Flash back to 2006: There's rapper E-40 holding on to his designer glasses on the cover of USA Today while explaining the Bay Area hyphy movement.
"The music makes the kids go silly, go bananas, go coconuts, go stupid," he said.
In a word, hyphy was slang for "hyperactive" coined by Bay Area rapper Keak da Sneak. In a lyric, it was the hip-hop tale of "thizzin'" at shows (taking ecstasy in clubs) and midnight car shows (aka "sideshows") — a narrative that had been building for at least a decade. In a movement, it gave underdog Nor-Cal rappers, often snubbed by commercial rap stations nationwide, the attention they finally deserved.
And on the cover of USA Today, it was proof that hyphy had gone mainstream, landing in driveways all over suburban white America.
By 2008, Bay Area alternative weeklies already were penning "The Demise of Hyphy" manifestos. Now, eight years later, even though the Hyphy Juice energy drink somehow survived, the sound is all played out.
But E-40 keeps rolling, as prolific as ever (although his "40 Water" energy drink tapped out). He was around long before hyphy, selling tapes out of his car trunk in Vallejo. And he'll be around long after its demise.
Before the 46-year-old rapper rolls through the Phoenix Theater on Saturday night, here are the Top 5 things to know about E-40:
1. Born in Vallejo, Earl Stevens grew up on Magazine Street in the tough Hillside neighborhood, hanging with onetime rappers like Mac Dre and Stevens' cousin, B-Legit. Here's how he lived it, immortalized in the song "Hillside":
<em>"Ridin through the turf, on Magazine
You know I stay strapped, with a magazine
Put it to your face, like a magazine
I stay on the case, cause I'm from Magazine."</em>
In 2006, E-40 gathered with family and friends at Beverly Hills Park in the Hillside to barbecue and shoot a segment for MTV's "My Block" series.
2. Unlike many others in Vallejo, he escaped the ghetto in the 1980s with his cousin B-Legit to study at Grambling State University in Louisiana. It wasn't the typical career prerequisite for Bay Area rappers.
But he did his homework. On his Facebook page, you can see a 1986 photo of his Grambling State dorm room, the walls plastered with Run DMC and Fat Boys posters.
One night, E-40 and B-Legit turned heads at a campus talent show. They started making a name for themselves by rapping over records and tapes at parties.
Soon, the band The Click was born as they teamed up with E-40's brother D-Shot (Danell Stevens) and sister Suga-T (Tanina Stevens). Their first album, "Down and Dirty," was recorded in 1992 at the same studio where M.C. Hammer recorded early albums.
3. The same guy who coined "Fo' shizzle" and "You feel me?" now lives in the tony Danville subdivision of Blackhawk, rubbing elbows with neighbors like Oakland Raiders running back Maurice Jones Drew and Motley Crue singer Vince Neil.
It's a journey "from the ghetto streets to executive suites," he says.
But don't think he's out of touch with the streets. He still hangs in Vallejo — "the V" — where he was spotted last month picking up a to-go order of short ribs, mac 'n' cheese and greens at House of Soul.