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Evan Nabavian ghost rides the whip like his skull is on fire.
E-40’s longevity becomes surreal when you flit through his singles. “Captain Save a Hoe” and “Sprinkle Me” are distinctively mid-90s rap — quaint, simple, and iconic. A few years later, he had singles with turn of the century all-stars like Fabolous, Nate Dogg, and The Clipse. In 2006, he emerged as the emir of hyphy with “Tell Me When To Go,” collecting dividends from a homegrown cultural phenomenon. He kept going. T-Pain, Akon, and Shawty Lo showed up to pay tribute in 2008 — “U and Dat” with T-Pain gave him his highest charting single to date, twelve years after he kidnapped Captain Save A Hoe. In the ensuing ten years, he collaborated with everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Boosie.
As I’ve documented elsewhere, shit got weird in 2010. E-40 continued to be an aerial for popular rap music. He followed each epoch’s trends, or perhaps the trends followed him. But his output exploded into strange directions. Maybe hyphy unmoored him. Maybe entering his fifth decade did something to his proclivities. Maybe it was the influence of his son, who started producing some of 40’s most left field tracks as Droop-E. Inter alia, E-40 started making sparse, progressive music with the contours of science fiction and primeval rituals. The torrent of music from this period often doesn’t fit anywhere.
Thus, it’s imperative to check for E-40 in 2020. His latest release is The Curb Commentator Channel 1. The EP takes a few memorable turns. “Go” has a futuristic palette and a hook with a build-up engineered for dance routines. “Up Or Down” is minimalist and dreamlike — mostly kickdrums, a looped vocal refrain, and spectral keys. Wiz Khalifa doesn’t manage to ruin it. And then “19 Dolla Lap Dance” is filthy pimp rap with Suga Free, unornamented and indecent funk with exactly enough sounds to make asses shake. E-40 is perennially adept at tapping into du jour sounds, but he’s just as comfortable ignoring them. A guy who once appeared in the “California Love” video today makes ultramodern and wholly unique music with 90’s peers and 2000’s pop rappers young enough to be his sons.