E-40 is the hype of the moment:
On his 10th album, "My Ghetto Report Card" (Reprise/BME), E-40 finally has a sound to match his style: the uptempo, dense and chaotic subset of hip-hop known as hyphy (pronounced HY-fee), which has emerged from the Bay Area in the last few years. The album, which was released earlier this month and sold about 90,000 copies in its first week, placing it at No. 3 on the Billboard album chart, is E-40's highest debut to date, thanks in no small part to the rise of hyphy, the latest in a series of regional rap scenes drawing national attention…
Initial response to E-40 was lukewarm. "He had this high-pitched voice, and he was rapping too fast," Mr. Thurman said. "But speed rapping hadn't come out yet. He wanted to change his style, and I said: 'No, you've got to keep that style going. Otherwise it wouldn't be you.' "
Eventually, E-40 found an audience, becoming, along with Too Short, one of the region's most popular rappers. Two of his albums — "Tha Hall of Game" (1996) and "The Element of Surprise" (1998) — have gone gold, and "In a Major Way," from 1995, has gone platinum. "People who keep a consistent flow, they probably sell the most records," he said. "But me playing the snare drum in the band, I learned the capability to get off beat and get back on real quick, which I bring to my raps." […]
In a sense, E-40 was hyphy before hyphy existed. (The word refers both to the music and its attendant culture, which includes, among other things, unusually loose-limbed dancing and ghostriding, an unusually risky form of stunt driving.) "On the old Sick Wid It records, he would get on one of those slow bass lines and he would quick rap over it," Mugzi said. "Now, the music is catching up to him."