Editor's Note: In honor of hip-hop turning 50, ESPN tapped the culture's top voices to write about their favorite athlete name-drops in hip-hop history.
"Did it happen in one day? (Nope)/ Came a long way? (Yup)/ Never know what kind of angle (Nope)/ Crossover, break your ankle (Yup)/Sloppy with the rock? (Nope)/ Steph Curry with the shot? (Yup)" -- from E-40's "Choices (Yup) - Golden State Warriors Remix" (2015)
Among the hip-hop contingent, there isn't anyone more synonymous with sports than Vallejo, California, native Earl "E-40" Stevens is with the NBA's Golden State Warriors, MLB's San Francisco Giants and the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.
In this era, he's best known for his Warriors enthusiasm, but growing up he was a major balls and strikes fan.
Many moons before he picked up a microphone and introduced the world to his unforgettable slang and unorthodox rap style, Stevens fell in love with baseball. And apparently he had heat on the mound in his little league days playing for Vallejo's Wilson Park All-Star Team. He was a standout player on Vallejo's Hogan High Spartans baseball team as well.
Even though his sports career ended after high school, his baseball fandom continued. So did his excitement for football and basketball.
Locally and internationally known as the unofficial ambassador of the region, "Front Row 40" has been supporting his beloved Dubs since well before their recent championships. He has been a courtside fixture since 2013, and his love for the team is deep and profound.
That love, by the way, is not one-sided.
It is a routine occurrence to see Steph Curry, Draymond Green or Klay Thompson dap up 40 as he sits with his wife, Tracy, in their left baseline seats before or after games, and sometimes even during the action. Stevens even performed some of his hits, including "Tell Me When To Go" and "U and Dat" at Curry's surprise 30th birthday party as a gift to the superstar.
Even on the rare occasion that he isn't present at a game, 40's presence is felt via his voice. As one of the biggest musical acts from the area, his songs are always in heavy rotation in the Chase Center. The difference between him and other celebrities is that his fandom is organic and tangible. Simply put, he's one of us. He's not doing it for TikTok fame, nor is he appearing at games just so he can post about it on Threads.
Since releasing his solo debut, "Mr. Flamboyant," in 1991, Stevens has released a whopping 27 solo projects, in addition to a litany of group and collaboration works. Throughout his 30-plus-year career, he has remained consistent in the ways he represents the Bay Area through lyrics and visuals.
The truth is 40 hasn't always been this widely loved or acclaimed. His unorthodox style initially turned off many listeners, this writer included. According to Stevens, a lot of his lifelong fans didn't like his flow early on, but once they really listened, they couldn't get enough -- again, this writer included.
Growing up in Oakland, it was rare to see the teams I rooted for or the local artists I listened to on a national stage, so seeing E-40 sign a major record deal with Jive Records (a label that was also home to Bay Area artists Too Short, Spice 1 and Souls of Mischief) was a huge deal.
Several hits later, it is hard to imagine the local sports or music scene without him.
During the 2015 NBA playoffs, 40 flipped his 2014 hit single "Choices (Yup)" into a Warriors remix that became the soundtrack for the team's championship run. Nearly a decade later, this song still gets significant fan reaction from the crowd.
In November 2019, Stevens released another slap along with his oldest son, producer Droop-E, for his favorite football team. The super catchy "Niner Gang" was a song that he told NBC Sports Bay Area was made for "the liveliest fans in the NFL."
A consummate businessman, Stevens has always preached entrepreneurialism and financial responsibility in his lyrics (think "don't buy an $85,000 car/ before you buy a house" from his 1996 hit single "Rapper's Ball"), so it's no wonder that as his non-music portfolio expands via his many spirits brands (Earl Stevens Selections Wine, E.Cuarenta Tequila and Cerveza, among others), so has his presence on the business side of sports.
Though an argument can be made that Major League Baseball has never really appreciated hip-hop, the Giants became the exception to the rule when they partnered with Stevens in June for an E-40 VIP experience at a home game against the Chicago Cubs. Among other things, the exclusive package included a postgame drone show tribute to local hip-hop.
E-40 is an icon in the Bay Area and is vital to the community of fans who love our teams. Players come and players go, but E-40 will remain a mainstay for the Warriors, Giants and Niners.
Veteran creative Branden J. Peters has documented music, sports and pop culture for over two decades. His byline has appeared in multiple outlets, including Men's Health, XXL, Playboy, SLAM Magazine, Hoop, Vibe and Complex.