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E-40, Chris Brown, and T.I. Bring Ratchet Full Circle on ‘Episode’

The cover of E-40's new single "Episode"

“Ratchet” is how Los Angeles producer DJ Mustard decided to tag the minimal, often lewd rap music he’s helped to create. Take Tyga’s “Rack City,” or his own Ketchup mixtape, for example. The sound usually comprises simple keyboard melodies grounded by heavy bass and muffled chants, and has roots in Atlanta’s strip club culture and L.A.’s own G-funk. But another influence looms large: Bay Area hyphy, the kingdom of E-40 for multiple decades running. Always an adventurous collaborator, 40 has been a player in the ratchet scene as well, most notably on his own “Function,” which featured Compton MCs Problem and YG. But his new excellent new single “Episode” begins another important chapter.

Though the track doesn’t feature any L.A. natives, it does sport Chris Brown — an aspiring ratchet rapper who appeared on the “Function” remix — singing, “All the little bad bitches in here / If you came to get ratchet say ‘yeah’.” The beat meanwhile is slippery and slithering not unlike Sage the Gemini’s “Red Nose” and sports a third verse from a particularly smooth-sounding T.I. But most importantly, this is about the platonic ideal of a Chris Brown feature in 2013 — a fine melody and unobtrusive vocals.

The single is the latest from editions 4, 5 and 6 of E-40’s The Block Brochure. Previous singles include “All My Niggas” with Danny Brown and ScHoolboy Q as well as “Off the Block” with Stressmatic and J. Banks.