Combined, Too $hort and E-40 have over 50 years of experience in the hip hop world, and 25 studio albums under their belt. While they have slightly different styles, especially from a production standpoint, their shared city, similar sound, and decision to remain independent has caused their careers to look nearly identical…and judging by the stats we just mentioned, that’s not a bad thing.
While it may be true that neither of them has ever established massive “mainstream” or “pop” appeal, it’s undeniable that their longevity and apparent ability to keep their fanbases happy and coming back for more is proof that they both know how to navigate in the often moment-to-moment industry that is the rap game. Even more impressive, is that over the decades that have made up their careers, they’ve been able to create music that never seems to sacrifice their artistic identity or integrity at all.
In fact, it’s probably that commitment to maintaining their unique West Coast, upbeat yet laidback, hyphy sound that’s made them bonafide hip hop legends -despite the fact they’ve never really been “big” on the national stage. While both artists have definitely had their moments, it’s the consistent quality and evolving-but-hardly-changing aesthetic that has earned them their loyal fanbases – and in all reality (especially considering Mac Dre’s early passing) – went great lengths to keeping the Hyphy movement and Bay Area underground rap scene alive over all those years.
With that said, E-40 and Too $hort teaming up for their newly released double-album collaboration, History: Function & Mob Music, not only makes perfect sense (and was probably a long time coming), but is going to be exactly what anyone familiar with California’s “outside-of L.A.” hip hop scene would expect. It’s loud. It’s fun. At times, it’s ridiculous and over-the-top. Sometimes it’s even deceptively deep. But, most importantly, it definitely has its place in the hip hop landscape.
While both discs that make up the project each carry a slightly different purpose and overall “vibe” (which we’ll get to in a minute), they both offer a sound that any fan of West Coast hip hop should recognize almost immediately. E-40 has always been bold in his production choices, and the synth heavy, trunk-rattling aesthetic that’s become his easily-recognizable signature sound is definitely present here, and in a big way. Since he’s always been the more production focused artist between the two, it was probably a good move for the project to take on his style musically, and while it can be a little overly done and “busy” at times, for the most part, both albums are impeccably well put-together from a beat standpoint.
Lyrically, both artists come as advertised too. Too Short brings his laid-back, simple flow throughout the entirety of both projects, along with his always present over-the-top, often hilarious, and sometimes graphic rhyming, that revolves around women, high grade weed, and quick money. On the other side of the coin, 40 comes with a non-stop barrage of multi-syllabic, complex technical rapping, which often revolve around the same topics. To be bluntly honest, both rappers have some “off” moments, which are probably to be expected in a double disc release, that do hold the project back a bit, but they aren’t frequent enough to be too distracting.
However, even though a vast majority of the lyrical content revolves around “partying” and subjects some might consider “superficial” (which shouldn’t be mistaken for “bad), there are definitely some deeper moments too. From time to time, both guys come with some introspective reflection that stems from their years of experience in hip hop and living in the Bay. In the midst of all the upbeat party raps, we even get several very blatant anti-drunk driving verses thrown in with some surprising regularity, which somehow don’t enter “preachy” territory – and while they may “stick out” a bit – it’s hard not to respect the message.
To break each disc of the release down, History: Function, is definitely the one that fans of more contemporary or modern hip hop will get more out of. Not only is the subject matter of each song extremely party focused, the production is a bit flashier, and it’s home to several features that would be considered “A-list”.
Most notably, fans will find two solid “strip club anthems” in “Slide Through” and “Dump Truck”, which feature Tyga and the guys from Travis Porter respectively. “Bout My Money”, which features Jeremih, is deceptively well executed, despite the fact the Chicago singer is probably one of the last artists you’d expect to see, and Wiz Khalifa builds on his strong month of October (which saw a handful of standout features and the release of Cabin Fever 2) with one of the better verses of his career on “Say I”.
But, the real highlight of Function is definitely “West Coast Shit” which adds a third Californian hip hop legend to the mix in Ice Cube. While it probably won’t appeal to the masses much, the discs last track “Cali”, which is obviously strongly influenced by Pac’s hit “California Love”, showcases a number of the Bay Area’s not-so-recognized, but well-respected underground figures is worth a listen too.
The History: Mob Music, half of the project is much less catered toward the modern hip hop scene, and almost feels like a bit of a throwback experience. While it fails to really capture the same “magic” that some of their older stuff did (and that might admittedly be due to the nostalgia factor), it’s still a strong entry into both the E-40 and Too Short catalogs.
For the most part, it’s much more subdued than the Function half of the release, but still maintains plenty of the trademark hyphy sound, with crazy synths, heavy bass, and funk-inspired drums. It’s much less feature driven than the first disc too, but due to the fact that it was obviously designed more for the Bay movement die hards, that’s probably not a bad things. However, the Kurupt featuring “Do You Remember?” might just be the best track on either disc, and Bay Area fixture B-Legit drops two solid guest verses here too.
Overall, History: Function & Mob Music, is easily going to go down as a solid and respectable part of two legendary catalogs. However, even with a few tracks that have some minor hit potential, it’s probably not going to do all that much help E-40 or Too $hort build their fanbases or brands all that much. However, it lives up to its premise as an absolute must have for fans of either artist, or Bay Area hip hop in general. But, there are definitely some tracks that are worth a listen for even the most casual of rap fans – and you’d probably have to be legally brain-dead , or extremely easily offended, not to at least have some fun with either of these discs.