Kyle Ellison is a Rossi Wine connoisseur.
How do you go about learning to rap when your dad shredded the instruction manual years ago? With his little black book of slang and slippery, offbeat flows, E-40 is one of the most inventive emcees to ever grace a microphone – but studying his style won’t do you any favors. Droop-E’s rap career was always likely to be defined by his pops’ legacy, but that hasn’t stopped him making a few waves of his own.
That’s not to say that he’s avoided E-40’s limelight – far from it. After making his rap debut aged five on his dad’s Federal album, Droop-E has spent years lacing him with beats while quietly working on his own material. The artwork of this new EP Hungry and Humble too, pays a cute homage to E-40’s solo debut Mr Flamboyant. When it comes to his own music, though, Droop-E – now 25 – prefers to slow things to a crawl. He’s the elegant, laidback technician to balance his old man’s eccentric flair, retaining the bounce and clap of Bay classics but adding to it a glossy studio sheen. He gravitates towards sultry, late night jazz voices and thick bass sounds that’ll rattle your doorframes – nothing too groundbreaking, but executed with style.
If he was keen to show off these reference points on the Sade-sampling BLVCK Diamond Life, Droop-E owns them on Hungry and Humble. Lead single ‘N the Traffic’, for instance, cruises along with heavy chords and Illmatic xylophones – the bass bumping around in the trunk like loose luggage. This time around it’s Nite Jewel’s voice that lingers in the air, giving the song a cool, breezy quality for Droop-E and J Stalin to trade bars. Droop-E’s a capable if unremarkable rapper, but it hardly matters – his music already has a strong enough vibe that he just needs to pop up and punctuate it.
The features are used effectively too. Droop pulls together a lively Bay posse for “Mobbin is My Profession” and sips burgundies with Kendrick Lamar on the opulent-sounding “Rossi Wine.” The latter was a single a couple of years back, in which time Kendrick’s stock has gone through the roof – if Droop-E’s smart he’ll think about re-releasing it pronto. Even without Kendrick’s contribution it’s a hit; an ageless summer blend of lazy piano and swelling strings.
Just two of the EPs eight songs are completely unaccompanied, and this feels like a good ratio. Not to be too harsh on Droop E’s rap skills, but he’s aware of his own limitations – dedicating as much of the running time to lavish outros, interludes and guests as he does to the sound of his own voice. Still, the emphatic kick-snare of “Ridin Solo” bumps hardest of all, while “Bout My Fedi” delivers a typically memorable hook. These are the things Droop-E is best at, and he knows how to craft his songs around them.
That Droop-E’s songs are so identifiable after only a few EPs is impressive, especially as he’s never tried to reinvent the wheel. Maybe some of E-40s idiosyncrasy has rubbed off after all, or maybe Bay music just runs in his blood. Either way, Droop-E has polished and perfected the mini-album; the next challenge for him will be holding our attention over a full-length. I wouldn’t bet against him.