Bay Area rapper E-40 is ambassador of hyphy style

[19 March 2007]

By Michael Deeds

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Rapper E-40 was no stranger to hit albums when “My Ghetto Report Card” schooled listeners last year.

An ambassador of the Bay Area hip-hop scene, he´d enjoyed a million-selling CD (1995´s “In a Major Way”) followed by multiple gold records, all injected with his unique, slippery “slanguage.”

Still, this was fresh territory. After signing with Atlanta-based BME Recordings, E-40 unveiled a disc that blended culture of the Bay Area - hyphy - with Lil Jon´s crunk-bumpin´ South. The breakout single, “Tell Me When To Go,” introduced the mainstream to hyphy phrases such as “goin´ dumb” and “ghost ridin´ the whip,” spreading the word on a Bay Area scene derived from the word “hyper.” At its core, hyphy is a crazy-wild form of party, music and car culture.

In conversation, E-40 is anything but hyper. He´s laid-back as he discusses hit singles, his hometown and who came up with the term “fo´ shizzle”:

Q: What needs to happen for hyphy to fully penetrate mainstream America?

A: More of the Bay Area rappers making a few more “Tell Me When To Go´s,” you know? And having the outlet to get it out there. I was in the position to get it out there, and I came with one of the most incredible songs in years. Period. Just overall. It was in a class all by itself. So that was a plus, because it had its own legs. It´s just teamwork. It´s gonna take teamwork. But at the same time, music is music. Like I say, E-40, he do it all. You´ll hear me on a snap song, you´ll hear me on a crunk song, you´ll hear me on a hyphy song.

Q: You´re an ambassador of hyphy, but you do everything.

A: Yeah. I don´t really claim myself as being a hyphy rapper. I´m just a person that put hyphy in a limelight of the rest of the world besides Northern California. I´m not the king of hyphy. I give that to cats that started the hyphy thing, like Keak Da Sneak and Mac Dre. Don´t get it twisted, I´m definitely one of the dudes who helped birth the sound, feel me? But as far as the overall movement, hats off to Oakland, Calif. I´m from Vallejo. Oakland started the hyphy movement.

Q: You still live in the Bay Area, right?

A: I´m right here in the thick of the Bay Area. I ain´t never moved out the Bay Area. For me to get to Vallejo, it only takes me 26 minutes. So I´m right here. I ain´t never moved. I´m one of the artists that´s been in the Bay Area all my life. When I signed with BME, there was rumors saying, “Oh, 40 moved to Atlanta.”

Q: I suppose people start with, “Sellout, sellout!”

A: They never say sellout. I never hear the sellout part. They just like, “I hope you don´t go South.” It´s another reason that I made sure that I opened the doors up with the hyphy thing, because I didn´t want my region to think that I turned my back on them. I´m not going to hide what we got going on in the Bay Area. I want to let the world know what we´re doing. And I put South music on my album. So I had a mixture of everything. It was like a perfect world. It was like a pot of gumbo—the best gumbo you could ever get. That album was a classic, “My Ghetto Report Card.”

Q: Is the competition and relationship healthy between crunk and hyphy, South and West? You never want it to be like East Coast/West Coast was 10 years ago. People were downright nasty.

A: Let me tell you something about the Bay area and the West Coast overall: The West Coast has always had love for the South. We´ve always had love for the South, and the South has always had love for the West Coast and the Bay Area. Real spiel! Like this has been going before the South was hot. The Bay Area rappers, all of us would go out there and connect with them, and they would connect with us. I´m on all kind of Master P albums and Eightball and MJG´s. We all family. We all go way, way back like dinosaurs. Like dinosaur drippings.

Q: Are you still planning to write a book of slang?

A: The book of slang is still in motion. I don´t even know if I´m still going to do it. Because everything is like new words coming out of my mouth and the Bay Area mouth. We just constantly comin´ up with it. I have to keep upgradin´ it. If I got a penny for every word that I´ve put out there or came up with out of my mind ... I know I´d be a billionaire.

Q: Most music fans associate the term “fo´ shizzle” with Snoop Dogg, but your record label bio says you originated that phrase. Is that the honest truth?

A: That´s a spinoff. All that is, for sheezy, for shizzle, all that—that´s Bay Area slang. I was the first one in 1996 to put out the word for sheezy, for shizzle, all that. So that´s my words.

Snoop will say it. Snoop is a good dude. I ain´t got nothin´ bad to say about him. He love the Bay Area. He recognize game. He always been up on Bay Area slang. He was more or less in the limelight and got a chance to really just parlay it. And he really stayed on that particular word, and so that´s how that go.

Q: You may think this is stupid, but I was thinking about this: That song in 1981, “Double Dutch Bus”? Frankie Smith? He had a whole, like, 5 minutes in that tune where he does a bunch of “shizza, shiz”—a whole bunch of z-sounding words.

A: Yeah, but that´s izzle, dizzle, yeah, that´s pig Latin! I know what you´re talking about, yeah. That´s the “Double Dutch Bus,” Frankie Smith, we grew up on that. But for shizzle is a spinoff of for sheezy. We got for sheezy, for shiggity, for shizzle, you know what I mean?

Q: Is hyphy going to be around for years and years?

A: Put it this way: Hyphy is a culture. Hyphy been around forever out in the Bay. This been going on for at least a good 12 years. We´ve been hyphy since the ´80s to be honest with you, just didn´t put a name to it. But we been spinnin´ donuts and having different dances, you know what I mean? The dress code and the slang.

It´s just the sound that has just emerged outside of the region. It´s not a fad. And even if the industry never seen or heard another hyphy song outside the Bay Area, regardless of what, as long as we doin´ it, we don´t care what the rest of the world thinks. They´re gonna still do it. The kids, you can´t tell them nothin´ right now. They doin´ their thing.

I´ll represent the music part of hyphy. That´s what´s up. I´m not ghost ridin´. I don´t ever claim to say I´m the one out there spinnin´ donuts or dancin´ on top of cars. Not me! I´m just rappin´ it.

Q: We’re not going to see you jump up and down on top of somebody´s car?

A: Nah, not my old ass! You know what I mean? I´m just a spokesperson. I´m the narrator, I´m the president, I work my mouthpiece, I´m the ambassador. You feel me?



He’s launched a new drink line, 40 Water, a vitamin water in flavors such as watermelon, fruit punch and orange.

He owns a Fatburger franchise in Pleasant Hill, Calif., along with ex-NFL player Chester McGlockton.

He´s affiliated with Landy Cognac.



Going or getting dumb/stupid/hyphy/ridin´ the yellow bus: The main concept is having a good time while ignoring society´s negative opinion of “uncivilized” behavior.

Ghost ridin´ the whip: A driver walks alongside a slow-rolling car with the door open, giving the appearance that the car is driving itself. Passengers ride with all the doors open and sometimes leap out of the moving cars, sometimes dance on top of the hood.

Gas-brake dippin´: Driving while quickly alternating between stomping on the gas and the brake. Also known as “Yokin.´ “

Yay Area: The Bay Area of California.


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