The Bay Area rap scene has always struggled with mainstream success. In fact, the word-inventing, slick-tongued E-40 (now the "ambassador of the Bay") was one of few rappers to actually produce hits and even his classics are challenging to new listeners. But as of late, the so-called Yay Area has traded the overly shiny synths and fart basses of the '90s mob sound for the slick, Lil Jon-inspired hyphy (say HY-fee) movement. So while it's appropriate that Lil Jon produces the bulk of 40's Report Card (basically splitting the job with Rick Rock, who's accepted as the father of hyphy), it's surprising that the album isn't overwhelmingly hyphy-sounding. Lil Jon's tracks range from cookie-cutter ("U and Dat" and "Yee!") to weird minimalism ("Muscle Cars" and "Tell Me When to Go"), while Rock's contributions "Gouda" and "Yay Area" are slappers. But aside from these tracks and a handful of others, Card sounds lost between the past and the present, especially on the unfortunate "Do Ya Head Like This," a near-mob throwback with a questionable "Auld Lang Syne" intro. 40, who coins phrases left and right, doesn't slack lyrically (he even landed a checklist of Yay Area slang on MTV, thanks to the hit "Tell Me When to Go"). But it is the production that defines Card and while the highs are high, the lows aren't just low, but incongruous with the biggest thing Bay rap has produced.
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