An Interview with B-Legit & E-40

Jesse Taylor speaks with E-40 and B-Legit about their history of collaboration, growing up in Vallejo, and teaching young rappers about the industry.
By    April 24, 2018

Gomez Addams and Cousin Itt. Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady. Larry and Balki. E-40 and B-Legit.

When it comes to cousin duos, E-40 and B-Legit rank amongst the most famous. Now, after over 40 years of making music together, going back to their days in 4th grade band, they have finally released their first album as a duo—Connected and Respected. The duo sounds as fresh as ever, delivering an album that satisfies the old school Mob Music fans with an evolved sound that gives a nod to the new school.

Just as it was when they were members of The Click, the maniacal rap styles of E-40 mix with the steady and forceful B-Legit cadence to create a dope sound. E-40 raps like Barry Sanders runs, zigging and zagging in and out of the beat, and somehow flourishing while cutting back and forth into places he shouldn’t even be going. B-Legit raps like Earl Campbell, putting his head down, and slowly and steadily bowling over people who get in his way of going from A to Z in a straight line.

During our conversation, I discovered they also conduct interviews in the same style, with 40 jumping in and out of the conversation with high levels of enthusiasm and energetic word play, and Bela sounding smooth and stable, patiently waiting for his turn to drop words of wisdom. We discussed their new album while covering topics ranging from the state of rap music, OGs versus youngsters, misconceived beef with Mac Dre and their relationship with fellow Vallejo rappers SOB x RBE. —Jesse Taylor

It’s been several years since either of you released a project. What caused you to finally come together as a duo after 30 years in the rap game?

B-Legit: Timing is everything. We always knew once we came together and did something, it would be something the people needed. It was perfect timing for it.

Why is that?

B-Legit: Where the game is going, it’s just time for a record like this. When music came in, it dealt with a lot of substance and content. Real life issues. Things people was going through in the neighborhood. Music was meant to help and to heal, and to kind of guide. It was game. As music went on, people tended to shy away from the healing part.

And that’s what you’re trying to do with this album?

E-40: We ain’t never not done that. From the very beginning.

B-Legit: When we first started, we got to really know our audience. We met a lot of people and they told us how our music helped raise them or get through certain things in their lives. It was always a healer. Always a helper. Today’s music got away from telling people anything. Especially the youth, which is supposed to be our future. That guidance has been lost, so we are trying to bring relevancy as elders in the music to the youth. Holler at them and give them some game like we always do. Not just be about glorying this and glorifying that. You can learn something from us and get a good feeling about it. If you listen to any music we did from “Street Life” back with The Click albums and songs like “Tired of Being Stepped On,” we was always those guys.

Did you change anything with the process of making this album compared to the old ones?

B-Legit: This was 20 years in the making. Even longer. When we was very young, he already said we was going to do this. We stopped and started a lot of this album over the last few years. This last time when we finally finished it, it just felt like the right time. As far as features, we wasn’t even really concerned about getting people on because 40 and I were the features. We had people on just to do hooks, but really wanted to concentrate on me and him, and our craft as far as going back and forth and giving it our content, which was needed.

People talk about rap being a young man’s game. You guys have each reached the age of 50. Was that any kind of barrier for you putting out this album?

B-Legit: At this point, they can’t say we are hella old and can’t do this. Some of the greatest in the world to ever do it is our age.

E-40: Age ain’t nothin’ but mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter. Ain’t no motherfucking age on game. Ain’t no motherfuckin’ rules. There ain’t no rules that say you supposed to retire from rapping.

But the amount of experience you have has to impact your music, right?

E-40: It gives us a happy medium, where it made sense to mix up today’s music and that old school feel that they expect out of us. I’ve been working on a lot of up-tempo beats for a long time. Adjusting to the new sound. But we created Mob Music. Bass line music. We wanted to show how far back we go with music. We really had a passion even though we had to make ends meet on the soil. We made our life into this music because we was already into music. We played the drums from the 4th grade on all the way through high school in the 12th grade. That’s a long time to be playing drums.

B-Legit: That’s why he chose that picture of us on the album cover with the drums. That’s a real photo. We chose it because that’s the sound that represents us. That drum beat.

E-40: We was in junior high at that time of the photo. We always dreamed of wanting to make music as kids. Make a record. And we did it. Motherfuckers from the hood became the best. The shit we talk about, and I’m not trying to be about all us, me, me, this, that and the third. It ain’t that. We tellin’ the truth bro, and real motherfuckers recognize. They know.

You said the albums been years in the making. Now that it’s out, what are you most proud of?

E-40: The feedback we’ve gotten.

B-Legit: To know that we did our job. People telling us that this album was what they’ve been needing from music. Some people want that Mob Music sound from the old school, but we also hope that they are open enough to evolve with the sound. And that’s what we did. Played our position.

From day one, the thing that stands out when you listen to a song with 40 and Bela on it is your different styles. How did you each come up with your style and how have you kept them so distinct from each other after rapping together all these years?

E-40: When me and B-Legit rap back and forth, people say it’s like Peanut Butter and Jelly. That’s what they used to call us. He’s been on every album I’ve ever made and I’ve got a good 28 official albums [editor’s note: it’s actually more]. I ain’t never did a mixtape in my life. He’s on every project I ever did.

B-Legit: That’s true.

E-40: It is, right? Every one?

B-Legit: Every one.

E-40: As far as our styles, that’s just us. I’m a character.

B-Legit: From the beginning, 40 had his sound and the way he do it, and I had my sound. I can’t rap like him…

E-40: And I can’t rap like him. Like Big Boi and Andre 3000 have different shit.

B-Legit: We are just our original selves. It just happens that we’ve been doing it for years. We feed off each other.

E-40: It’s easy too, dude. It’s easy. We work our lyrics out. We don’t just say anything. It’s always going to be a message in our music no matter what it is.

B-Legit: That’s what it’s always been—a message.

E-40: The shit that lasts the longest—the music that lasts forever—is songs like Marvin Gaye, the OJs, Curtis Mayfield, and Stevie Wonder. All these songs is forever because they was talkin’ about life.

B-Legit: Listening to our parents play those songs was a gift to us growing up. A lot of people today grew up on just beats. We actually heard music with a message to it. Marvin Gaye was bad as a mug.

They both start singing Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye songs.

E-40: And they are playing those songs again. All this shit is recycled. That’s why me and B don’t get upset when we see people using our styles. Everybody know I been a wordsmith for years. But that ain’t what makes me. What makes me is spittin’ real shit and being a deep rapper. Talkin’ about different subjects, having content, different styles, you feel me? And, of course, slang. We also came in at prime years of the independent rap game.

B-Legit: What that allowed us to do was learn the ins and outs of the game.

E-40: It worked to our advantage.

B-Legit: It helps us get to the right kind of deals.

E-40: Check this out. Take a screenshot of this in your head right quick. Right? We actually wasn’t independent by choice. It was by force. We didn’t have no other options. We had to make our own way. We ‘finna learn this shit. We got our lumps and bruises, not physically, but mentally in the game. We had to stick ourselves in there and came in with an unorthodox style of rap being from a small city with about 8 or 9 exits at the time. We was overlooked. We was the Bay underdogs.

B-Legit: Those are some emotional scars, too.

How so?

E-40: We knew we had to do it that way because it was the only option for us to go and get it. And we wanted out. We didn’t want to be in the ghetto all our life. People was supposed to be focused on Oakland, Frisco, L.A. We was just some little motherfuckers from Vallejo. Now look at all the motherfuckers that came out of Vallejo. Mac Dre, Mac Mall, E-40, B-Legit, The Click, Celly Cell, N2Deep, Baby Bash, SOB. You feel me? We rollin’ on forever. And a lot of us got Gold and Platinum Records. But now, when I go to the ‘hood, I don’t get boo’d and that’s very important. We just wanted to do right.

Why do you think it is that you don’t get boo’d?

E-40: We always been real. Our duty is just to play our position and give out life lessons. And the truth is, we’ve been doing that since we came in the game, bro. Giving life lessons in our songs. I’m tripping’, cause I’m lookin’ back at…what I say? “Never tell …”

B-Legit: “Never tell a bitch all your business, ’cause one day she might be an eyewitness.”

E-40: Yeah, little shit like that. “Don’t buy an $85,000 car before you buy a house.” We been saying this shit since we was young. Giving life lessons for years my dude.

B-Legit: It rings bells in their ears. It still stands tall until this day, because we did a concert about a week ago and everybody know that line about “Don’t buy an $85,000 car before you buy a house.” Rapping it right along with us. That registered in their heads. That’s game that they take with them.

E-40: We really from it. We was in it. We wasn’t frontin’ life. You liable to be walking down the street in Hillside where we was from and see a woman and a man arguing, “Suck my pussy, bitch!”…”Suck my dick, bitch!” In the middle of the night, two in the morning. Whole block just filled with all kinds of shit like it was a movie. Every day was an episode. Feel me?

B-Legit: You can walk outside and see it live and direct. The ‘hood was at the heart of it. Yes, it was going down.

E-40: Where it all went down. South Vallejo. We soaked up game like a tampon, like we supposed to. We was laced at an early age. So our whole music career was puttin’ up some game because we was ahead of our time.

B-Legit: Our parents, our dads, them dudes was grown men at 17 years old.

E-40: They was.

B-Legit: Me and 40, we consider ourselves being like that, too. Grown men, getting to it as far as working and doing the right thing. Hustling. We took that leadership as men at an early age. We had condos at 16 years old. Two of ’em.

E-40: We traveled. We’d fly us to L.A. We’d fly us to New York. And young ages, bro!

B-Legit: This was before the record deal. We out there. We went to Dapper Dan’s and got jackets.

E-40: We was entrepreneurs at a young age, like 18, 19 years old. B-Legit had a restaurant. Me and my brother D-Shot had a clothing store.

B-Legit: Just like that.

E-40: We built houses from the ground up when we were young teenagers. Like dude, who do that? Not some track house. The whole shit, looking over doctors’ houses and shit.

B-Legit: Real story.

E-40: That’s real shit. We teenagers and we felt like we was grown, though.

B-Legit: I think we had to. We respected everything that we accomplished because of where we came from.

E-40: Yup. We wasn’t just kids.

B-Legit: During the time that we grew up, we knew niggas that was 19 or 20 that was millionaires.

E-40: In real life!

B-Legit: Street millionaires. It was what was done. You handled things like an older man. That was cool. You young, you 19, but you ain’t into that young wild shit. You handled shit like a boss. Like a grown ass man. Get around the table and talk about it. Hash it out. Make sure everybody is good. And that’s what we was taught. We just trying to bring what we was taught to the new generation so they can be fly and cool, with no harm done.

E-40: Check this out. This is how you can tell some real organic niggas. On my social pages, I don’t get a lot of them punk motherfuckers-type comments and shit. But there is this sucker on there that come on my page every once in a while and say some shit that don’t even know what the fuck they talkin’ about. They ain’t been educated enough to know about some real shit. We call motherfuckers that ain’t woke, we call them “Game Goofy.”

B-Legit: Shit flies right over their heads.

E-40: But anyway, basically, if you go look at my comments, there gonna be a whole bunch of motherfuckers on there sayin’, “My nigga, you raised us and you didn’t even know it.”

B-Legit: Right, riiiiiight.

E-40: “Y’all music raised us.”

B-Legit: “I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. You guys raised me.” That’s what they say ‘til this day. Our concept is, you can’t talk to the youth without embracing them first. You gotta let them know you are with them. You’re not a hater. Then they look to us to help them get to where we at. That opens the dialogue between the two.

E-40: Yup.

B-Legit: Without the dialogue, that’s where the confusion and all the hate comes in.

E-40: When you fuckin’ around in the loco booth, and you popping’ your P’s on the popper stopper, you have to spit a little bit of negative shit to paint that picture to bring in the fans. If you rap, you can’t just make everything look pretty. Life is not just pretty.

B-Legit: It’s not negative. You just have to bring in the reality.

E-40: You got to put the reality first.

B-Legit: It’s real. It’s not allocated. This is stuff that’s going on. We talk about the real.

E-40: We not telling them to do it. We just paint the picture.

B-Legit: And giving some solutions on how not to be around it.

E-40: We let you know that if you choose to elect yourself into this street game, just know that this will come with it. This kind of shit. Because then you’ll know the consequences and repercussions.

B-Legit: Not everything has to do with the bottles and the clubs and the women. Not everything is always pretty.

I want to know about Vallejo. Going back to Sly Stone and Confunkshun, and then with you guys, Mac Dre, Mac Mall and new artists like SOB x RBE and HER, why do so many great musicians come from a city that’s a quarter the size of Oakland and 1/8th of San Francisco?

E-40: It’s the Mare Island water.

It’s got magic in it?

E-40: Yeah, it gots some magic in it. I’m feeling you.

B-Legit: I have to buzz in on this one. Vallejo, like Long Beach, was a military city. Meaning, the people from the south…

E-40: The state of Louisiana…

B-Legit: They migrated to Long Beach and Vallejo for military reasons. They came next door to us to the Travis Air Force Base and they came to Vallejo for the Navy. So people came from the south and resided in these little cities, and even in the Oakland Army Base.

E-40: Alameda Air Force Base. Richmond oil refinery.

B-Legit: Yeah, so people moved around these areas because of the military. At the end of the day, we ain’t nothin’ but a baby south, you know? That’s what it is. We one big family that extends from the south all the way to the Bay Area. Vallejo was the hub in the water where they got off at. We something different. It’s that water that surrounds us. You have to come across the bridge to even get to Vallejo.

E-40: Lousiana roots. Vallejo was able to get a lot of people from all over the south. Mississippi too, but mainly Louisiana, “The Boot.” So that’s what we got in us. A lot of that. And we was able to get it all from the south, and also, The Bay. You got Richmond that’s gamed up. Oakland that’s gamed up. Frisco that’s gamed up. Add Vallejo that’s gamed up and all this becomes a mixture. We all pick up little shit from each other. And with us being little street niggas we was able to see it all from every angle.

You mentioned Mac Dre earlier. You were from different sides of Vallejo that had beef when you were growing up. But then he went to prison in 1992 and you guys squashed the beef and even featured him in “One Luv.” What’s the real story about The Click and Mac Dre?

B-Legit: When he was a young mustache, Mac Dre was up under us, hanging out with us. He knew us, we knew him. Him and Little Bruce went to school together (editor’s note: Little Bruce was a local Vallejo rapper and E-40’s cousin). It wasn’t no big deal. But when all that shit jumped off with him and Little Bruce, it brought both sides into some negativity.

But when Mac Dre went to jail, things had changed drastically during those five years in terms of what we was doin’. Everybody knows that jail is a different place, so when he went in, they was giving him love because Vallejo was holding it down. Me, 40, and The Click. So when he went it, he told me it made him feel proud to be from Vallejo and be associated with us. We made Vallejo look good. So, he had a different mindset when he came out.

E-40: Yeah, definitely. You right. It was never beef with us. Everybody was like, “E-40 hate Mac Dre.” Man, I didn’t hate that youngster, man. I didn’t have nothing to do with it. It wasn’t even me. It was my cousin Little Bruce and him. Diss records is big in Vallejo. Way back then people would make diss records about each other. Rappers would go in and say anything. “Yo mama got a crooked leg. Yo daddy got a motherfucking bone in his head.” It brought us into it because it got personal. So that’s all it was.

Mac Dre was doin’ his motherfucking thang on his side of town and motherfuckers was fucking with him, and we was doin’ our thang. Even before Mac Dre went to jail, we was already on like a light switch. And we were before Mac Dre. I never had nothing personal against that man, dude. I spoke his name on records, so people wanted to make it seem like that. But we was both just doing our shit being from two different sides of town.

B-Legit: When people migrated to Vallejo, blacks only came to certain areas. The Crest, where Dre was from, was one of them and South Vallejo, where we lived, was the other.

E-40: When Mac Dre was in jail, we would talk on the phone from time to time. We had mutual friends. If you notice, when he got out, you couldn’t find one song that he tried to diss me on. And you would find not one song that I tried to diss him on. We was not on that page. Before he died, we was trying to put on a little compilation together. We were trying to do something. I can say with clear mind that I had nothing but love for that man. He never did nothin’ to me. And I never did nothin’ to him.

B-Legit: Life goes on and you mature. We even did a song together called “Game.” He was a character. We hung out in the studio. I told him, “You just need to keep being you.”

E-40: He was a character. And being from Vallejo, a lot of times, we would all have the same type of lingo. So people would sometimes be like, “Come on 40, you got that from Mac Dre.”

I didn’t know people actually thought you guys still had beef before he died. Where did that come from?

E-40: It’s these people that don’t know what they talkin’ about when they say that shit. They need to go talk to somebody who know.

B-Legit: It’s the internet trollers who be on there talkin’ that shit.

It’s not that hard to figure out. I mean, you did “Dredio” with Dre and Mall not long before he died. “On My Toes” and the line, “Not with The Click shit” was on his first album back in 1993.

E-40: And that’s okay, ’cause we said that shit, too. When he said that line, I laughed at that shit. And he laughed when I said it. We from Vallejo; that’s what we do. From the time he went to jail and after that, we was cool and respected each other. We wasn’t all best friends and buddy buddy. But we were grown men and not on that stupid shit.

What about the new guys coming out of Vallejo? SOB x RBE. Do you have a relationship with them?

E-40: We know their families; grew up with them. Them dudes is doin’ their thang. We just embraced them. And they listened. They young, super young, but they got game about themselves. I take my hat off to them youngsters. Those are some youngsters that listen.

B-Legit: I commend them too, because they didn’t rush to go get a deal either. They played like how we did out of Vallejo. We got our own selves hot.

E-40: That’s a great look for the city. Them dudes making plays all over. They are stars now, but they are on their way to being future global stars. Very soon. Real talk.

What about other’s in the rap game today? Being around for 30 years, what’s different from when you were coming up?

B-Legit: We come to realize music is a big recycling factory. You can’t say nothing that we haven’t already said.

E-40: Everything rappers are talking about now is recycled. Nine times out of ten it’s recycled. We already did it. We talked about the plug, and scoring and all that. And we said it on major records. Like Platinum and Gold records. So you can’t say you never heard our shit. History repeats itself every 20 years and we been in this shit for 30 years. You can’t fault the youngsters. They don’t know. Just like the word “broccoli.” I made that shit up in 1993. Me and Studio Tone. It was on a record that was very impactful. That was on the same record as “Captain Save a Ho.”

B-Legit: When we came in the game, we recognized and paid homage to those who came before us. When we did interviews, we’d bring up people like Just Ice, KRS-One and give the people they props.

E-40: These motherfuckers acting like they made shit up. Nigga you ain’t make shit up, it’s already been big youngster.

B-Legit: Somebody had to hold that door open for you.

E-40: Yeah!

B-Legit: Shit can lead to your demise in more ways than one.

E-40: To the youngsters’ defense, we blame it on the OGs too.

B-Legit: Right!

E-40: Where the Uncles and the OGs in the ‘hood? These youngsters don’t know. But they wanna know. I’ll fuck with the youth. I blame a lot of these old rappers for not fucking with them. Instead of getting mad at them, man, teach them motherfuckers the right way. Sit down and give them some game. Embrace them. They wanna hear from an OG. They wanna know. If they don’t know, they ain’t gonna never learn.

B-Legit: Right now, the youngsters want to have that second dad. They want to have somebody. Sometimes they get out there and start acting crazy, especially these trolls on the internet. If you are an elder and you have gotten to this age, then you know it ain’t cool to be doing like that. If the youngsters keep acting like that, they won’t even make it to be an OG, so if you want to learn how to be an OG you need to talk the OG and let them holler at you.

E-40: And the OGs need to talk to them too! OGs can’t just say, “Fuck this lil’ young nigga!” Nah, man, it’s gotta be a happy medium. ‘Cause what I see when I talk to the youngsters, every time I have a sit down with them, they say, “Unc, game me up.” They love it when I wake their game up.

B-Legit: Right. The elders, too. You can’t assume that these niggas already know what you know. Because you’ve been around and they haven’t. Youngsters can start to talkin’ like they do, especially if they get a little clout and can talk to anybody any kind of way and be crazy. Then it’s more about making enemies then keeping the peace and being friends. That’s not what hip-hop was meant to be about. We’re just trying to get back on track, you know?

E-40: We was real students of the game when we was young mustaches. You feel me? We paid attention to our OGs. We wanted to hear from ’em.

B-Legit: And respected ’em.

E-40: And still respect them.

B-Legit: You would be able to put out a lot of fires, a lot of stuff would get squashed, with just a phone call. So when people stop talking and have these battles over the internet, it don’t make no sense. It’s like peer pressure. You done talked your way into something that can be detrimental to your health and be detrimental to hip-hop. We just want to calm it down and get back to business, that’s all.

What are some of the things you talk to the younger generation about?

E-40: Stay motivated and be innovative. Try to do what everybody else don’t do. Make your owns trends up. Do what’s in your envelope. Don’t do nothin’ that’s way out of your jurisdiction that’s going to look silly. If you gonna be a follower, follow the right leader. Don’t do something that you’re going to have to look back at in the future and say, “Damn, I can’t believe I did that ol’ goofy ass shit.” And this ain’t dissin’ nobody. I got nothin’ but love for the youngsters. Shit, I look back at how big my clothes used to be back in the day and I’m like, “Damn, those pants was too fuckin’ big.” These youngsters are woke, too. There’s some crispy, polished youngsters out there that’s woke.

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