E-40's new food products have names like "turf burritos" that mirror the rapper's unique Bay Area hip-hop vernacular. (Darius Riley | HOUR VOYSES)
here’s no other rapper in the history of hustling who can serve you more flavors than E-40. If you don’t believe me, ask another certified Bay Area tycoon: San Francisco rapper Larry June.
In a recent interview with Complex Brackets, June—who co-owns Honeybear Boba and “does numbers” with his music—credited E-40 as “the ultimate hustler.” In a genre of music that has produced figures like Jay-Z, Bun B, Sean Combs, Suge Knight, Gucci Mane, Nipsey Hussle, Nicki Minaj and countless other business savants, E-40 being crowned “the ultimate” speaks volumes.
“When I think of an ultimate hustler, I think of a person who’s been able to leverage their music to outside ventures,” B. Dot, the show’s host, told June.
By this standard, how could anyone not crown E-40 as the preeminent entrepreneur in the Hall of Game?
Now, add to 40’s resume his latest and perhaps most intriguing venture: a food company.
Goon With The Spoon is something the 54-year-old says fulfilled a “lifelong dream,” according to his Instagram announcement. The company’s pre-packaged sausages and burritos—offered in partnership with local barbecue chain Kinder’s Meats—playfully mirror the rapper’s inventive hip-hop vernacular (see: “Turf Burritos” and a “Choices (Yum)” variety pack).
The brand’s name references track six on Revenue Retrievin': Day Shift, when rapper B-Legit says, “I’m a beast with the mouthpiece, goon with the spoon,” boasting about both his wordplay in the booth and illicit skills in the kitchen. Like the lyrics, 40’s newest endeavor seeks to bend the norm and feed the streets—literally.
“[E-40] always takes the best of what he likes, then adds something unique to the table,” says Droop-E, E-40’s son, who is a rapper himself and consults on his dad’s business operations. “It’s pushing the envelope, just like how he brings a different style to the rap game. He’s just doing the same thing but in the food market.”
In the case of Goon With The Spoon, that fresh remix includes removing the pork casing from his sausages and introducing untraditional sausage flavors, such as Philly cheesesteak and teriyaki pineapple chicken.
But 40 and his team aren’t the only cooks in the kitchen. They’re part of a long legacy of entrepreneurialism in the Northern California rap scene.
There is arguably no place that demands more hustle than the Bay Area. It’s a soil that has cultivated a deep community of “ultimate hustlers”—rappers, activists, educators, poets, BART dancers, tech developers, revolutionaries, journalists, immigrants and other expressionists—who, going back to the Gold Rush of 1849, have had to embody a level of risk taking, multifaceted commerce and grit in order to thrive.
In today’s globally competitive and hyper-inflated Bay Area market, you need to be able to maneuver multiple services in order to get ahead—especially in light of reports that saddle the region with the notorious title of “most expensive place to live in the U.S.” For the true hustler, though, that high cost of living has simply inspired alternative forms of income.
“Hustling is a huge part of the Bay Area rap aesthetic,” says hip-hop journalist Eric Arnold. “Going back to Too $hort and Freddy B in 1983 selling tapes on the bus line with no record label. It all started there.” In Arnold’s view, Too $hort may have been rap’s earliest player to showcase his entrepreneurial autonomy. The East Oakland rapper famously self-ignited his career by selling his music from the trunk of his vehicle, pioneering popular phrases like “born to mack” and “out the trunk”—terms that are still used in hip-hop to indicate one’s DIY ambitions.
The same can be said for a young Master P, who before making his name in New Orleans with No Limit Records—one of the most successful labels of the ’90s and ’00s—spent his formative years in Richmond operating his first business: No Limit Record Shop.
“The idea that rap is the only thing people can do as rappers and DJs is false,” Arnold says.
Of course, we have 40 Fonzarelli to thank for that. More than anyone else it’s 40, who carries as many aliases as he does enterprises, who showcases the food game hustle that is interconnected with Bay Area rap culture.
“40 owned a Fatburger back in the day,” Arnold says. “He told you he was a hustler from day one, back in 1992. He was telling you that.”
The fact that he’s still pushing weight and launching new ventures in 2021 shouldn't shock anyone.
“My pops is just super focused because he really enjoys what he does,” says Droop-E. “He’s always cooking for the family, asking us for our honest opinions. It tastes better when someone makes something they care about.”
Though not all of 40’s pursuits have been received glowingly, no one can knock his hustle. Earl Stevens’ relentlessness to trailblaze multiple paths at once has provided a roadmap for generations of listeners, who in turn have embraced his freelancing spirit. His efforts have earned him recognition from media outlets that don’t typically seek out rappers for their food expertise, including Forbes, Business Insider and Eater. Through it all, he’s remained loyal to his soil—and helped to define it.
“I think the Bay, if I was to put a finger on it, knows we’re not New York, LA, Chicago,” Arnold says. “You get used to being an underdog. You get used to taking an extra step because of the lack of media or industry infrastructure.”
Having that “extra step” is what elevates those who are driven to find and create their own lane, even when it may not seem possible.
Although it has become more commonplace (and sometimes necessary) for people to have multiple sources of income here in the Bay, the region's rappers have been laying the groundwork for this blueprint decades before it was normalized. However you cut the math, these hip-hop legends have been “revenue retrieving” and “currency collecting” the hard way since the early ’80s—back when most mainstream rappers were dependent on major brands and record labels to fuel their image, rather than creating their own.
For 40, the past few decades have been so flavorful that Droop-E told me he and his pops are planning to launch a line of ice cream soon, with up to seven different varieties. Fittingly, the Vallejo rapper’s newest hustle will be as the “Ice Cream Man,” a phrase coined back in ’93 by Bay Area counterparts Dru Down and Luniz, who later collaborated with 40 on the “I Got 5 On It” remix.
Though his ice cream’s release dates have yet to be announced, Droop-E assures me it’s officially on the way.
Like I said, no one serves more flavors than E-40.
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