The development of hip-hop during the 1990s is partially indebted to the styles that were cultivated on the West Coast, more specifically in the state of California. When one thinks of the California hip-hop scene invariably the G-funk of Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, and Los Angeles comes to mind, but to ignore the equally impressive San Francisco bay area scene is a travesty. It was in this environment where Earl Stevens, better known by his stage name E-40, came up in and developed his following.
Alongside regional staples such as Too Short, Spice 1, and Ant Banks, E-40 was among the first West Coast rappers to sign with a major label, and scored a Billboard-charting hit record with 1995’s In A Major Way. His flamboyant attitude, mixed with a driven, DIY spirit, would lead to further Billboard-charters, as well as collaborations with top-tier names of hip-hop, from California peers like Tupac Shakur, Too Short, and Keak Da Sneak, to underground legends like Tech N9ne, Bun B, and Danny Brown, to modern MCs like 2 Chainz, YG, and Juicy J, to even the company of comedy trio The Lonely Island.
While E-40’s break into the mainstream came with 1995’s In A Major Way, he had recorded on numerous EPs and features, as well as a studio album through his own self-run label Sick Wid It Records. That studio album, 1993’s Federal, would also serve as his solo debut, and paint a picture of things to come for the bay area rapper. With it’s stark and aggressive sound, over top of beats that sampled classic funk and soul staples like Isaac Hayes, Sly & The Family Stone, and The Ohio Players, Federal put E-40s skills as an
MC on full display, as well as promising things in the following years. Not to mention solid guest spots from his fellow Californians B-Legit, Kaveo, Little Bruce, and various others.