Few, if any, rappers have made the music seem so alive and kept progressing the art form for as long as E-40 has. Born Earl Stevens in 1967, he grew up in Vallejo, California, and helped define the late-’80s Bay Area underground alongside Too Short, giving the West Coast its first true hip-hop scene. It wasn’t necessarily an answer to the sounds coming from New York—it was just self-made artists like E-40, who recorded with his family members in the venerated group The Click, doing their own thing. In the ensuing years, he became both a mogul, distributing records by his local peers, and one of the first Bay Area rappers to earn a major label deal. On his 1993 solo debut, Federal, he introduced wider audiences to his jokey, squalling, expressive flow, then levelled up on his eclectic 1996 classic, The Hall of Game, where his ease and confidence kicked in on tracks like “Rapper’s Ball” and the 2Pac-assisted "Million Dollar Spot”. In the ensuing decades, he was embraced by the Southern regionalists who’d taken crunk to the world like Lil Jon and T-Pain, collaborated with Akon and Gucci Mane, and, more than once, released multiple albums in the same year. His 2019 Practice Makes Paper featured Migos’ Quavo, Schoolboy Q, Rick Ross, Ty Dolla $ign and over a dozen more stars lined up to stand in the shadow of the good-natured, all-business master—a fitting testament to his intergenerational influence and importance in hip-hop history.
BORNNovember 15, 1967