E-40's name is nowhere near as big as his resume. Legendary to most, he's seldom praised for his contributions to hip-hop. Kids may ghost ride the whip nowadays, but Fonzarelli was pushing the Bay area to the forefront when Mark McGwire was a steroid-free slugger for the Oakland A’s. Perhaps not on a major scale, but pushing nonetheless.
While Bay Area success stories have come and gone (Hammer, Digital Underground, Luniz), 40 has kept himself relevant by upgrading his Charlie Hustlenomics and perpetually updating hip-hop's lexicon with up-to-the-minute slang. Fo shizzle? That's 40. Scrilla? That's 40.
With his Ball Street Journal hitting stores next week (11/25), XXLMag.com caught up with 40 Water to discuss his label situation, VH1 Hip-Hop Honors and the death of the hyphy movement.
XXLMag.com: The Ball Street Journal is coming out on your Sick Wid 'It label, what happened to your deal with Lil Jon's BME Recordings?
E-40: Contractually, I'm with Lil Jon. Lil Jon got like four songs on my album. That’s my family. BME’s contract was up with Warner. As an artist he’s personally over at Universal Republic. As far as his label, their contract was up. But contractually, BME still gets a piece of the pie. BME is still my family too.
XXL: Too $hort was an honoree at this year’s VH1 Hip-Hop Honors. Being a fellow legend from the Bay Area, it would have made sense for you to take part in that tribute. How did you feel about being excluded?
E-40: I felt bad. I felt like it was disrespectful. They didn’t have to give me a hip-hop honor. $hort been in the game a little bit longer than me, but I have been in the game over 20 years and I’ve seen rappers come and go. I’ve been able to weather the storm all these years, stay current and walk through the game. I just feel like they could have at least have me presenting an award. Even if I didn’t perform one of his songs, they could have at least got in contact with me and say, “40, since that’s your Bay Area folks, ya’ll go way back and ya’ll true legends in the game, we want you to present the award to him.” Do something, participate in it some kind of way. But they didn’t, so I don’t know if I’m on VH1’s radar, or they just don’t know how much impact I’ve had on hip-hop. I just charge it to the microphone and keep it pushing, man.
XXL: It’s unfortunate that you’re not expecting them to give you your own tribute. People from the East Coast, may not know Too $hort’s music like they know Jay-Z's, but they gotta respect his legend.
E-40: You gotta know it. Honestly, they told me when my potna went up there, to get his award, do his performance and everything, it was crickets in there. And that’s because in the early 90s all up in the West Coast, the South and the Midwest, fucked with $hort tremendously. Short got more platinum and gold albums than most people’s favorite artists. That comes from straight ground work. At the same time, I felt like it was crickets in there because only a few people on the East Coast was open minded back then in the mid 80s to early 90s. Me personally, the next time they honor a hip-hop artist from the West, they should do it on the West Coast. And when they do East Coast, they should do it out that way. That’s my philosophy.
XXL: The hyphy movement seems to have faded, would you say it’s dead?
E-40: First of all, hyphy means a wild dude. It’s the energy of a person. But when you say the hyphy movement, that’s when it involves the side shows, the dance and the cars, just the Bay Area lifestyle. Basically, the lifestyle still goes on. The music scene as far as making repetitive hyphy songs, that still goes down too, but what happened was we’re from the Bay. You gotta realize there’s a lot of angles of the game. You got your backpack rappers, you got your cats that just do straight gangsta shit, nothing but that. They refuse to do anything but that. Then you got your cats that do pimp rap, talking bout broads. It’s player mode shit. One thing about 40, I do it all. I’m one of the few rappers that never moved out of the Bay Area. It ain’t like I’ve been hiding under a rock. I’ve been right here in the thick of it. What I mean by that is, I had the platform and the song ["Tell Me When To Go"]. When I did my [last] album I knew I had to put some hyphy music on there, cause that’s the bay, that’s my home. When I did Ghetto Report Card, I only did two to three hyphy songs out of 18. But the songs that poked out like nipples, were hyphy such as “Tell Me When To Go,” which was a phenomenon. It was the biggest song since “I Got 5 On It” or something. What happened is you had older rappers that couldn’t transform into hyphy, couldn’t transform into a chamillion that could just switch up and do anything like me. Older rappers were hating on the young ones like, “I don’t do that shit.” I was just turmoil, so nobody followed up. We had the opportunity, it was on fire. I tell cats, “Whenever we get the ball back and fumble again…” shiiiit! I’ma continue to do my thing. I’m good. E-40 is straight.
XXL: Any last words?
E-40: Those who are new E-40 spectators, or you can say fans, soon to be fans, or wanna know what I’m about. Just know that I’ve been around for 20 years, but I’m sharper than a porcupine spine and I’m one of the best that ever did it. I’m a unique rapper. I don’t rap like everybody else, so if you’re looking for an innovator, somebody that do what everybody else don’t, you got E-40: a cat that got street credibility, a cat that’s a business man, an intelligent hoodlum and a dude that’s a fixture in this rap game period. I done did a lot for hip-hop. Just do your due diligence and read up on my history. And know that they don’t make them like me and I’m rare like a steak. Everything that your favorite rapper is talking about right now, you can ask them. 40’s already talked about it. -Marvin Brandon