E-40: Big Ballin’ With My Homies

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ajor labels are looking at the Bay Area the same way that baseball scouts are eyeing up the Dominican Republic. Just as he did 14 years ago, Earl “E-40” Stevens spearheaded a movement that attracted major attention out West. The one-time Gold Rush is replaced with a Hyphy train.

On the heels of his smash album, My Ghetto Report Card, E-40 tells his story on the darkest years of the Northwest. AllHipHop.com listens as 40 discusses collaborating with his son, early influences, and even the history behind the similarities between his “Things’ll Never Change” and 2Pac’s “Changes.” E-40 allegedly earned his name for draining beers, but here, he fills up your mind.

"Listen to the “Tell Me When To Go Remix” with The Game, Kanye West, and Ice Cube."

AllHipHop.com: Is there a difference within Vallejo of “Crestside” and “Westside” within the rap community?

E-40: No, I don’t think so. You know, we all from Vallejo. Everybody’s parents went to school with each other. We all laced and grown from floor terrace, and that’s really where the roots is at. In Vallejo, you got Con-Funk-Shun from way back in the day, Sly Stone and them used to be out here – we all cut from the same cloth. We all laced the same. It’s a small town. If you blink, you might miss it. It’s game involved with all Vallejo rappers.

AllHipHop.com: When you were comin’ up, who moved you? There’s people I’ve heard of, such as The Mack from Vallejo, but who was it that put the battery in your back?

E-40: Too Short, Freddy B up out of Oakland. Some cats out of Richmond by the name of Calvin T and Magic Mike, which I feel was some of the coldest rappers ever. Ice-T, KRS-One, Blowfly, UTFO, you smell me? [laughs] You put all of that together, that’s who E-40 was wastin’ groom up off of, you smell me? You mix that with my character and my street experiences and you got you an E-40, man.

AllHipHop.com: Aside from just the music, what did it mean as a father, to work with your son, Droop-E, on this project?

E-40: It made me feel good just to have a son that’s involved himself in this music. I didn’t force him to do this. I didn’t force him to get into the rap game. It just gradually happened. It’s embroidered into him. It’s in bloodstream. I had him on my album Federal in 1992, he was three years old. He had skit on there called “Questions.” Then I put him on my platinum album, In A Major Way. The song was called “It’s All Bad.” He was rappin’ on there, as a six year old dude. At the time, his name was Lil’ E. He just recently changed it to Droop-E just three, four years ago. So when he got nine years old, I had him on my album, Hall of Game on the song, “Growin’ Up.” That album went gold. This dude was on gold and platinum albums before he made it to age ten. He just recently turned 18 a few weeks ago. It made me feel good, ‘cause I went and bought him Pro Tools and a full-fledged studio on Christmas Eve when he was 15. So he been at it, man.

AllHipHop.com: If he’s had three years of practice, he’s had a lot more than plenty of these chumps out here calling themselves producers.

E-40: Yeah, man. His momma put him in piano for five years. He didn’t wanna play. But he knows the notes and keys though. That’s all you need to get ahead. If you can play the piano, you can play any instrument.

AllHipHop.com: Throughout Hip-Hop, we’ve seen a lot of fathers and sons. But Droop-E seems to be carrying a name independent of yours, that’s respected in adult Hip-Hop circles. What similarities do you see in your son?

E-40: The motivation and the creativity – the test of fortitude. With me, I like to do what they don’t. I think when you do what they don’t, it makes you an innovator. That’s what I always tell him. But he don’t need me tellin’ it, ‘cause he’s a natural. Dude is natural like an afro. His beats is – he don’t wanna sound like everybody. He wanna carve his own signature sound. He tryin’ to do somethin’ that people gonna sample in the future. That’s what’s cookin’ for him. He on deck like a sailor.

AllHipHop.com: So Bobby and Barry Bonds aren’t the only legendary tandem from the Bay?

E-40: Right, exactly. [laughs] We tryin’ to make game unfold. That’s not just my son, that’s my partna. I do be on his head, on his line. He is my son, so I gotta give it to him straight, I can’t give it to him late. But that’s what a daddy do. Overall, this dude is a humble and hungry dude. I’m tryin’ to make sure he finish up his last year in school. As a daddy, I gotta make sure he stay focused. There’s so much money bein’ thrown at him and opportunities that he just can’t wait till June.

AllHipHop.com: Well come June or July, if he stays on – he’s got an AllHipHop.com feature coming. I think that’d be fitting.

E-40: That would be fitting, bruh bruh.

AllHipHop.com: So many artists reach a plateau and become inaccessible to their peers. You’ve worked with Lyrics Born and Murs, two stars of the “underground” Hip-Hop world. So much Hip-Hop comes out, but tell me about your commitment to that realm within the genre…

E-40: I like Lyrics Born, I like Murs, I like [Talib] Kweli, I like Mos Def, I like the Hieroglyphics. I like all that, man. It’s Hip-Hop, man. Music is music. Lyrically, them dudes spit it – punchlines and metaphors. They’re creative. Like, there ain’t no cap to who I really like.

AllHipHop.com: “Tell Me To Go” the original and remix have been fire out East. I also heard that as a result of the record, Interscope is courting Keak Da Sneak into a deal. Any comment?

E-40: Everybody tryin’ to get Keak. He’s a real talented, humble dude. I recognized Keak because his voice is distinctive, he can spit game, and he ain’t scared to do what they don’t. I had him on my album in 1996-1997 on Hall of Game. The album sold 800,000 units, and the name of the song was called “Bring It.” It was me, [Keak], and Spice-1. Keak opened up the verse. This dude been around, and I’m here to see him shine like a diamond. Dude deserves everything that comes to him. I’m happy for him. We all kickin’ in the doors with this song right here. It’s the baterram. It’s gonna make it easy for the rest of the Bay Area to eat.

AllHipHop.com: Even though Scarface was a legend before Screw music, he helped introduce many of us to the culture. You’ve been doing this for 15 years, but I see a large correlation with that and your championing of Hyphy. Plus, you’re both veterans at the top of your game…

E-40: I got the Bay on my back like a backpack. They got me too. It’s a trip though. We kinda got off the scene like in ’96, ’97. They started checkin’ for other regions. During that whole time, 40 Water been holdin’ on like a hubcap in the fast lane – consistently puttin’ out music. I been carryin’ the Bay on my back since then. I was around when me and The Click and the Sik-Wid-It organization got the attention of all the major labels to come on out here. I was in a biddin’ war just like Keak is now, in 1993. In ’94, I signed with Jive Records. It was the spot – a baby Atlanta. In ’96 and ’97, [Master] P kinda took the rug from up under our feet. He stayed in the Bay. And this ain’t no disrespect for him. This is what he did. He brought the attention to the South. Don’t get it twisted though, there were already rappers in the South eatin’, like Kingpin Skinny Pimp, Outkast, 8Ball & MJG, the whole Rap-A-Lot organization, Luke Skywalker and all them. But P opened the doors for the South to get they gouda. That’s when the region went. Even though the West and the South always been cool. I’m probably the most South-friendly West Coast rapper. I been workin’ the South. To get back on the subject though, I been carryin’ the Bay like that all these years. When you think of the Bay, you think of E-40. Now, here we is again. I’m here to see it again. Longevity is everything. The more we all eat, the better we all eat in the Bay.

AllHipHop.com: My last question, man. You’ve mentioned The Hall of Game a couple times. On it, you had “Things’ll Never Change,” which came out in 1996. You retained a wonderful, storied relationship with Tupac. But were you ever bothered that they released an award-winning rehash as “Changes” of other songs, using that same concept two years later? Was it supposed to be a collaboration?

E-40: As a matter of fact, I’m just trippin’, ‘cause the last time I seen ‘Pac was at my “Hall of Game” video. He was playin’ some of the Makavelli album for me. We were in the trailer, perkin’, doin’ our thing. I said, “You know my new handle is 40 Fonzerelli, right?” He was like, “Yeah, that’s a trip ‘cause mine is Makavelli.” He got to breakin’ down who [Machiavelli] was and all that, and this dude was way ahead of his time and all that. He was playin’ the album, but it didn’t have “Changes” on there. He never heard [“Things’ll Never Change”]. I never got around to playin’ my album for him ‘cause I had cats in the camper who was tryin’ to play they album. I wasn’t tryin’ to goal-tend. ‘Pac already knew what I was about. [I didn’t want] “40 hatin’, he don’t want ‘Pac to hear my music.” He was already on Hall of Game album, but he never got to hear it. “Things’ll Never Change” made it on MTV – in fact, it’s a trip ‘cause I haven’t had a record on regular MTV since 1996 with [“Things’ll Never Change”] till “Tell Me When To Go.” That just goes to show you that if you keep throwin’ s**t at the wall, eventually, it’ll stick. Stay on your grind. That shows you right there – me and ‘Pac, with the song “Changes” was on the same page. That Bruce Hornsby thing, man! Things’ll never change.

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