Artist: My Ghetto Report Card
Score: 8 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Lets get the buzzword out the way now, shall we? Hyphy. Hyphy. Hyphy. Hyphy. Hyphy.
Now can we get this thing underway without everyone mentioning the bloody word like its some brand new thing?
Ladies and gentlemen, one of Oakland’s most famous FatBurger franchise owners is back in the building. “My Ghetto Report Card” is 40’s first release on Lil Jon’s BME imprint after fulfilling his contract with Jive, and his 12th album features production from Jon himself, Bay Area legend Rick Rock, 40’s son Droop-E and others.
Opening with the sounds of Digable Planets (‘Yay Area’) is something not many will expect, but as Rick Rock loops up the phrase that pays (“We be to rap what key be to lock”) and lays it over a pounding kick/handclap combo, it quickly becomes one of the most innovative production moves of the year. Following this up with first single, ‘Tell Me When To Go’ provides the perfect 1-2 punch to get the album up and running. An ode to pimped out cars, local dance, slang and fashion trends, and straight up acting bananas, the track has been rightfully burning up radio for the past few months with Lil Jon’s uptempo mixture of rumbling bass, computer blips, and Run DMC samples making this a surefire winner, even before E-40’s addictive hook and his verses with Keak Da Sneak take the track to the next level.
Its clear that high-tempo Hiphop is the order of the day here, and while this may not be a bad thing for the DJs and the car stereo its easy to see where some people will have issues. See… we go EIGHT tracks deep at this 100 mph speed before our ears get a chance to slow down and catch a breath (ears need oxygen too, y’know.) And while ‘Muscle Cars’, ‘Go Hard Or Go Home’, ‘Gouda’, ‘Sick Wid It II’, and ‘They Might Be Taping’ are definitely incredibly strong tracks in their own right, jamming them all one after the other, and after the frantic opening double act, turns the first half of the album into a super-velocity mesh of synths, bumps, and slanguage. Sequencing is the key here, kids. The cosmic slop of ‘Do Ya Head Like This’ would have been an ideal way to break proceedings up a little, simply by dropping it right into the midst of the Rick Rock/Lil Jon maelstrom.
Don’t get it twisted though. NONE of these songs deserve negative criticism, and its credit to 40 that we need to get halfway into the album before we come to the first real miscue. ‘White Gurl’ is that miscue – a boring parody of the Boogie Boys ‘Fly Girl’, which sees E-40, Juelz Santana, and UGK spit women-as-drugs metaphors over a beat that was already boring the first time around.
For the many who were pleasantly surprised by Lil Jon’s production on ‘Tell Me When To Go’ (it didn’t SOUND like a trademark Lil Jon beat… how could they hate?) ‘U And Dat’ will still give you the opportunity to hate that you wished so hard for. Combine this with the Kandi and T-Pain (another cat who has shocked me with his longevity – hands up who thought he was gonna be a flash in the pan?) hook and you can see why this is going to do major damage in the clubs. What’s that? You kinda feel that track, even though you can’t stand Jon? Ok, well then feel free to piss all over ‘I’m Da Man’ instead, as its simple 4-layer synth roll and the Swishahouse-biting chorus irritate long before Mike Jones phones a verse in. Oh you want more? Well, why don’t you talk about how ‘Yee’ is nothing but a regurgitated mix of ‘Rep Yo City’ and ‘Put Yo Hood Up’? I know you want to. Me? Well you know how much I enjoy Jon’s work (no homo), so hearing the 808 and the familiar synths and whistles is like welcoming home an old friend. So all three of these tracks will get regular bump from me (especially the last one, where Too Short sounds fantastic and builds anticipation for his own BME solo.)
‘Just Fuckin’ is a Jon and Bosko beat, though you’d be forgiven for thinking that Dre did it. Methinks someone has been rattling around in the good Doctor’s beat cd box. Nevertheless, the west coast vibe brings things back to classic E-40 steelo, and Bosko’s hook provides a memorable sing-a-long experience while the head nods. ‘Gimme Head’ meanwhile, is another superb arrangement that would have been better used as another ‘first-nine-tracks-breaker-upper’ as sitting here towards the end of the album its in serious danger of being overlooked. Again, Lil Jon produces a musical middle finger for those who continually say his work always ‘sounds the same’ – here funky organ rolls jostle for position with acoustic guitar licks and mini-cymbal crashes as Bosko’s vocoder-infused hook entwines around the screwed-up hook.
The final two tracks on the album would perhaps have been better off left on the studio cutting room floor. ‘She Say She Loves Me’ is a fairly bland collab between 40, Bun B and 8Ball, which borrows heavily from UGK’s ‘Diamonds And Wood’, while ‘Happy To Be Here’ closes things on a sugary note, with D.D. Artis’ sweet vocal hook schmoozing slickly over Bosko’s piano-filled backing track. Surely its not me that thinks the whole thing is a little 2Pac-ish?
A Bay Area legend, its clear to see that E-40 is not one of these cats who is content to rest on his laurels, and his willingness to explore new musical avenues is what separates him from other older artists who prefer whining from the sidelines as opposed to embracing new genres of Hiphop. 40 has balanced himself perfectly on this album between the local cats who helped build the Hyphy Movement with him, and the new kids on the block who currently have the midas touch on the boards. Save for a couple of minor periods of detention, E-40’s “Ghetto Report Card” contains straight A’s throughout.