The California hip-hop legend opened up to PEOPLE about crafting his latest album, ‘Rule of Thumb: Rule 1’
Phil Emerson E-40, who just released his new LP ‘Rule of Thumb: Rule 1’
After over three decades in the game, Earl “E-40” Stevens is still checking milestones off his bucket list.
The last calendar year for the Bay Area rap legend, 56, speaks for itself: Earning an honorary doctorate from Grambling State University, penning a long-time-coming cookbook with friend Snoop Dogg, and even seeing his name appear on a street sign in his childhood stomping grounds of Vallejo.
But as his new album Rule of Thumb: Rule 1 proves, 40’s extracurriculars haven’t kept him from the rhymes that have made him a star in the first place. If anything, they’re fueling him.
And the rhymes are only expanding. “I think that many of my fans that grew up with me that’s close to my age or within a two-year span, I feel like they want to hear me with a new-school twist with some updated words,” he tells PEOPLE of his new LP while en route to a 49ers game. “It sounds like it’s fresh, but it’s today’s vocab.”
Phil Emerson E-40 slices up meat for a ‘Goon with the Spoon’ photoshoot
Rule of Thumb is just that, a mix of 40’s signature delivery and quality bars with what he describes as an expanded vocabulary and some assistance from the likes of Gucci Mane, Too $hort and YoungBoy Never Broke Again, among others. It’s his 38th album, and the beginning of a mission to drop three more albums in the span of eight months, he explains.
“I will never stop recording,” E-40 says. “This is nothing for me. I’m just spreading them out just so I give them a little breathing room.”
Stevens’ life at 56 may be different than what it was when he was selling tapes out of the trunk of his car before the release of his 1993 breakthrough Federal, and at this point, the prolific MC says he makes an effort to instill some of the lessons he’s learned on his younger peers.
“Age ain’t nothing but a number. And it’s mind over matter,” he says. “I feel like consistency and holding onto your fan base, you can rap forever. You feel me? Long as you got your life, health and your strength. You in your right mind. I’m 56. And that’s the feedback that I’m getting from people like, ‘Man. Hey, 40 figured it out.’”
“I noticed that if you talk to the youngsters right, the youngsters will respect you. They want to learn things, too. When I was young, I liked to listen to OGs because you can learn from their mistakes. So, that’s one thing they do is respect my mind, and I respect them, too,” he adds. “Because I was once young. I was just a wild boy growing up, trying to figure it out.”
40 certainly appears to have figured it out, and his advice goes a long way. As he describes working with NBA YoungBoy — with whom he created track “Get My Life Right” remotely as the musician recorded while under house arrest in Utah — he was able to help his friend channel something fresh on the new project.
“He was very positive, man,” 40 says. “If you listen to that record, that’s probably one of the most positive records, if not, that he’s ever done. And I loved him for it.”
Outside of the music, 40’s achievements this year speak for themselves. While he did have a mile-stretch of a street in Vallejo renamed in his honor as E-40 Way, which he describes as “unbelievable,” the rapper also honored his late friend Tupac Shakur during a street naming in Oakland over the summer.
During his speech, he reflected on a conversation he had with his “Dusted & Disgusted” collaborator about posthumous albums, which he initially wrote off and later realized were something he, too, should take seriously. As he explains now, it was only after Shakur’s death in 1996 that he began to consider his own legacy in that capacity.
“I started thinking of it after he died, and I’m looking at all these songs coming out,” he says. “… If you continue to record, you just got verse after verse after verse after verse. That’s just what it’s about. And I got that.”
“Because all I do is rap. I wear many hats, but rapping is my expertise,” he adds. “Rapping is my specialty. Rapping is what I love to do more than anything.”
Phil Emerson E-40 kisses the street pole for the recently renamed E-40 way in Vallejo, California
Another specialty for 40 is his work in the kitchen, specifically his new cookbook with Snoop Dogg, Goon with the Spoon. The project is a long time coming, having spawned from a song title and eventual hashtag that he first began using a decade ago on Instagram. It’s now transformed into a recent favorite from publisher Chronicle Books. “We’ve been rocking for many moons, over 30 plus years,” 40 says. “I know he had a best-seller. It was only right.”
As for what’s next — outside of 40’s next three albums, including Rule of Thumb: Rule 2 arriving in early 2024 — 40 just hopes the new music connects with his listeners.
“I hope that they are getting a dose of game,” he says.
“I hope that they find their favorite songs and enjoy it with the family and ride to it and putting them in a good mood when they wake up or when they getting dressed. And then, going to work. Coming home from work or wherever your destination may be. I just hope that they enjoy it, and I think that I gave a lot of game on that because I’m that uncle that a lot of people never had.”
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