Born and raised in the Bay Area, I felt the need to pay homage to a longtime hero of mine.
It was 2006. I was 12 years old and sitting at my table eating dinner with my family with MTV on in the background. The next music video premiered the brand new song “Tell Me When to Go” by E-40 featuring Keak Da Sneak. My sisters boyfriend at the time says, “Damn…40 and Keak on national television. The Yay Area’s on the map.” Considering Los Angeles steals much of the spotlight and glory of West Coast rap, this was huge. After the passing of Mac Dre (RIP), no one else could represent Bay Area rap more than Earl “E-40” Stevens.
He brought the scene to mainstream hip hop.
His music discography and legacy are far too extensive to explain in a few words, but I will try: 40 began his rap career as a part of a family hip hop group “The Click”, featuring his cousin B-Legit, his brother D-Shot, and his sister Suga-T. Altogether E-40 has released 42 projects, over 20 solo, throughout the span of his career. His easily recognizable style has successfully created music the likes of party, street, “heartfelt” and everything in between. He has collaborated with greats like 2Pac, Mac Dre, Too $hort, Snoop Dogg, Spice-1, UGK in addition to more recent features such as Schoolboy Q, Danny Brown, Big Sean and The Jacka (RIP). 40 Water has remained significant in the rap game for 25 years.
An underlying aspect of E-40’s music is his extensive vocabulary use. According to this study, 40 is the 15th most lyrically diverse rapper measured by unique word choice. This places him just ahead of William Shakespeare (the study used him for comparison), who arguably had the largest vocabulary, ever. Furthermore, he is responsible for inventing slang terms such as “po-po”, “it’s all good”, “pop ya collar”, “ya feel me” and many more. Contrary to popular belief, Snoop Dogg did not coin the term “fo shizzle”; 40 did. So, if you’ve ever caught yourself calling the police “po-po”, you have been influenced by E-40.
But E-40 is much more to hip hop than a local star.
He’s a personality. He’s an independent artist. He’s an entrepreneur, an actor, the King of Slang and a veteran, yet relevant to this day. 40 has used his platform from making music to pursue other interests and build a personal empire.
Starting as an independent artist selling tapes out of the back of his car, 40 has always chosen the DIY path. He established his own record label, Sick Wid It Records, to promote local artists. Recently, he furthered these entrepreneurial ways by creating his own wine brand, “Earl Stevens Selection” in addition to his own version of a hurricane cocktail, titled “Slurricane”. I have yet to try his wine, but since he claims to inspect every stage of production, I have faith in the product.
40 also supports the local community through philanthropy. He has made anthem songs for the recent champion Warriors and Giants, in addition to making an instrumental for my high school football team when I played. The man is heavily involved in the Bay Area community, and it is not uncommon to see him walking around doing regular ass things.
The list of accomplishments of this man are endless. E-40 is a hero to me because he’s one of my favorite rappers of all time and he represents much more than music. He has truly turned his music career into a lifestyle, fulfilling lifelong hobbies and giving back to the community that made him.