During a career spanning a quarter-century, Bay Area rap legend E-40 has all but cemented his legacy as a linguistic innovator and hip-hop hall of famer. Today, however, he's working harder than ever to remain a beacon of independent success through his solo career and Sick Wid It Records. On March 24, E-40 released "The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 1, 2 & 3," a three-disc project comprising three albums and 60 tracks total.
The set bests his previous two double-volume releases, "Revenue Retrievin': Day Shift and Night Shift" (which peaked at No. 130 on the Billboard 200 as a package, but hit Nos. 47 and 49 as separate discs, when released in 2010 by Heavy on the Grind) and last year's "Overtime Shift and Graveyard Shift" (No. 174 as a set, Nos. 42 and 40 as separate CDs) giving him seven full-length albums in two years' time. But 40 himself is the first to say he doesn't plan to slow down. E-40's highest-charting album was 2006's "My Ghetto Report Card" (Sick Wid It/BME/Reprise), which bowed at No. 3.
1. Why three albums at once?
First of all, I stay in the lab putting together prescriptions and anecdotes 24/7. It's a lot of different ears out there for music. [I've] seen all the different styles of music and everything, and I participated in every last bit of it. That being said, three albums allows me to give [fans] a variety of me. [Someone's going to] like something on those albums.
2. Your last two releases were double-albums. Did the way those projects were received encourage this?
You can check the charts -- it'll show you that they all charted. It was a very lucrative situation. People got short attention spans nowadays. Even though my music is forever music, even though it's timeless to me, sometimes they wear me out too quick, so [I'll] wear them out before they wear me out.
3. How long does it take to put three albums' worth of music together?
It don't take me [too long]. I'm probably working on [the next three volumes of] "The Block Brochure" right now. It only takes me six or seven months. You got to turn it in three months before it comes out, so that's 10 months [altogether]. [And then] you still have two months left in the year.
4. As an artist with such a celebrated discography, is it difficult to get old fans into the new material?
I got old-school fans that love to hear the '90s type of sound, and I tell them, "If you want to hear that, you probably got to go back and buy those '90s albums." Because to be honest with you, those same fans that say they like the old stuff are not buying my music these days. You got some that will, but a lot of them are grandparents now, and some of them just don't have interest in rap like they used to. If you want to go back to memory lane and enjoy the times when you was having money and balling and a certain album was out in the '90s that you went and bought, hey, go buy it again. It's available on iTunes and in the record stores.
5. You have a great quote about your marketing strategy: "Old-school tactics make new-school dollars." What do you mean?
I just go by the old-school ways. It's still posters, fliers, all that. It's still getting on the phone, keeping your relationships with people that was in the industry that might have been fired at the time -where most people would just stop talking to them, I would still continue to talk to them. Going in the studio, knocking out two or three songs in one day, mixing it down in one day. Doing customized drops for radio, customized jingles.
6. You're also involved with Twitter and Tumblr. Does it ever get overwhelming?
No, it's cool, because it's in the palm of my hand. When you got an iPhone or any smartphone, you got your whole office in your hand. You can speak your mind, say a few things. [Fans can] see visuals, such as little clips of you filming yourself or me doing my Jack LaLanne Power Juicer on my little health mission. With social networking they got it easier today than we had it back in the day, but I can't complain. I'm still here and I'm still relevant.