E-40 is a damn national treasure. Along with Snoop Dogg, no two West Coast hip hop artists have been so (sigh) doggedly consistent over such a considerable length of time. E-40 debuted as a solo artist in 1991 (to not even mention his earlier work with The Click). If his raps were a show, he’d be well beyond syndication by now.

E-40 made it. Years ago. He’s climbed that mountain, slain the dragon, worked with producers from DJ Quik to Lil Jon, featured (or been featured by) just about anyone worth mentioning, put out albums with fellow Bay Area legend Too $hort, all while putting out generally, genuinely good albums - this entire time. The man has done it all.

Why keep going? More than his most of recent projects, Gift of Gab rises to answer the question. Which isn’t to call practically anything E-40 has put out lacking. If anything, considering the sheer girth of his projects - 40 has recently been fond of releasing 2 to 3 albums at a time for those just joining us - he’s shown a remarkable ability to balance his work between old and new, sprawling and focused.

Still, when you’re cranking out 38 songs at a time, you’re expecting fans to do a bit of selective editing. No one minds a handful of filler amidst such a boon of material, but these behemoths didn’t necessarily serve as great statements.

Cutting through all the noise, then, is Gift of Gab. Succinct at 38 minutes, with only 12 tracks, and no sister albums to weigh it down, this is the first E-40 project in some time to stand on its as an album.

Opener 'Ballhog' immediately sets the tone with its classic Hyphy sound, and the album rarely falters from there. True, 'Winning' feels like a dull take on Charlie Sheen-isms, and posse cut 'The Pack Attack' sags under the weight of its supporting cast in spite of 40's best efforts, his lesser known pals failing to make their case for further attention.

These minor missteps aside, Gift of Gab is otherwise a surprisingly grounded effort. Even when he's borrowing styles, such as, say, guest Problem's menace on 'Relax', E-40 is as clever and playful as ever.

Naturally, everyone's favorite Hyphy staple is still as overly generous (and unbelievably productive) as the day he waltzed into the game: Gift of Gab is said to be the first in a new trilogy, but at least our loquacious hero is letting it breathe a bit on its own before starting another sibling rivalry.