This weekend, E-40 and Too Short are set to participate in a Verzuz matchup that will bring the two iconic Bay Area rappers together for a night of celebration, nostalgia, and great new music. In honor of the occasion, they just released a double album on Friday, featuring new songs that will undoubtedly be played during the battle. And to think, at first, the matchup wasn’t going to happen at all.
Over a Zoom call from his studio, while getting prepared for the big day, Too Short tells Complex that fans have been asking for this particular battle on social media since Verzuz kicked off earlier this year, but both he and E-40 were hesitant to actually do it. “Every time that someone mentioned the possibility to me, I’m like, ‘I’m really not into that whole trying to prove that I had a dope career and battle someone else,’” Too Short says. “There’s no satisfaction in that for me, trying to brag and get a pat on the back.”
E-40, who is also in full preparation mode for Saturday, says he wasn’t initially trying to get involved either. “I feel like battling ain’t never been me,” he says. “I ain’t never been a freestyler, I’m just a game-spitter.”
But after the two rappers, who are longtime friends, had a conversation with each other, they began to understand the potential for what the moment could become: an opportunity for the Bay Area to get well-deserved recognition for its contributions to hip-hop history.
“When I ran it past Short, we decided, ‘You know what? Let’s just do this shit man,” E-40 says. “Swizz Beatz really talked us into it and we realized it was the right thing to do. We’re both so juiced now.”
“It’s putting an eye on the Bay. We never get our shine like we should, and this is a great opportunity.”
It’s impossible to understate what Too Short and E-40 mean to Bay Area rap. At 54 years old, Too Short has been active as a rapper for five decades now, first signing with Jive Records in 1987 and releasing Born to Mack that same year. Since then, he has released dozens of projects (including a joint album, History: Mob Music, with E-40 in 2012), establishing himself as a prolific legend who will forever be an important part of hip-hop history. Over the years, he’s worked with a long list of icons, including Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and Snoop Dogg. And in 2006, at 40 years old, he did the unthinkable by releasing one of his biggest songs, “Blow The Whistle,” a twerking anthem that proved his staying power in hip-hop as a veteran.
E-40 released his first major label solo album, In a Major Way, in 1995, and across an extensive catalog, the 53-year-old rapper has been able to put on for the Bay Area and popularize influential movements along the way. He’s recorded hit records like 2006’s “U and Dat” with T-Pain and “Tell Me When To Go,” and was an instrumental figure in the Bay Area’s hyphy movement.
On Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET, their two legacies will come together in the same arena to showcase to the world the “awakening” that E-40 believes is due. “Sometimes you get who we call game goofy,” E-40 says. “Not gang goofy, but game goofy. Internet, computer tough guys who just say, ‘I ain’t heard one song from E-40,’ or, ‘I only heard one song in my whole life from him.’ Well, that’s cool. But when you hear us get down, you’re going to know you’ve heard way more than what you think you’ve heard, good buddy. So it’s going to prove to a lot of people that I've got hit records, as well as Short. We’ve both got them, and it's a win-win for the Bay.
“No matter how it comes out, no matter who they think got the most hits or whatever, it's still a win-win,” he continues. “It’s putting an eye on the Bay. We never get our shine like we should, and this is a great opportunity, so I appreciate Swizz Beatz and Timbaland and Larry Jackson and everybody over at Verzuz for including us.”
It’s a celebration and all, but Too Short says he’s playing to win. “We kind of have a clear-cut friendship and a clear-cut competition going at all times,” he says. “This is not going to be any different. It’s still like, as much as that's my boy—and we’re going to laugh before, during, and after—we’re still trying to show up and shine and make this look good for the Bay and for our individual selves.
“I know 40,” he continues, laughing. “And I know he went and got something super spectacular to show up with. I don’t know what it's going to be, but it’s always something. I know he’s a showman, so it’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to put on a show for you guys. And don’t think that it’s super friendly on the competitive side, because it’s hard to be non-competitive for guys like us.”
“When you hear us get down, you’re going to know you’ve heard way more than what you think you’ve heard, good buddy.” - E-40
The duo have achieved a first in Verzuz history: they’ve released a bundle album of new music together on the day before the battle: Too Short’s Ain’t Gone Do It and E-40’s Terms and Conditions, packaged as a double album.
These projects were already in the works long before the battle came together, but as they got closer to the Verzuz match actually happening, Short and E-40 realized that their albums would benefit from coming out together.
“It was something that kind of just found its way into reality because we were both preparing to release something close to Verzuz, not knowing what the other one was doing at the time,” Short explains. “Then when we finally mentioned it out loud, it was like, ‘OK, that’s cool. I’m dropping something too.” Then we talked about it a few times and someone in our circle mentioned that we should just make it so that both albums come out together. It just started sounding good.”
“When I thought about it, I realized that we hadn’t had a dual album out in a long time,” E-40 adds. “So we put it up in a bundle and he’s on two songs of mine, and I’m on two songs on his.”
Listening to the recently-released “Triple Gold Sox” single, it’s clear that Too Short and E-40 haven’t missed a step. They’re still tackling fresh beats centered around their particular aesthetics. And as they’ve always done, especially in the later stages of their careers, they’re collaborating with younger artists across generations.
E-40, who connected with G-Eazy and Larry June on Terms and Conditions, says he loves working with younger artists because it helps him stay in the know and gives him the opportunity to teach them something. “I think that youngsters need OGs and OGs need youngsters,” he says. “When I was a youngster, I looked up to the OGs. I want to hear what game they’ve got for me, and I want to hear some of their experiences: some of their wins and losses. I always have, especially in the Bay Area, embraced the youngsters. Those who rock with us, we rock with them. When we see an artist out there working and showing that he wants to be the next guy, we come in with some assistance, and they assist us, keeping us relevant as well.”
Too Short feels the same way. “It’s just the look, the new sounds, the words, and the slang that I’m trying to learn,” he says. “It's just kind of keeping that ear to the street and to the youth and not trying to perpetually be young forever. But just be in tune, and actually not be deaf, dumb, and blind to where your genre is headed.”
“I always have, especially in the Bay Area, embraced the youngsters. Those who rock with us, we rock with them.” - E-40
Guapdad 4000 is featured on Too Short’s new album, and their experience recording the song reflects why the hip-hop legend loves working with new artists. “I asked him to get on a song and he told me, flat-out, ‘I'm not even going to front, I like the concept but I don't like the beat.’ That's the part where you either get together and make a dope song, or you consider yourself offended and go, ‘How dare you say you don't like my song?’ But I’m not that guy.
“I’m like, ‘You should pull up to the studio and let’s flip the song and make it better,’” Short continues. “We actually sat in the studio and made the song better. Then the vibe was so good, we just went on and made another song, and that came out even better. That’s a song that’s coming out in the future that we did that same day. Him being a part of crafting that new version of the song was a dope experience. I’m glad I took advice from a young homie, and on the same day, he got a lot of advice from me, too. It’s not the elders always schooling the youngsters. That’s not the scenario. Every time I work with younger artists, I always give and take.”
Both veteran rappers want to make statements with their new albums. For Short, it’s that hip-hop is timeless. “Even at my age, which is 54 going on 55, not one single person who participates in the industry of hip-hop music is allowed to tell me what I can and cannot do,” he says. “You can’t tell me that I can’t be a 30-year old rapper, because they told me that was old school back in the day. You can’t tell me that I can’t be 55 years old and make a hot record. You can’t tell me that. I’m just making sure that the next guy, the next fan, and the next person who's in the next argument about hip-hop can use me as a reference when the subject comes up about limitations.”
For E-40, that statement is making sure people understand the rules of the game. “With Terms and Conditions, I’m gaming them up,” he says. “When you read the terms and conditions on a package, on a box, or a bottle, you’re looking at small letters through a magnifying glass and people don’t understand what it is. Sometimes it can go over their heads. So I try to explain it and slow down my spitting so a lot of cats can understand that.”
“You can’t tell me that I can’t be 55 years old and make a hot record. You can’t tell me that.” - Too Short
There’s a lot to be excited about right now, with the albums out now and the Verzuz match set to kick off tomorrow. “I think it’s going to be a live celebration of our music and how much it’s giving to the generation,” Too Short says. “It’s education in a sense. It’s fun at the same time, and everyone benefits.”
“I’m ready to just have a good time with my friend, my partner, Too Short,” E-40 adds. “I’m hoping we put smiles on our fans' faces, and hopefully, those who are not fans will become fans. And if not, so be it, that's fine, but at least acknowledge our body of work and our history. That's all I ask of them.”