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The Element of Surprise

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Album Review

It can be argued that the worst hip-hop trend in the late '90s was not the incessant recycling of The Chronic (although that did grow rather tiresome), but the proliferation of double-disc sets. Even if an artist has a lot to say, it's hard to fill two hours with compelling music...E-40's The Element of Surprise is simply the latest contender in this sweepstakes. It's too long and doesn't progress musically from the typical Bay Area bumpin' that is his trademark. That doesn't mean that The Element of Surprise is worthless. Quite the contrary; E-40 is such a gifted rapper, with impeccably smooth delivery and startling images, that it's a pleasure to hear him — it's just that the length of the album has the effect of diluting his power...If it was trimmed by nearly two thirds, The Element of Surprise would be truly compelling. As it stands, the dedicated are likely search through all these songs to find the good stuff, but more casual listeners may not. [Element of Surprise was also released in a "clean" version, with all the profanities and obscenities removed from the original recording.]


Born: 15 November 1967 in Vallejo, CA

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Synonymous with Bay Area rap, E-40 garnered a regional following, and eventually a national one, with his flamboyant raps, while his entrepreneurial spirit, embodied by his homegrown record label, Sick Wid' It Records, did much to cultivate a flourishing rap scene to the east of San Francisco Bay, in communities such as Oakland and his native Vallejo. Along with Too Short, Spice 1, and Ant Banks, E-40 was among the first Bay Area rappers to sign to a major label, penning a deal with Jive Records...
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The Element of Surprise, E-40
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