Heavy on the Grind Ent. / EMI

If you’ve ever heard any slang supposedly originating from a rap song, chances are that Bay Area legend E-40 was the source. An MC who has topped countless “most underrated” lists, he’s been putting out his own music since 1990, consistently met with both critical and commercial acclaim. He’s also been a important cornerstone of California’s rap legacy, from his 1993 video “Practice Lookin’ Hard” that featured simultaneous cameos from Tupac Shakur and the Coup’s Boots Riley, to most recently taking the late Mac Dre’s place as the nationwide ambassador of the mid-’00s hyphy movement (which saw nationwide resurgence of great production innovations, such as replacing the standard East Coast “Boom-Bap” or Southern “Snap”-style drum programming with a sound based around making a car subwoofer “slap”) and using his industry presence to help bring lesser known regional rappers to national attention. But these accolades of 40’s influence should not overshadow his music. While his self-professed “car salesman”-like delivery has made him something of a polarizing figure among hip-hop listeners, fellow rhyme veteran Ice Cube described 40’s appeal best when he likened the man’s style to “graffiti that you can’t read, but you know it’s dope.” The past five years have seen 40 have the two biggest hits of his career (“Tell Me When to Go” and “U and Dat”) but while his albums My Ghetto Report Card and The Ball Street Journal did have some great moments, they both dissolved halfway through into uncharacteristic, Lil Jon-produced songs about public fellatio. After leaving Warner, 40 returned in 2010 with the same-day release of his first two Revenue Retrievin’ installments: Day Shift and Night Shift. While many praised these releases as a return to form, there was a certain rushed and haphazard element to both affairs that seemed like 40 was trying to play catch-up and make certain types of songs for portions of his fanbase that he may have alienated during his crossover success. With his conscience now supposedly cleared, 40 returns with his thirteenth and fourteenth solo albums, Revenue Retrievin’: Overtime Shift and Revenue Retrievin’: Graveyard Shift.

Unlike the previous two installments, both Overtime Shift and Graveyard Shift feel much more cohesive and focused. Largely produced by his son Droop-E and affiliates, the sound of both albums were made to rattle your trunk “like I got an alligator in the back” (“My Shit Bang”), only now the atmospherics present in how you’re retrieving your revenue have a better defined mood. Gone is 40’s recent obsession with opening albums with Digable Planets samples, and in their place, an inexplicable love of lifting dialogue from classic film. Both Graveyard’s “Barbarian” and Overtime’s “Mr. Flamboyant 2K11” begin with choruses cut from these sources, and they resurface on a few other occasions over the course of both albums. From there, if the title and fantastic covers weren’t enough to tip you off, Overtime largely deals with everyday in the hood and Graveyard becomes invested in what happens at night. While 40 songs on one release date (and 80 in a year) could be a fairly absurd task to sift though, 40’s a master of the absurd, giving us one solid album and one that’s near-perfect.

Both albums offer a great selection of what 40-listeners would want to hear. There’s brooding mob music (Graveyard’s “Takin’ Em Back” and Overtime’s “Me & My Bitch”), effortlessly cool vibes ({Graveyard}’s “Serious” and Overtime’s “Lookin’ Back”) and the Bay’s most innovative production since Turf Talk’s 2007 apex of the hyphy movement, West Coast Vaccine. However, as one might expect, Graveyard suffers from the redundancies that weigh down most 20+ track rap releases, both in limited ideas and underwhelming guest appearances from the usually reliably stellar Tech N9ne and Bun-B, Overtime.

But where Graveyard comes up short, Overtime absolutely excels. As great as 40’s language innovations are (those tired of the word “swag” can look forward to the latest 40-ism “Manishness” replacing it within a year) it’s 40 abilities as a compelling writer on Overtime} that put it among the best of his work. With an eye for detail and forked tongue that’s never been sharper, he pulls vivid everyday images and wraps them within his masterful vocal inflections, breathing new life into what would otherwise be glossed over details. On “I Love My Momma,” 40 celebrates that his mother had nice clothes from him every Easter, made it to all his baseball games and states how proud he is that she learned how to text. On “Born in the Struggle,” 40 opens by stating he used to hand-wash his clothes and that his mother “used to hang her period panties on the clothesline wire.” Even the cautionary tale “Tired of Selling Yola” is saved from becoming heavy-handed or preachy by 40’s one of a kind play-by-play (“When did the ambulance come? ASAP/ But the time they got there his brains were sitting in his lap/ Dang, that ain’t cool/ He must have had a leak in his pool.”) The bluntness of describing the dealer’s frontal lobe resting in his lap is unsettling enough, but then the relaxed and almost suave matter-of-factness of following that with the insinuation the victim had both someone in his close circle ratting him out, as well as a wet mess of blood and brains, is the type of excellent wordplay only an ever-evolving veteran like 40 can muster. It’s this imagery, coupled with 40’s inimitable style (he somehow pulls off calling himself a “D.I.L.F.”) that keep E-40 fans coming back for more. The most staggering feat is that he keeps this incredible pace up for the album’s entire 80 minute duration, closing with “Click About It,” a posse cut featuring his original rap group that promises E-40 will always stay true to his roots while still focusing on making music that relevant to 2011 and beyond. While Graveyard Shift should be reserved for those already planning to spend supplemental income on 40, Overtime Shift is something no-one should forget come payday.

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