Thursday, December 30, 2010

E-40 & The Click Week: Day 5: The Mail Men

The Mail Man was the one. Federal, Down & Dirty, Mr. Flamboyant, Let's Slide... all impressive, indie albums, but The Mail Man is E-40's masterpiece. Of course, it had the epic lead single, which even added the concept of "Captain Save A Hoe" to the lexicons of New York heads, and has forever immortalized "the package deal down there at, uh, Cellular One." hehe But it also featured the dramatic imagery of "Bring the Yellow Tape" and while other gangsters would die if a crack showed in the shield of their bravado, 40 glibly turned the confession "I got a mirror in my pocket and I practice lookin' hard" into a hit song.

For me, though, even more than "Captain Save A Hoe," the signature tune was "Neva Broke." With it's live production and throwback vocoder hook (a concept MC 900 Ft Jesus jacked and used for his big MTV hit a few months later), the tune was immediately addictive. But all that only served to showcase E-40's stand-out mic skills, with his fluctuating delivery and raw street rhymes. I mean, even though NWA and such had been around for years, a verse about tying up a man's wife and making him watch him rape her was still shocking in '94, especially when he goes on to add, "now folks remember, I'm skanless and I'm anti-fuckless. I carry diseases such as Herpes." Who says shit like that? Only E-40! Then as he cheerfully sings (not raps, sings), "I need a flathead screwdriver but a butter knife will do," it's just one of the illest, rawest narrative verses about crime in hip-hop history, and I'd stand it right alongside anything by G Rap, Raekwon or Slick Rick. That's The Mail Man.

"But jeez, Werner, don't tell us it's the same story again?"
Yes, I'm afraid so. Based off of the success of "Captain Save a Hoe," Jive signed E-40 and picked up his EP, The Mail Man and released it first. Then Sick Wid' It put it out independently and removed some songs... wait. What is this? Bizzaro World?

Apparently! The Sick Wid' It version has six songs and is dated 1995, and the Jive version has eight tracks and is dated 1994. Part of this can be explained away, more or less. The Sick Wid' It EP is just plain dated wrong. I know because I bought these when they were new, and I remember then that it was dated into the future. I have no idea why, but I'm pretty sure they both came out in 1994 (or even late '93 for the original), and it's on the success of the 6-song Sick Wid' It version (and the single, amusing titled "Captain Save Them Thoe"), that Jive reissued it that same year. The really surprising part is just that Jive didn't mess it up like they did all the other Click albums they reissued. Instead they actually added tracks!

Not that the new tracks are anything to get too excited about. One of them, the "Captain Save a Hoe (Remix)" is really just the clean version ("you wanna kill me 'cause I tossed yo chick"). And the other track, "Ballin' Outta Control," is at least a proper song into itself - and it was an exciting exclusive at the time, with an attention-getting hook by Levitti - but Jive later wound up including it on E's 1998 album, The Element of Surprise.

By the way, a quick interjection: the Sick Wid' It CD also lists eight songs, including two that might first appear to be exclusives: "Real Shit" and "Playa Hater." But these are really just the otherwise uncredited intro and outro skits that are featured on every version of The Mail Man... nothing to get excited about.

So yeah... there's really no clear winner here. The original is cool to own just because it's the original. But the reissue no different, content-wise; and the extras, while nothing special, are still a bit of added value. And that's the way reissues should work. And really, if Jive could only get one album right, at least they chose the masterpiece not to screw up. Whichever version you have, you can't lose. 8)


  1. Great breakdown of this ep! I didn't even know that there was a Sickwidit version.
    It's refreshing to see how much you appreciate 40 Water's rapping.
    And your E-40 interview is great too!
    Keep it going!

  2. I figured the Sick Wid It EP dropped first, but thanks for clearing it up though. Was discussing that with one of my boys a while back. Good write up homie!!!

    STaY BLeSS`n...