E-40, “I Didn’t Come Up Under Dr. Dre. I Came Up Under E-40.”
So you want to be a successful and respected veteran in the hip-hop game that embodies lyrical dexterity, imaginative creativity and a heart full of gusto and independence? Well, you’re best off taking notes from E-40, one of the few MCs that’s been able to remain relevant and hip for two decades and counting. Whether it’s his penchant for popularizing some of the most creative slang in hip-hop or delivering his distinctive flow over tracks like the hyphy anthem, “Tell Me When to Go,” the Bay Area ambassador is a certified veteran.
After dropping two albums (Revenue Retrievin': Day Shift and Revenue Retrievin': Night Shift) on the same day, E-40 spit game to XXLMag.com as he talks about the lack of respect from hip-hop’s new school, his true feelings toward the East Coast and why he deserves a Grammy… or two.
XXLMag.com: Ageism is something that doesn’t often get discussed in hip-hop but many people attest to the idea that hip-hop is a young man’s game. As a veteran, where do you see yourself fitting in the hip-hop landscape today?
E-40: Hip-hop has been around for over 30 years and that’s a long time. It’s like soul music and it’s been around forever. So that’s like saying Stevie Wonder should stop making music. If you’re one of the greats you checked for [and] they still like your music and you rapping just as good, then keep doing it. Some of these youngsters don’t have respect and that’s not classy. You got to respect the seasoned vets ’cause when you a seasoned vet you know more than a rookie and that’s the truth. I respect all the rappers before me like Grandmaster Flash, Run-DMC, Afrika Bambaata and more. That’s how I was raised. So who is it to so say that there is a certain age or point in your life and career when you should stop rapping?
XXLMag.com: Many consider you an underdog. So does that make you concerned about the perseveration and recognition of your legacy?
E-40: I’m not one to knock the next person to make myself look good but it seems like a lot of rap artists do that today. They think the attention will help them. I'm a unique individual in my own lane. So if you a square, goofy, a mark or lame you ain't gonna catch it. I call myself the greatest game spitter of all time but I also know that a lot agree and a lot don’t. I got a whole coast that rides with me though and a lot in the Midwest and South. There’s a few people on the East Coast that got a lot of game that is woke to this shit. It’s funny to some people but if you come around my parts and say that wack shit you liable to get your top chopped off. Ya smell me, because my coast rides for me.
XXLMag.com: I read in an interview once that you believe the East Coast thinks you’re wack. Do you still feel that way?
E-40: I’m from a hustlin’ era of the ’80s and that’s when hustle was at its best. So I got something in me that a lot of people wish they had. I got the best of both worlds. I got today’s current shit and the ’80s. So if you ain't never been around it and seen what I spit you gonna think he’s wack. I been in this for 22 years and this is not an accident or gimmick. I'm a real nigga. I ain't never been no sucker ass nigga. So niggas got it fucked up. They might want to read up on my discography and ask about a muthafucka, ya smell me? I'm not tripping on the East Coast but a lot of niggas think I can’t go but there’s a lot who know a nigga go. I’m one of the pioneers of independent music and sold records without no airplay. I didn’t get a deal from coming up under nobody. No disrespect to Dr. Dre but I didn’t come up under Dr. Dre. I came up under E-40. I didn’t spit a hot 16 to get on.
XXLMag.com: From your point of view what is the state of the West Coast scene? Is there a big underground just waiting to rise to the surface and take over the game?
E-40: We don't have a BET and MTV and things of that [nature] out here to hear and see the buzz on the West Coast. We got it hard. We only got crossover stations so it’s hard for the new rappers with no urban stations. The closest we got is KMEL and I take my hat off to them ’cause they play our music and they do try. Hopefully the format will change to play more local rappers. In the Midwest, South and East there are a lot of urban stations and they play their local artists. Out here you got to sell your soul and do a different sound so that crossover radio will take heed to you.
XXLMag.com: Hyphy peaked a few years ago thanks in large part to your single, “Tell Me When to Go.” Often when subcultures come to the mainstream they get sugarcoated and the rawness is lost. So in looking back do you think the hyphy movement was sugarcoated in the mainstream?
E-40: I think some of the stuff was sugarcoated but my shit wasn’t sugarcoated. The Bay ain't just hyphy. The Bay is mobbed out and we got all kinds of different rap styles and folks. We got backpackers, political rappers, folks that rap about bustin’ heads and rappers like myself who do it all. My video for “Tell Me When to Go,” was one of the biggest videos of the year. I should have got nominated for a Grammy for either that or “U and Dat,” or “Snap Yo Fingers.” I ain't get nominated for that and no VH1 Hip-Hop Honors. That’s what happens when you’re an underdog. At the end of the day I know that my identity is carved in hip-hop history and they will look back and see that I did some of the cleanest shit ever. So I'm wigglin’.
XXLMag.com: It sounds like you want more recognition.
E-40: I think my fans want to see me have it and that's why I want it but I ain't tripping too bad. I ain't never won nothing in my life but money on the dice game or roulette. I been an underdog from the time I came in with an unorthodox rap style but you know what, it’s working for me. I'm making a living and doing something I love to do and I'm respected. My fans don’t consider me a Hollywood muthafucka. I talk about things they want to say but can’t say ’cause they not rappers.
XXLMag.com: P. Diddy, Jay-Z and others get a lot of shine for their business endeavors but you’re also a major entrepreneur with businesses from liquor to restaurants. So what do you think of the criticism that the money and capitalism has poisoned the integrity and social message of much of the hip-hop scene?
E-40: Hip-hop is something a lot of us love to do and something a lot of us do just for the money. I have a passion for it and a whole bunch of people have a passion for rapping and it’s rare to make money from something you like to do. I don't think those who do it just for the money should be doing hip-hop. —Souleo