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Exclusive: How E-40 Went From Rapper To What He Calls 'The Epitome Of Black-Owned Business' By Investing In Himself

E-40 always knew he would be successful.

In an exclusive interview with AfroTech, E-40 — whose real name is Earl Tywone Stevens Sr. — revealed he had a self-motivated spirit nurtured early on by those closest to him. He still credits his uncle, Saint Charles Thurman, as a mentor to this day.

Saint Charles Thurman owned a painting company and played an instrumental role in teaching E-40 the ins and outs of the business. Outside of his venture, he was well-known as a soul singer and also released his own records in the 1970s. Therefore, E-40 believed he could also pursue his passion for music and all things in between because he saw it firsthand with his uncle.

Fast forward and E-40 has become a permanent fixture in Hip-Hop history thanks to a staggering music catalog that includes “Sprinkle Me,” and “Tell Me When to Go.”

He has remained relevant for over three decades and has kept his adolescent promises alive by building a business empire that includes Goon With The Spoon and Earl Stevens Selections.

With those endeavors, E-40 is building longevity outside of the world of Hip-Hop through his own brands.

From Brand Ambassador To Launching His Own Brand

Venturing into the sector was a natural next step for E-40. He got an early introduction when he became a brand ambassador for Landy Cognac in 2008 to help bolster their presence in the United States. However, E-40 aspired to become more than just the face of the brand. So, he made sure to soak up all the knowledge he could from premier beverage distributors like Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.

“I observed the game as I went to Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits,” E-40 told AfroTech. “I soaked it up like a beach towel, and I told some of the higher guys over at Southern, I’m gonna be back. One of my guys, Steve Harden I told him, ‘I’m gonna have my own thing one day, man.’”

The Action Behind The Words

And, he lived up to his word.

E-40 found a window of opportunity to spearhead his own wine venture after a conversation with a former employee of Landy Cognac. With his assistance, E-40 debuted his first three offerings including mangoscato, “function” red blend, and moscato.

The demand for wine continued to grow and soon E-40 would return to Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, in hopes of cementing a deal with the distributor.

“People loved it. It got great feedback and lots of engagement. So, I ended up building up the demand. I went to Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and met up with my man, Steve Harden and I told him, ‘Steve, here we go. We popping.’ He tasted it…and the boss is over there, like — ‘Let’s bring it in, Earl,’” he said.

Now, It’s Available In Over 40 States

E-40 received his first order from his hometown of Vallejo, CA. He went from selling single bottles and cases to filling up a truckload with over 600 cases. With sales and consumer interests climbing, E-40 recognized he would become a disrupter in the space. Now, nearly ten years later, he has continued to strengthen his brand by launching new product offerings, including the “cali-mocho” red wine and cola, prosecco rose, and sparkling wines in flavors of blueberry, strawberry, and orangesicle, among others.

Courtesy of E-40

Just last year, E-40 also secured a multi-state distribution agreement with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. Now, his spirit brand can be found across 41 U.S. states.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day. The proof is in the juice,” E-40 said. “And I’m nine years into this and I’m thankful it’s been successful. It’s been lucrative. It’s an arena that fits me. I always tell people — same hustle, different product. It’s the same hustle as my independent career with rap. I was one of the first independent CEOs/rappers that invested in himself and took it to other heights. So, I’m very grateful.”

“The Epitome Of Black-Owned Business”

And, he was simply stating a fact.

When Earl Stevens Selections hit the ground running, E-40 was 100 percent involved and had 100 percent ownership of his company. He hopes to be a blueprint for the current and new generation to be reminded this is the standard.

“I’m there from start to finish from the beginning to the end. That’s why I always try to be an inspiration to the new and old generation to show, ‘Hey man, this is a route you could take,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be my route, but you could take whatever route you good at. I wanna show that there is a way, you just gotta apply your time to it.”

He continued: “A lot of times people apply their time to the wrong thing and end up hustling backward. So, my whole thing is to put out quality products. Make sure that I’m 100 percent involved. I have 100 percent ownership, that’s very important. When they say Black-owned, I’m the epitome of Black-owned business. I am the vendor of record. I write the checks. I do it all.”