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E-40 Discusses New Album, His Cookbook With Snoop, and Being Underrated

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Earl “E-40” Stevens greets community members after the honorary ceremony on Oct. 21, 2023 in Vallejo, Calif.
Earl 'E-40' Stevens greets community members after receiving the key to the city and a street named in his honor in Vallejo, Oct. 21, 2023.  (Michaela Vatcheva for KQED)

E-40 built a three decade-plus career on the foundations of an unorthodox rap flow, schooling listeners with life lessons through his streetwise perspective.

With a heavy dose of Bay Area slang, E-40 created a lane for his unique hip-hop vernacular that has made him one of the genre’s most revered artists. As a savvy businessman, he’s leveraged his connections in the rap world to the wine, ice cream and food brand industries, including a Filipino food business inside Oracle Park in San Francisco.

Now at 56, there’s no slowing down for E-40, who released his 27th studio album Rule of Thumb: Rule 1 on Friday. His new project comes more than 30 years after his debut, Federal.

The new album — which features NBA YoungBoy, Too Short, Larry June, Gucci Mane, B.G. and E-40’s son Droop-E — is the first installment of the Rule of Thumb album series. He plans to release the sequel album early next year.

In a recent interview, E-40 spoke with The Associated Press about being an underrated legend, his unorthodox rap style and the new cookbook called Snoop Dogg Presents: Goon With the Spoon, which released earlier this week.

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Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Jonathan Landrum, Jr: What’s the meaning behind your album title?

E-40: I feel like Rule of Thumb is just common sense. It’s certain rules and regulations that you must just know off top. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist. You don’t have to have a quarter of a brain to comprehend that. I’m teaching life lessons. Giving it to them straight, not fake and not fabricating things. It’s a lot of lightweight storytelling and a lot of life lessons, consequences and repercussions. I mix it up like a gumbo pot. I’m multi-dimensional. I don’t do just one style of rap. My beats aren’t always the same. I’m everywhere like air.

An album cover depicting rapper E-40 in miniature. He is sitting on a scroll next to handcuffs, a key and a quill. A courthouse and scales are visible behind him.
The cover of ‘Rule of Thumb: Rule 1.’ (Heavy on the Grind)

Where does your unorthodox rap style and wisdom come from?

Being chipped from a different cliff, being carved from a different clay, and made from a different fabric. I’m wired different than most. I’m from an era of morals and respect, and we follow guidelines. That’s always been me… I always told stories. I talked about the repercussions and the consequences. If you go do this, you do know that little 30-second decision that you made could cost you 30 years in prison or you might be buried 6 feet deep. I always talked about the consequences if you go do something. I speak the real.

You’re highly respected within hip-hop, but how does the feeling of being underrated bother you?

My life is beautiful. I’m very successful. I’m financially set. I’m financially good. I’m still accumulating bread. I’m still breaking boundaries. But anything that’s different is always going to be questionable. There will never be a rapper like E-40, whether you like me or not. You just got to give it to me. I got my own thing. I’ve been successful for 36 years with music since 1988. Let that soak in. I’ve got to be doing something right. Can’t just be no damn luck. I come from the ground up. All your favorite independent CEOs, they respect me because I was first. I laid the foundation for independent music.

Do I still feel underrated? Yes, I do. But I know what comes with the package. They like people that’s in the pocket and never go outside the box. That’s not me.

You have a new cookbook. When did your passion for cooking start?

I’m the oldest of four. Moms would work two or three jobs. My mom and dad divorced when I was 8 years old. I had a lot of responsibilities being the oldest, so I cooked. We all knew how to cook. We taught ourselves how to cook. I worked at a restaurant when I was a teenager. There was a Caucasian man that I love dearly to this day. His name is Lewis. He taught me how to cook escargot, orange roughy with almonds with lemon butter sauce with white wine. He taught me how to do London Broil and chicken cordon bleu.

A book cover featuring two Black men. One is wearing an apron and chef's hat and holding up a large meat sandwich. The other is wearing a bucket hat, Death Row Records shirt and white spectacles.
‘Snoop Dogg Presents: Goon With the Spoon’ by Snoop Dogg and Earl ‘E-40’ Stevens. (Chronicle Books)

How did you and Snoop connect on this cookbook?

Snoop, that’s my guy. He cooks as well. He was like, “Earl, my book was very successful. I sold over a million copies. It’s a bestseller. Let me present it.”

I was like “Snoop, I rock with you. You’re legendary. You’re a good friend of mine. I’ve been knowing you for over 30-plus years. We’re family. Thank you. Let’s do it.”

When you put your pride to the side, bigger things happen. He’s got some recipes in there. I got some recipes in there. He’s got adult beverages. I have adult beverages. It only makes sense. We both co-pack. We do the whole thing. Teamwork makes the dream work. It’s enough money out there for all of us.

You’ve met with Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House, received an honorary doctorate from Grambling State University and had a street named after you in your hometown of Vallejo, California. How has hip-hop impacted your life?

Shout out to DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run-DMC. Those dudes really paved the way for people like myself to diversify our portfolios and find other ways to make financial gain on a legitimate note. This beats the streets. You can make more money here than you could ever in the streets.

Will you ever release a book with your slang terms?

If I do the book of slang, it’s going to hurt people’s feelings. Because they think that their favorite rapper made the words up, and it came from me. Or if it didn’t come from me, I got it from the soil — the trenches where most rappers that are from the urban community get their (expletive) from.

I’ve been around for more than a half a century. I know all this. I’ve got receipts to back it up. One day, I want to sit down and go word-for-word of all the words I’ve coined. I want to go to the year, the song, everything. I want to ask “Who said it before me?” If they try to lie about it, I’ve got receipts. I was the first rapper screaming “Tycoon.” That’s one of many. “Slappin.” “Choppers.” I’ve got so many of them. Just for that, I’m going to do a book of slang. The real way in 2024 style.

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‘Rule of Thumb: Rule 1’ is out on Nov. 17, 2023. ‘Snoop Dogg Presents: Goon With the Spoon’ by Snoop Dogg and Earl ‘E-40’ Stevens (with Photos by Antonis Achilleos) is out now.

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