Monday, October 19, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Mic Crenshaw Is Larger than Lifeby Graham Barey
If you were asked to picture in your mind's eye the quintessential rapper, it's likely you would conjure something similar to the image on Mic Crenshaw's driver's license. Crenshaw cuts a John Henry-esque profile—massive, black, tattooed—and further comparison to that tall-tale hero is not entirely inappropriate. Mic Crenshaw is a pretty mythic character, and this month he releases a pretty mythic album,Thinking Out Loud.
To get an idea of the importance of Mic Crenshaw to the Portland rap scene over the last 15 years, picture the first caveman rubbing two sticks together to create a spark. The term "pillar of the community" is not one that should be thrown around lightly, and Crenshaw embodies it with numerous creative and scene-building efforts that span genres and musical styles. Crenshaw was making dope tracks long before other Portland rappers were born, much less forming complete sentences.
Crenshaw relocated to Portland from Minneapolis in 1992. At the time, he was moving away from a job as a high school teacher of, among other things, political consciousness in black music—a job he had begun immediately after his own high school graduation. But the transition out west was something of an exodus. In leaving Minneapolis, Crenshaw was vacating a dangerous scene he had inhabited for many years as an organizer in that city's violent, underground struggle against white supremacist gangs. Even though he was qualified to pass on knowledge in a formalized classroom setting, he had never escaped the realities of that turbulent life. Of his move to Portland, Crenshaw says, "I wanted something new. [At the time] my ties with the streets were still pretty strong, and my social life involved drinking and fighting. I was ready for a change."
Change came in the form of new surroundings and a new job in garden landscaping. In that creatively devoid business, Crenshaw had to find outside means to stimulate himself intellectually. It was then that he got involved in slam poetry, and later, rap. "I needed an outlet. I knew that I could write and perform." Crenshaw adds, "I had a lot of things to say."
That comment right there could go down in history as one of the greatest understatements ever spoken, right up with "George W. Bush was a shitty president" and "doughnuts are tasty." Crenshaw's creative output has been astonishingly prolific: Since 1992 he has been part of a half-dozen bands, and released more albums than can easily be counted. While it may seem like Crenshaw was spreading himself thin over too many "side projects," the truth is that he needed each of the groups just to keep up with his nonstop output. "I was putting out more than any one group could absorb," he says.
Throughout the years—fraught as they were with musical endeavors—Crenshaw never fully released a record with a traditional hiphop sound. "All the music I did was appealing to different audiences," he says. "It was a little eclectic. I got tired of putting on a CD of my stuff with friends and having them not feel it as much as I wanted them to." In an epiphany more than a decade in the making, Crenshaw realized that he had to make Thinking Out Loud—something that would provide listeners with a clear understanding of who he was as a person and artist, but also be palatable to a diverse audience.
The record is an unqualified success. On it, Crenshaw makes a powerful case to be known as the best emcee to call Portland his home. He speaks with an earnest, poetic voice with smooth flow from start to finish. Starting out with a lyrically top-notch throwback party cut, "MC Duz It," the majority of Thinking Out Loud strides in deeper conceptual waters. Crenshaw has been characterized throughout his career as a "political" or "conscious" emcee—a mantle he is not entirely comfortable with—and this album does little to change that impression. However, the content comes from an honest and unpretentious place in Crenshaw's character. "I don't want people to think this is not who I am," he says. "I'm not making this up. When I put pen to paper it's what comes out."
Talking to Crenshaw about his philosophy and political beliefs, it's easy to see why his creative content is so charged. His current efforts for global change and advancement of people include helping to facilitate the growth and expansion of a nonprofit organization he co-founded in 2007, Global Family. Through it, computers are sent to youth organizations in Burundi and to Iraqi refugees in Amman, Jordan. It is a growing concern that has enlisted the help of fellow politically minded hiphop artists like Immortal Technique and Dead Prez.
As an artist, Crenshaw is still fighting an uphill battle for recognition. The pursuit of his musical passion is just one more chapter in a life in which Crenshaw has tried to follow his heart over security and safety, tried to do what he feels is right and fulfill his potential as a person. With his life story it's not hard to imagine that in 100 years people will be telling tall tales about him—indeed, even an honest account of the man makes a pretty great story already.
Hip-Hop festival growing beyond Portland
October 05, 2009, 2:09PM
The theme of unity has long run through hip-hop culture. Whether it wasAfrika Bambaataa bringing South Bronx breakdancers, graffiti artists and musicians together to keep them off the streets, Queen Latifah bridging the gender gap by singing a song of the same name or Ice-T trying to break down barriers between street gangs in Los Angeles, a central tenet of the music is bringing people together.
When the Portland, Ore., Hip-Hop Festival, or POH-Hop as it's known to organizers and fans, kicks off its 11th year Wednesday night, bringing together more than 50 acts over four nights, it should be no surprise to find it uniting not just Portland artists, but MCs and DJs from up and down the West Coast. Of the four headlining acts, Zion I and E-40 hail from the San Francisco Bay Area, Grayskul calls Seattle home, and Focused Noise Productions -- featuring acts such as Animal Farm and Mic Crenshaw -- represent the hometown.
For many familiar with the festival, Portland rapper Cool Nutz is the hometown. As a performer and organizer of POH-Hop since its inception, he's helped to put Portland on the hip-hop map in terms of recognition while also acting as a pillar of the infrastructure. He often hosts or opens rap concerts around the city, and helps bind together the scene that stages them.
We sat down with Cool Nutz and fellow event organizer Anthony Sanchez to discuss what else keeps them coming back year after year, what's unique about the Portland scene and what it means to stage an event such as POH-Hop in a predominantly white city.
Q: Give me an idea of the variety of artists and styles showcased this year.
Anthony Sanchez: There's something every night for every hip-hop lover. The first five acts each night get pretty much 15-minute sets, so you can get a little taste of everybody. And these are guys that do shows professionally, playing on weekends, touring, making money. So, for them to come out and do what they do -- three or four songs on a night like this -- is big. From act to act, you're going to get, across the board, every genre of hip-hop.
Q: I assume some of the artists will haveDAT (Digital Audio Tape) backing, while others will have DJs with turntables. Will there be acts with live instruments?
AS: Zion I will have a live band. There's another band, Quixotic, they're a live band -- DJ, drummer, guitar player. He does a lot of MPC (Media Player Classic, a device holding an arsenal of beats, vocal samples and tonal snippets).
Cool Nutz: Mic Crenshaw might. Last night he played with a two-piece.
AS: For the most part, it will be DJ backup. If they don't have their own DJ,DJ Fatboy will be DJing. He loves hip-hop so much and plays hip-hop across the board so much that he'll just get behind anybody and scratch.
Q: How small or big of a scene is hip-hop here in Portland?
CN: I think it's both. Portland's not like a New York or an L.A., so it's not industrialized. The people who are doing this, you kind of have to know them. So, even as the city grows, you still have to be aware of the overall community -- of who's doing what, who's running shows, who actually draws people. It's close-knit, but it's still growing. POH-Hop started with two nights. Now we're on to four nights. You'd need five or six night to get everybody in.
AS: I think we're in a really interesting time in terms of hip-hop in the Northwest in general. With the city getting a little bit bigger and Seattle getting a little bit bigger, the scene is blowing up a bit more. There's so many venues here in Portland. There's constantly places for people to play, but you have to make the most of it. Putting on POH-Hop is a fun thing to do because we get to bring so many different genres together, and that's what we're trying to do.
The scene's so spread out right now that we want to bring people together. Seattle's got a little bit tighter scene, and we want to do what all the bigger cities have. We want to organize it a little bit.
Q: The headliners pan from Seattle to the Bay Area. The event seems to spotlight not just local artists but the whole West Coast scene. Is that the case?
CN: The key is that when we started it, it started as being just about Portland. As it grows, it becomes more the Portland, Ore. Hip-Hop Festival. So, it encompasses a lot of the elements of what's happening in Portland, but also recognizes hip-hop overall, and not just on a regional basis. It has the possibility to grow to be something where artists in New York or Florida or wherever are like, “Yo, I want to play POH-Hop,” and we start getting calls and we're not having to reach out to people. That's the direction we're trying to go with it. When you think about it, you have the anchor groups each night, but all the support are Portland groups.
AS: Ideally, we'd like to make it Austin City Limits, North By Northwest (now Musicfest NW). Last year we had One Below out of Michigan.
CN: In POH-Hop's past, we've had Michael Franti and Spearhead, the Luniz, Mac Dre,Ras Kass, Andre Nickatina, Mistah Fab.
AS: A lot of the cats that we have locally are doing stuff across the states. We haveSleep as a support act to the Grayskul night. He's toured across the country. Sage Francis just signed him to his label. To get these cats on the bill that people pay $10 to go out and see -- they're going to get to see 10 acts on a night for $10.
Q: What does POH-Hop mean in a city like Portland, that's as white as it is?
CN: One of the beauties of that is that living here gives us the opportunity -- with the whole lack of what people might say is culture -- it gives us the opportunity to cross-connect with the rock scene. You have to work with Willamette Week, you have to work with the Mercury, you have to work with The Oregonian. You have to be able to build certain business aspects, certain qualities, to be successful out here on an independent level because it's not a hip-hop hot bed.
It forces you to get a better understanding of networking and being in the right places. I can't just go to hip-hop shows andMusicfest NW. I need to go check out these jazz shows or rock shows or whatever. You have to build a relationship with a Casey Jarman or a Luciana Lopez or a Marty Hughley. A lot of the times, somebody like Marty admitted that he wasn't a huge hip-hop head, but he made an attempt to reach out. At the same time, it put me in a position where I had to also relate to his position or his angle. I had to make it digestible to somebody like him.
That gives you the ability to go anywhere, to talk to The Source and then talk to Marty Hughley and then go talk to someone in Salem that might not have a clear understanding.
AS: Musically, the Northwest is known for music that came out 15 years ago. We're known as a grunge rock scene, and that's what we still get identified as. It's like, let's pick that up and make it a little bit fresher. Over the last five, 10 years, the indie rock scene with Kill Rock Stars and all these other labels coming up, it seems like the hip-hop keeps getting passed up, although we have huge quality, amazing hip-hop coming out of the Northwest.
You can go to the East Coast, and they know we have something different coming out of here. All these areas have their own style coming out. I think Portland's a lot harder to put your thumb on.
One of the things we're trying to teach a lot of the artists with POH-Hop is how to approach venues, how to get more shows, how to be more professional. You want to get on POH-Hop, then do the right things to get on POH-Hop. Then you're going to know the right things to do for your next show. You're going to know how to book shows. You're going to know how to book promoters. You're going to know how to go to Berbati's Pan and talk to Matt King, who's probably not the biggest hip-hop lover, but you have to go to rock venues to get shows. That's definitely one of the things we're trying to do with POH-Hop is teach young cats how to get it done.
Q: In a town like New York or L.A., the shadow of history looms over you. Do you feel that Portland is a bit more of a blank slate in terms of creating rap music?
CN: That's definitely a benefit. People always ask me, “Why don't you move?” Living here gives you the opportunity, for one, to hone your skills and, for two, to play a lot of live shows, to release projects and be around a lot of independent-minded people, not only in the hip-hop world, but in the indie rock world. When I go out of town, people are like, “Oh, Cool Nutz, or Lifesavas.” It gives us an opportunity to have our own calling card. When I lived in L.A., you're one of 2,000 MCs trying to make it. To come from here and have my resume built, I can go to New York or Miami and carry that Portland flag.
Friday, October 2, 2009
how are you doing Kenny?I reached out to you a while ago about possibly working with you in regards to the POH-Hop.I am yet to hear back from you regarding your possible support of the event.I was hoping that you would see the direction that we are going this year with the festival and be willing to support the event.hopefully you have simply been busy and haven't been able to get back to us.the POH-Hop is shaping up to be great this year, and it would be great to have the support of Fresh Selects on this years event.get back to me when you have a chance my friend.
so i wouldn't feel comfortable with having my brand being associated too heavily with the event
Monday, September 28, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Hailing from two different regions, and approaching the music with from two different perspectives, emcee Luck-One and producer Dekk come together seamlessly to put forth what will be the debut project for them both on the short length album entitled Beautiful Music, a non-profit offering set to raise awareness about the plight of those in Haiti, the western hemisphere’s poorest nation.
Introduced through a mutual acquaintance in late summer of ’08, just weeks after Luck was released from serving over half a decade in Oregon prisons, Luck and Dekk, a University of Oregon graduate who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, began their relationship discussing hip-hop and the direction it was to take in the new millennium. Soon, Luck was making bi-weekly Greyhound trips down to Dekk’s in home studio in Salem, and those discussions would slowly become the foundation of their stellar debut, completed less than five months from their first conversation.
Beautiful Music is daring, yet cohesive. Awe inspiring in it’s ability to push the envelope with Dekk’s often eclectic production, while at the same time remain undeniably hip-hop through Luck-One’s true school lyricism, this is an album that is sure to please. Throughout, Luck’s gripping rhyme schemes are flawlessly interwoven with Dekk’s irrefutably next-level soundscapes, drenched in his signature synth-heavy sound, and backed by the sparse drum patterns that add to the tracks without taking away from the urgent messages that frame them.
The lead track 80’s Back, is a pulsing ode to a time that seemed more simple, while The Coolax is a mellow head nodder loosely framed around the concept of different art forms and their interconnectedness. Prince wit’ A Thousand’s rugged guitar riffs give Luck the breathing room necessary to prove that he is an MCs’ MC as he adroitly bobs and weaves through a staccato drum pattern, oozing hip-hop swagger and undeniable charisma.
9/18/09 – 8pm
Live From ’85 Fashion Show and Race For the Cure Benefit @ Report Lounge
9/19/09 - 10pm
Music Fest NW @ The Someday Lounge W/ Josh Martinez and IAME of the Sandpeople
9/23/09 - 12 Noon
Conscious Thought Tour ’09 @ Miami-Dade College w/ Gen.Erik of Animal Farm
9/23/09 - 10pm
Conscious Thought Tour ’09 @ Jazzid w/ Gen. Erik of Animal Farm
9/28/09 - 8pm
Under Rated Favorites tour @ Triangle Inn w/ My-G, Diezel P. and Bad Habitat
9/29/09 - 8pm
Under Rated Favorites tour @ John Henry’s w/ My-G, Diezel P. and Bad Habitat
9/30/09 - 8pm
Under Rated Favorites tour @ Bip Saloon w/ My-G, Diezel P. and Bad Habitat
10/01/09 - 8pm
Under Rated Favorites tour @ The Royal w/ My-G, Diezel P. and Bad Habitat
10/03/09 - 8pm
The Dalles, OR
Under Rated Favorites tour @ The Dam w/ My-G, Diezel P. and Bad Habitat
10/08/09 – 8pm
POH-Hop @ The Backspace w/ The Jacka, Zion I and Braille
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Focused Noise Productions
Focused Noise is the home of Animal Farm, Line of Fire (formerly Cleveland Steamers), Serge Severe, and Mic Crenshaw.
Focused Noise Productions was founded in 2001 in Los Angeles by Erik Abel (Gen.Erik from Animal Farm) and Cale Bunker, when they released Gen.Erik’s Seven Deadly Songs EP, with DJ Aero from Methods of Mayhem. In 2006, Gen.Erik and DJ Aero joined Mic Crenshaw, a Portland , Oregon poetry slam champion and national finalist, to form Cleveland Steamers, and released Treasure Chest, which was praised by Okayplayer, Hiphopdx.com, Rapreviews.com, and many more publications. Two years later, Focused Noise released a mixtape hosted by Boom Bap Project’s Nightclubber Lang, as well as three highly acclaimed albums, including Animal Farm’s The Unknown, Mic Crenshaw’s Thinking out Loud, and Serge Severe’s Concrete Techniques, all of which were applauded in URB Magazine’s Next 1000 Column.
Animal Farm’s The Unknown features the legendary KRS-One and peaked at #3 on the CMJ College Radio Hip-Hop Charts, where the album remained in the Top 10 for seven straight weeks. The group has also developed a large regional following after performing live throughout the United States with the likes of Common, Method Man and Redman, GZA, RZA, N.E.R.D., KRS-One, The Cool Kids, The Game, and at CMJ Music Marathon. Mic Crenshaw’s first solo album, Thinking out Loud, features Stic.Man from Dead Prez and peaked at #4 on the CMJ College Radio Hip-Hop Charts. Crenshaw has also shared stages with the legendary Fugees, Ice Cube, Outkast, Wu-Tang Clan, among many others. Serge Severe's album, Concrete Techniques has been received with great praise from fans and reviewers alike, and was named as one of the top Albums in 2008 by Rapreviews.com and Hiphoplingustics.com.
Thursday Oct. 8th, 2009-The Backspace(All Ages)
Ten years after the release of their debut single, Oakland hip-hop duo Zion I return with The TakeOver, a filler-free new mix of jabs, roundhouses and uppercuts that continue their streak as one of hip-hop’s most diverse groups.
For TakeOver, which features guest spots by Houston legend Devin the Dude, UK emcee Ty and Rhymesayers’ Brother Ali, producer AmpLive and emcee Zumbi incorporate the best parts of their live show—perfected through nonstop touring—and bring that vibe to the studio.
“Zion I has a reputation of being very spiritual and serious,” notes Zumbi. “I think The TakeOver is a lot more fun than our past records. We still touch on serious subject matter, but this album shows the other sides of our personality.”
Over the course of five LPs and numerous EPs and mixtapes, the group has proven to be a welcome enigma in hip-hop. Lyrically, Zumbi runs the gamut on a range of issues both serious and frivolous, discussing problems and pleasures both spiritual and worldly. Throughout, his fanbase keeps coming back for his smooth delivery and ability to raise issues without sounding didactic. Musically, Amp draws from both the usual (funk, soul) and esoteric (house, drum n bass) to create soundscapes that work as well on an electronic music mixtape as it does hip-hop. An accomplished remixer as well, Amp has remixed everyone from Linkin Park to MGMT, and most recently released Rainydayz Remixes based on Radiohead’s In Rainbows. Every production and remix, though, always brings it back to his main job in Zion I. “I started using way more effects on this album,” says Amp. “So I was able to bring in more elements that I’ve been using for some of the dance and indie rock stuff.”
Despite living a few miles from each other, technology facilitated the making of TakeOver, as the duo would e-mail verses and beats back and forth, with each member continually making notes and suggestions on both parts of the song. This fully collaborative effort ensured that both Amp and Zumbi would have a say in the final product during the entire production process. “Our songs go through many different styles and iterations,” admits Amp. ““Caged Bird,” for example went from an Electro R&B joint to a drum n bass track to its current version [as a soul-inflected, string-laden beat].”
While the final work is still Zumbi and Amplive, the two are quick to point out how their writing process has changed this time out. “We have an inner core of people who we let listen to the album in different stages and got feedback on what they liked,” says Zumbi. “On other albums, it was generally us just making whatever we wanted and then they’d just say what songs they like. Our skin is thick enough and we’re honest enough with ourselves that we can take criticism.”
This new method of recording was essential to the finished product, but the group always has a definite idea in mind, looking at their tracks as fans as much as musicians. “We try to make music that falls into a crack and fills a void for us as fans of music,” says Zumbi. “We discuss what we want the album to feel like and then we just let the unconsciousness take over and let things go. We just allow that process to take on its own life.”
From the electro-rap homage “DJ DJ” to the spacey futuristic synths of “Antenna,” The TakeOver encapsulates the diversity and versatility that have made Zion I Bay Area stalwarts for over a decade. As with any Zion I album, there’ll never be any compromise away from deep thought, but as anyone who’s seen the pair live knows, that means nothing if the crowd ain’t entertained. One listen to the album, and you’ll know The TakeOver may be the most appropriate title of the year.
Friday Oct. 9th, 2009-Slabtown(21&Over)
Don't take Grayskul's sometimes dark, mystical aesthetic the wrong way--MCs Onry Ozzborn and JFK aren't trying to be Goth or ghoulish. "We never go into anything like 'oohh, let's be eeevil on this one. We're gonna get 'em!' It just comes how it comes," explains Onry.
Born out of the Pacific Northwest's Oldominion hip-hop collective, Grayskul emerged as a group in 2004 touring with Rhymesayers artists Eyedea and Abilities. And they made quite an impression as the opening act. In addition to holding an unrelenting energy, Grayskul brought to the stage their animated bassist Rob Castro, a television with no signal, and alien dummies propped atop their shoulders.
With their 2005 Rhymesayers debut, Deadlivers, this Seattle group kept the uncommon visuals coming in the form of imaginative storytelling. Going by the alter egos Fiddleback Recluse (JFK), Reason (Onry Ozzborn), and Phantom Ghost El Topo (Rob Castro), Grayskul conquered corrupt MCs and societal ills utilizing razor-sharp raps and electrifying boom-bap beats (from Onry, Fakts One, Oldomion's Mr. Hill and others).
Despite the comic book-like theme of the album, Onry clarifies how real the record actually is: "Deadlivers was taken by most as this dark, superhero journey through this crazy made up world of MCing, when in actuality, it was what MCs go through today in real life situations."
Not wanting to repeat themselves in the slightest, Onry and JFK are taking a more conceptual approach with their new album, Bloody Radio, which features Slug, Cage, Pigeon John, Aesop Rock, and vocalist Andrea Zollo. Produced by their Oldominion brethren (Mr. Hill, Smoke, Coley Cole, The Gigantics) and other Pacific Northwest reps (Sapient, Bean One), this release is an experiment in reconstructing the many sub-genres of hip-hop today and throwing them back in the face of those who insist on dividing the culture.
"Haunted" is an eerie synth-driven track that brings some Lil Jon-esque crunk down to a subterraneous level while "How To Load A Tech" with Cage is a curious dissection of hardcore, gun-happy hip-hop. And if you ever wondered what Onry and JFK would sound like flowing in the ever popular double-time style, look no further than the bubbly lead single "Scarecrow."
Reflecting on the concept of Bloody Radio, Onry says, "Back in the day, it used to just be categorized as 'hip-hop'--nowadays there's crunk, screwed, emo, gangsta, underground, club, horrorcore, etc. We basically look at our new album as reversal brainwash--hip-hop music somewhat sounding like all these genres, but interwoven with message, substance, concepts, wittiness, opinion, and most of all, honesty while still maintaining a sense of humor, imagination, and originality. Bloody Radio has something for everybody."
Saturday Oct. 10th-The Roseland(All Ages)
Synonymous with Bay Area rap, E-40 garnered a regional following, and eventually a national one, with his flamboyant raps, while his entrepreneurial spirit, embodied by his homegrown record label, Sick Wid' It Records, did much to cultivate a flourishing rap scene to the east of San Francisco Bay, in communities such as Oakland and his native Vallejo. Along with Too Short,Spice 1, and Ant Banks, E-40 was among the first Bay Area rappers to sign a major-label deal, penning a deal with Jive Records in 1994, after years of releasing music independently, going back as far as 1990, when Sick Wid' It released Let's Side, a four-track EP by the Click, a group comprised of E-40, his cousin B-Legit, his brother D-Shot, and his sister Suga T. Throughout the '90s and into the early 2000s, E-40 and his Sick Wid' It associates released a series of albums on Jive, and though they weren't big sellers nationally, they were well received regionally and proved highly influential, on not only the West Coast but also in the South, thanks in part to Master P, who began his No Limit Records empire in the Bay Area (i.e., Richmond) in the early to mid-'90s before relocating it to New Orleans. E-40's ties to the South became more direct in the mid-2000s, when, upon the expiration of his deal with Jive, he partnered with Atlanta rapper/producer Lil Jon and his BME Recordings label, in association with Warner Brothers. The first album to be released as part of this partnership, My Ghetto Report Card (2006), was E-40's most successful in years. Concurrently, the Bay Area rap scene, with its so-called hyphy style, was growing in popularity nationally, and there was no bigger champion of the Bay and its style than E-40, whose innumerable guest features helped foster the scene and whose son, producer Droop-E, had grown to become one of hyphy's foremost practitioners.
Born Earl Stevens on November 15, 1967, in Vallejo, CA, E-40 made his rap debut in 1990 on Let's Side, a four-track EP by the Click, a group comprised of E-40, his cousin B-Legit, his brother D-Shot, and his sister Suga T. The EP was co-produced by Mike Mosley and Al Eaton and was released on Sick Wid' It Records, an independent label founded by E-40. In 1993 E-40 made his solo album debut, Federal, a nine-track LP/14-track CD produced by Studio Ton and released by Sick Wid' It Records in association with SMG (Solar Music Group), a regional distributor. Then in 1994, on the strength of the regionally popular independently released single "Captain Save a Hoe" (aka "Captain Save 'Em Thoe"), from the six-track Mail Man EP, E-40 signed a recording contract with Jive Records, the home of Bay Area pioneer Too Short since 1987. Jive re-released "Captain Save a Hoe" on 12" and also re-released the Mail Man EP, adding two bonus tracks; all the songs on the EP, including "Captain Save a Hoe," were produced by Studio Ton, except one of the bonus tracks, "Ballin' Out of Control," which was produced by Mike Mosley and Sam Bostic. In 1995 Jive released four E-40 albums: a re-release of Down and Dirty, a 1994 album by the Click; Game Related, a newly recorded album by the Click; a reconfigured version of Federal, his 1993 solo debut; and In a Major Way, a newly recorded album produced by Studio Ton, Mike Mosley/Sam Bostic, andFunk Daddy. Of these numerous releases, In a Major Way proved E-40's breakthrough; featuring a collaboration with fellow Bay Area hardcore rappers 2Pac, Mac Mall, and Spice 1, "Dusted 'n' Disgusted," in addition to several songs that would also become fan favorites ("Da Bumble," "Sideways," "Sprinkle Me," "1-Luv"), the album was very well received regionally and took the rapper's career to a new level of respectability.
Beginning with Tha Hall of Game (1996), E-40 released six additional solo albums on Jive -- The Element of Surprise (1998), Charlie Hustle: The Blueprint of a Self-Made Millionaire (1999), Loyalty and Betrayal (2000), Grit & Grind(2002), Breakin News (2003) -- plus one further album by the Click, Money & Muscle (2001). Over the course of these albums, E-40 maintained his regional following and picked up additional fans nationally, yet he never did break into the mainstream. Besides "Captain Save a Hoe," only two of his Jive singles ever charted on the Billboard Hot 100 ("1-Luv," 1995; "Things'll Never Change," 1996), and following his initial burst of popularity from 1994 to 1996, his sales generally declined from one album to the next. E-40's career isn't well measured by chart hits and album sales, though, for he more or less remained an underground rapper, albeit one with a major-label contract, working almost exclusively with an inner circle of Bay Area rappers and producers. His long list of guest features is representative of his popularity (not to mention his generosity), as practically every regional act sought his presence. A guest feature by E-40 gave an unknown West Coast rapper instant credibility, even if it didn't amount to a national hit. During the late '90s, E-40 also began being featured as a guest on Southern rap albums (for example, appearing on8ball's Lost, Master P's MP Da Last Don, and Scarface's My Homies in 1998 alone).
E-40's ties to the South became most clear in 2006, after the expiration of his contract with Jive, when he partnered with Lil Jon and his BME Recordings label for My Ghetto Report Card, released in association with Warner Brothers. The album -- featuring production from Lil Jon as well as Bay Area beatmakers Droop-E, Rick Rock, Studio Ton, and Bosko -- was E-40's most successful in years, arguably since Tha Hall of Game (1996) or even In a Major Way (1995), and it marked his return to the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in a decade, with a pair of impressively charting singles: "Tell Me When to Go," featuring Keak da Sneak (number 35), and "U and Dat," featuring T-Pain (number 13).