[CD Review] E-40, 'The Ball Street Journal' (Warner Bros.)

There’s no question that a crappy economy calls for conservative choices, and the world of mainstream hip-hop is no different. These days, even platinum rappers are scrambling to keep their stock steady, as evidenced by E-40’s latest, The Ball Street Journal.

Still buzzing off the platinum success of My Ghetto Report Card in 2006, E-40 is doing what he can to keep his business booming. But he may be trying a little too hard. We know he has no problem churning out a stable of radio hits, club bangers and stripper-pole anthems with slick-tongued delivery. This time, though, with more than a dozen producers on his roster, including himself and Lil Jon, the new album sounds like a B-side of his last—with a few exceptions, of course.

“Pain No More,” produced by hip-hop guru JR Rotem, is ripe with West Coast cred courtesy of G-funk rhythms and solid lyrical performances by Snoop Dogg and the Game. But even though the album is crammed with guest artists, E-fizzle is at his best when he relies strictly on his own portfolio of dynamic flows spliced with streetwise wisdom and wit. Look no further than the album’s sixth track, “Tell It Like It Is,” for some talented tirades against the treacherous snitches, haters and “ringtone rappers” he has encountered on his rise to baller status. It’s good to know that a quality lyrical backhand never goes out of style.  

Ultimately, E-40 favors his role as a calculating business tycoon, throwing out safety tracks such as “Give Her the Keys” (featuring T-Pain) and “Wake It Up” (featuring—who else?—Akon). Both songs come heavily saturated in Top-40 gloss and Auto-Tune trickery. It’s a bit sad, but understandable. Gotta keep the mainstream shareholders happy, right?


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