(BSJ had 12 producers, where Ghetto had five.) "Earl," an atypical slice of moody mob music from Lil Jon, is the most classic-sounding E-40 track in years, while the more spiritual "Pray for Me," produced by longtime 40-collaborator Bosko, is a close second.
"It's got an old-school, 1989/1990-kinda feel," said 40 by phone a month ago. "But I mixed it all up for the new generation." The new generation, to be sure, is much in evidence: in the strong contributions from 40's producer/son Droop-E and rapper/protégé Turf Talk, especially the hyphied-out mob banger "Got Rich Twice." Rick Rock's three spacious, sample-laden beats are, as usual, way ahead of their time. The rapper's collaboration with Too $hort, "Sliding Down the Pole," might sound like old times, but the whistling Willy Will beat is as fresh a post-hyphy groove as anything on BSJ.
Where BSJ is like a big-budget cinematic thriller, Quinn's From a Boy is more like an autobiographical novel, with an emphasis on storytelling and a socially responsible undercurrent.
"If you want to know how a young black man feels in San Francisco, you can tap into this record," said Quinn. Yet his disc belies this everyman characterization. It's saturated with Quinn's personal history, from his mother's struggles as a single parent on the title track, to his relationship with his sibling, Fillmore rapper Bailey, on "My Brother," to his advice to his 11-year-old son, Lil' Quinn, who raps alongside his dad on "Billionaire." "Billionaire" displays a very different conception of the uses of wealth than most street rap: "College education for your children," Quinn raps. "That's what we call livin'."
The extraordinary thing about From a Boy is how Quinn holds its various themes together, sounding neither preachy nor hypocritical. While nominally a gangsta rapper, Quinn is much more a "kill you if you fuck with me" than a "kill you because I enjoy it" MC. His crack-dealing persona is there as on the infectious single "Rockin' Up Work" but the overwhelming impression the full-length leaves is cautionary. Opening with actual KTVU sound clips about a deadly Fillmore shooting, "They're All Waitin' on Me" reminds me of Paris in its depiction of the urban war zone and is much more typical of the album's vibe.
Quinn admits he's not the best beat-picker, and given how incendiary the Traxamillion-produced bonus track, "Do Ya Thizzle," is, I wish there were a couple of more A-list collaborations. Quinn's protégé, Filipino producer Dexbeats, is a great find, and the songs are so well-written, they render such second-guessing moot.
All told, both 40 and Quinn have reaffirmed their OG status in Bay Area rap. It'll be interesting to see whether BSJ will equal the success of 40's first Warner Bros. disc and whether the increasingly national visibility of SMC will get Quinn any extra regional play.