It’s that time again. Since 1993, the rap game has been orienfested by the ballaticious lyrical lacerations of Earl Stevens seven times — that includes an EP and a double album, and doesn’t even count his work with The Click (family on record AND in real life) or cameo appearances. Now back for his eighth go around, the legendary Vallejo, CA rapper is proving that even though his slang may change, it’s still the same hustle to keep his fans happy and make a dollar at the same time.

Some rappers in the game just aren’t done justice by seeing their words in print, no matter how ingenious, metaphorical, witty or comical. Pharoahe Monch, Ras Kass, Aceyalone and E-40 all belong in this category; because it’s not just about what they say but theWAY they say it. The irony of partnering E-40 and Fabolous on the album’s first single “Automatic” is that it serves to illustrate why 40 should be regarded as one of the best flowing rappers in the U.S. today. Stevens may not yell out the high pitched “beyooooooootch” as often as he used to, but his voice still ranges from a deep throated “uhh” to emphatic highs that punctuate every word in his verses. Fab’s monotonous and often unchanging flow just can’t compare:

“Ba-di-ba-ba-ba, ba-di-ba-ba-bang-bang!
I used to sell tapes up out my truck and slang ‘caine
Respected on the streets before the fame
Ain’t nuttin lame or gang goofy about my game
Paid my dues, obeyed the rules, stuck to the script, me and The Click
All of my felons and all of my dawgs, ridin on mustard and mayonnaise and vogues
Killin ’em off, sittin ’em down, bossin and flossin all over the town
The hardest eight measures you ever heard in your life man, write that down!”

While it’s true that 40 Fonzarelli is a braggart, he’s also earned the right. Few rappers can singlehandedly claim to rewrite the rap dictionary on every CD, but the slanguage Stevens uses and popularizes tends to become the status quo for West coast rap and a large percentage of the rap nation. 40 doesn’t percolate as many new vocabulations on this release, but he does remix a few of his classics – which are also remixes of EARLIER slanguage. Peep game – “it’s all gravy” was the updated slang for “it’s all good,” but “It’s All Gravity” is the weighter version on this CD. “4 Much” was the sequel to the phrase “you doin too much,” but now the numerologist 40 has created “7 Much” as an EXTRAmannish way to break down the game:

“People swear up and down I’m a rapper
But I’m a soil block turf hog built for battle
15’s in the trunk, like a snake they rattle
Leave skid marks all on the gravel
Drivin like a bat out of hell, to the hotel
Bounce roll rock skate side to side
Baby got the gin and the Astroglide
(and the Astroglide) I’m hopin that the jimmy don’t bust
while I fuss mush goosh gush knock boots link lust
Swish rush loose nuts, drop juice drip stuff
One two three four five six SEVEN much!”

Stevens relies heavily on the talents of Rick Rock for this album’s production, and the heavy amount of bump and thump along with a kick of melodic arrangement are the pudding’s proof. Other talents do get a chance to shine as well though, such as the previously unknown Smash of the Knockxchange, who provides a minimalistic old school beat with a deep bottom on “Mustard & Mayonnaise.” Lil’ Jon produces the the track he appears on, “Rep Yo City,” and as might be expected from the title Petey Pablo makes a guest appearance. Long time 40 fans might be concerned that Bosko is not a major factor, but he hasn’t been forgotten either – he provides the excellent Zapp influenced party anthem “‘Til the Dawn.” 40 Fonzarelli’s musical backdrop has the reputation of providing more bang for the buck, and this LP is CERTAINLY not the exception.

Perhaps what E-40 does as well or better than anybody else from his neck of the woods is bring a little comic relief to rap. While 40 doesn’t make light of his tough upbringing and his struggles to make it as a business man, the man still puts the FUN in his flow and shares his infectious exuberance for living in the way he comes across on the microphone. It’s worth noting that while the man has a penchant for describing himself as an alcoholic, that never translates into a flow that’s less than sharp. Ol’ Dirty Bastard is comical for often being so drunk that he makes no sense, while even E-40’s occasional nonsense comes from perfect confidence in his un-chemically altered abilities. “The Slap” is a perfect example of professional mic entertainment:

“A frontin little broad up out of Tacoma askin for some mail
Like I’m some type of trick willie; rusty mouth BOOOTCH
Get smacked silly – get smacked silly, rusty mouth BOOTCH!
Get smacked silly, puffin on a Phizznillie Blunt
I’m really real; herbal kill, dill chill peal scrill deal (deal)
Meal till fill hill skill! (skill)”

If it doesn’t make sense on the first listen, or even the second, don’t worry about it potnah. You’ll at least understand what “mustard and mayonnaise” is by the end of the album, because Stevens included a humerous skit explaining the phrase to his son. On the actual song the man says it all: “40 talk like E.F. Hutton – people listen!” Indubitably. The Ballatician would like to spit some of his unique style at you, and while he may be often imitated he’s “never dizznuplicated” since you can’t get what E-40 has to offer anywhere else but on this album. While Stevens knows that the industry will “never put me on the cover of The Source,” as he says in “Why They Don’t Fuck Wit Us” it really doesn’t matter when you’re on album number eight. As far as the rap game goes for 40 it’s all great — err, gravity.

E-40 :: Grit & Grind
8.5Overall Score