“The Ambassador of the Bay” is a hard name to live up to. Yet E-40 left no one — not even those who braved the seemingly endless, snaking line that stretching from the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union to Sather Gate — disappointed. Those that were lucky enough to get in, that is.
He and his backup performers transformed the normally quiet and subdued Pauley Ballroom into a packed nightclub throughout his thumping, hit-driven set Friday night. E-40’s persona and extensive pedigree cast towering shadows onto the walls of Pauley Ballroom — it will be a while before SUPERB returns with anyone whose personality looms quite as large.
E-40 broke out onto the rap scene in the ‘90s, where he helped pioneer the hyphy sound with rappers like Mac Dre and Keak da Sneak and, in the process, became one of the most influential names in Bay Area hip-hop. Since then, he has continued to release music of his own and with some of modern rap’s biggest names like Big Sean and Schoolboy Q.
Despite his storied career, E-40 kept his set succinct and to the point — he played the hits. The brevity of his performance was astonishing for someone with 27 studio albums to his name. The show was high energy and stayed high energy. Not a moment passed where people were not either dancing or singing along.
The crowd was there to party, and so was E-40. When a technical hiccup interrupted the fast-paced rhythm of the concert, he berated the sound technician to “get this shit right”.
The chants of his name began even before the openers made their way offstage. Walking out to blaring airhorns and the sounds of guns cocking, E-40 confidently sauntered onto what is an admittedly small stage relative to his larger-than-life personality, clad in all black, save for a heavy gold chain.
Without skipping a beat, he hopped right into “Yay Area,” sending the crowd into a frenzy. E-40 lowered the mic and held two fingers up to his temple as the chorus arrived, waiting for the crowd to echo his now decade-old track back to him. His tracks sound just as hard-hitting and timeless today as the day when they were released.
“I don’t know if you guys know this song … I’m gonna take this way back to ’93,” E-40 announced prior to diving into the West Coast G-funk synths of “Captain Save a Hoe.” His entire performance oozed the old-school swagger and bravado of West Coast hip-hop. He even treated the crowd to a couple fleeting seconds of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s iconic “The Next Episode” in between “Choices (Yup)” and “Got It.”
E-40’s West Coast roots were on full display, and he was not shy about showing appreciation for his much-beloved hometown of the Bay Area. E-40 has been representing the Bay Area for years, and Friday night’s show was the ultimate celebration of that decades-long relationship.
Though his roots date back to the West Coast, E-40 also displayed his connections to the Southern hip-hop community. “Y’all remember a group by the name of Outkast?”, he asked to the cheers of many in the audience, briefly telling the story of recording at Atlanta’s Stankonia Studios with André 3000 and Big Boi before launching into “Snap Yo Fingers,” the penultimate track of the evening. The end of the set proved to be even more high energy that what preceded it, stringing multiple together multiple chart-topping singles one after another.
E-40 chose to end his show with “I Don’t Fuck With You,” a collaboration he released with Big Sean in 2015, proving that he did not need Big Sean in the room to make the song into a straight-up banger — not that he had anything left to prove anyways. SUPERB has clearly outdone itself this semester by nabbing such a quintessentially local artist. Past artists for the annual Getting Your Bearings concert have gotten off easy — I fear for whoever has to follow E-40.
Contact Derek Fang at [email protected].