With more than 10 albums under his belt, Lil Jon in his corner and every slang-biter on his jock, Vallejo, California rapper E-40 is more than just a “hyphy peddler.” Throughout the last 20 years, with hits like “Captain Save-A-Hoe” and “Rapper’s Ball,” the fast-talking Bay Area MC gained a reputation for outlandish lingo and an unconventional style of rapping. When his most recent LP, My Ghetto Report Card, was released in March, 40 created enough buzz to bring the Bay and its thriving hyphy movement back into the national spotlight after a decade’s absence.
While E-40 has become hyphy’s most visible face, some allegations have been made about his intentions and involvement in the culture. A recent report on a well-known hip-hop website used “facts” from Hyphy Inc., a seemingly fictitious company that most Bay Area residents have never even heard of, to attack the icon—threatening the unity in the most Yay-triotic time in the Bay’s history since the era of “California Love.” So what does all this mean to the Ambassador who usually promotes peace and goodwill? E-40 wants to set the record straight on the origins of player hating and why it’s pointless to try to stop a movement with the wheels already in motion.
You’re introducing the hyphy movement to a lot of people outside the Bay Area. What made you take that role?
It ain’t really no big deal to me. I just feel it was my position to let cats know that, Hey, this is the hyphy movement. I could’ve avoided it, I could’ve went here and just made my blaps, [because] you know I’m a real artist. [But] I didn’t even make up hyphy. That ain’t me. That’s me, but it ain’t my thang. I’m part of the hyphy movement because being from the Bay Area, it was my duty to put it out there and let them know. It would be dumb if I didn’t. Every rapper in the Bay don’t do hyphy music. I don’t just do hyphy music. I got two hyphy songs on my album. I don’t call myself the King of Hyphy. I’m in the position to let people know, Hey, this is what’s happening. There’s a whole bunch of talent in the Bay, man. Hyphy is more than just our music. It’s something that started in Oakland that’s a lifestyle and a culture. Regardless of us rapping about it, it’s always been there. Before we came with the particular sound, they got hyphy off of music outside of the Bay.
Are you happy with sales of My Ghetto Report Card so far?
The album is selling consistent numbers, that’s what’s so beautiful about it. When I say “consistent,” I’m talkin’ about consistent—like, staying afloat. We reaching goals slowly but surely. I got gold and platinum albums. It’s rare like a steak to have a dude who’s been in the game for almost 20 years and still be afloat like the Love Boat, you know?
How would you respond to critics who say that you and other Bay Area vets watered down your flow to fit the hyphy movement?
The word “playa hater” come from the Bay Area. The first person to make a song about that was, I think, in 1989, 1990. The boy’s name was Filthy Phil up out of Richmond, Caliscrillia, ya smell me? So you gotta learn that I’m immune to that thang right there. With us, everybody spittin’ their game, ain’t nothing watered down. One thing about cats in the Yay, they think, Okay, if something get on TV, a video being played on MTV, it’s watered down. Come on, man. Tear that off, man. It’s all good spittin’. Messy Marv spittin’ that game, San Quinn, everybody. It don’t stop. B-Legit. Everybody mobbin’.
The Bay had a 10-year drought in terms of national attention. What did you have to do to get through it?
Have tough skin. Switch up your sucker repellant lotions and stay hungry. Stay consistent. Grind. I’m not gonna say we got the ball back yet. It’s still a long way to go and it’s gonna take teamwork. It’s gonna take cats gettin’ off they ass and making some hits. We need 10 more “Tell Me When to Go”s right now. We need those. They don’t even need to be “Tell Me When to Go”s. Some R&B, you know? Whatever it is. Let’s get it, man.
You, along with $hort and Yukmouth, are some of the only rappers in the Bay with consistent major record deals. What advice would you give to upcoming rappers in the Bay?
This is one thing I gotta tell you righteously. Everything that comes out my mouth is hood. My album is hood style to the fullest, to the extreme. What I spit is real. It ain’t like, Oh he watched a movie and this happened. Nah, mine is soil. It ain’t necessarily gotta happen to me. I might’ve done been through it, had somebody that been through it, or I seen it. But it’s all effective. It’s embroidered in what I know. But let me tell you this: cats have had deals thrown at them in the Bay Area, [and] didn’t sign for any particular reason. I don’t know why. That is not my fault.
Do you think it has something to do with them getting comfortable with being independent?
I’m caught between a ménage-a-trois and a cowboy shootout, you know what I mean? I’m the Ambassador and cats get to makin’ up things with their mind. Like, Yeah, I heard that boy 40, he’s stopping cats from getting deals. Everything gotta go through his shit. Like, hold on, man. I done approached dang near everyone up in the Bay about signing with me. Cats get on different pages. It’s like, We got this already, 40. We cool. We got some shit already on deck, you know what I mean? We cool on you, folks. But we love you and respect you. It is what it is. Those who roll with 40 Water, we gonna make the best of it. We gonna eat. Those who don’t, more power to you. I love you. I’m gonna still stick with you, and if you need some help, I’m with you.
Do you ever worry that the Bay will become synonymous with hyphy?
Everybody don’t do hyphy music. Hyphy is the movement and we supposed to roll with it. We’d be wrong if we didn’t. But there’s different genres and different formats in the Bay Area. We got cats that do the backpack thang. The thing about the Bay Area is I can name a whole bunch of Bay rappers. If I get to naming names, it’s gonna take me forever to do it. Without me beating around a cocoa plant and walking around eggshells, I’m gonna give it to you straight; I ain’t gonna give it to you late. The Bay is the best thing since ice cream. There’s a whole bunch of us out there with a whole bunch of talent and it’s our time to shine. The game come from the Bay. A lot of cats get a lot of stuff from the Bay. Jackin’ your slacks, poppin’ your collar, that’s just us. That’s natural like an afro, man. We done gave the world everything. Hyphy, that’s that young generation. That’s the culture, that’s the lifestyle. It ain’t going nowhere, but at the same time, there’s all sorts of music in the Bay. We got our storytellers, we got our gangsta rappers, we got our rappers that do it all. And you know who that is. People like Fonzarelli.
Some people are saying that Lil Jon ain’t hyphy, so what is he doing making hyphy beats and taking away from Bay Area producers. What made you want to work with Jon?
The boy Lil Jon is a talented dude. With cats like E-40, Lil Jon, Too $hort, you can’t just erase our history. Hyphy good, but at the same time, man, we was already legends. Our identity is carved into the history books. We innovators. It’s too late. When they stop talking about me, that’s when I’ma worry about it. In the meantime and in between time, cats need to tighten up they ooh-wop and go ahead and make real music. And when I say real music, it’s make hits. Just make hits. Stop worrying about everybody else. Concentrate on yourself. Get in the studio. Stop spending time to go ahead and try to knock legends down. Lil Jon is a real producer, he ain’t have to sign me. He signed me way before he heard about the hyphy movement. He signed me and he wasn’t even on that page. I said to Jon, “We probably have to do at least a couple hyphy songs.” I don’t want the Bay to think that I’m veering off, going South, you dig what I’m saying?
A prominent hip-hop website recently interviewed a group called Hyphy Inc., giving them a forum to attack your credibility. How does that make you feel?
All you suckers out there in the sucker-ass muthafuckin’ web site talkin’ about “40 ain’t got no street credibility, he ain’t thug like that,” fuck you. You don’t know what you talkin’ about. Read up on my history. You don’t know me. And if you do, you’re just prayin’ on my downfall, you sucka. And I’ll find out who the fuck you is, trust that. Put your face up on the web site so I know who the fuck you is. Mark. Bitch. Sucker.
Then they put some shit up there talkin’ about, “Oh, if he from the Bay, how he go to Grambling State University?” I went to Grambling for one fuckin’year. I had a 2.0 grade average. I went for one year and then got right back to Magazine Street. I went just for the energy. I’m not knockin’ college, it was one of the best times of my life, but at the same time, these muthafuckas got they Es mixed up. I’m from the muthafuckin’ game, don’t get it twisted. So, world out there, don’t pay attention to muthafuckas. Don’t listen to everybody. These people, this Web site that sent that shit out through the e-mail and shit, they’re not rectible [accountable] people. Don’t nobody know about them. It ain’t like a whole bunch of muthafuckas out there with picket signs saying, “Hey, fuck 40!” None of that. Two people, and that’s it. Learn that.