E-40 has an affinity for cocktails, and that passion eventually led him to fully immerse himself in the wine and spirits industry. As a brand ambassador for Landy Cognac in the early 2010’s, 40 Water was advised to check out a winery in Napa Valley, California, which would later become the catalyst in a lucrative move for the 53-year-old rap star. Things got serious in 2013 when the rapper launched Earl Stevens Selections, with the Function Red Blend wine serving as the inaugural bottle for the collection.
The Earl Stevens Function Red Blend ignited the fire within E-40 to kickstart his business. A successful social media campaign for the inaugural bottle started it all by bringing customers in, and it was clear E-40 had to capitalize on the momentum.
When it comes down to it, rappers are constantly involved with liquor somehow, whether they’re signing a partnership deal or using their likeness for the product. That’s not the case with E-40, who owns 100 percent of the company his wife and two sons help him run.
“I’m 33 years in, and no brands ever came to me asking if I wanted my own liquor as far as owning it,” E-40 explains. “I’m glad that hasn’t happened — and it’s OK because I’m used to it. I was used to it from having to get it on my own in the independent rap game, where I had to figure things out. I’ve always been used to that, because I’m the oldest of four — you have to go out and get yours. I’m just doing the same thing with my wine and spirits company.”
So far, E-40 is flourishing on his own with this business endeavor. According to him, sales of the alcoholic products skyrocketed after his Verzuz match-up with Too $hort in December 2020. He also tells Billboard his Mangoscato wine can’t stay on shelves, but that shouldn’t be a problem for too long. E-40 recently agreed on a distribution deal with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits that puts his collection of wine and spirits in 41 out of 50 states in the US.
“I’m doing it the hard way, but I’m doing it the best way — because I’m going to have the last laugh, if you’re laughing at me. I’m not in it to prove myself to people who doubt me, because people don’t know the process you have to go through. So I can’t be happier with what I’m doing.”
In celebration of National Wine Day (May 25), Billboard sat with E-40 to break down each of the liquors available from his growing collection on the market right now. Check out what he had to say for each one below.
Earl Stevens Selections (Sparkling and Still Wines)
With the Earl Stevens Selections, I have my still and sparkling wines, which are the Function Red Blend, Sweet Red, Chardonnay, Mangoscato, Moscato and Tropiscato. I recently put out four more sparkling wines, with Cotton Candy, Cali-Mocho Red Wine and Cola, Watermelon and Mango Peach. I also have my Prosecco and Prosecco Rose sourced from Veneto, Italy. My fanbase is versatile. It’s a variety, and it’s all walks of life — not just the urban community, but the suburbs and everywhere else and in-between. So there has to be a different selection for people to choose from.
The way I do it is: I think about what people would like. For example, I’m not a Chardonnay guy, but there’s so many people that drink that. So I’m like, “I have to have an Earl Stevens Chardonnay.” I sourced the juice myself, and with all the stuff that I do I make sure I’m involved. I have to taste it, along with my friends and family. We make sure that it’s right — and I’m a liquor connoisseur, so I need to be involved. Every line of wine that I got can’t stay on the shelves. Once people learn about it, they’re looking for it, and when they do that it sells out quickly.
Again, I sourced everything myself. It comes straight out of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico and it’s 100 percent agave and it’s top-drawer tequila. Right now, I have three different tequilas in the market, with Blanco, Reposado and Anejo. Everyone that has tasted them said my tequila is really good. When it comes to a rapper, people think we don’t have our s–t together. I’m an intelligent heathen, but I’m not big-headed, so everything I do is always well-put together. I also have E. Cuarenta Cerveza Beer, that’s a Mexican-style lager that you can compare to other lagers. I haven’t told anyone about that, but it’s on the way.
I was the first rapper to speak about being a tycoon in the mid-’90s. It was a regular word with the Sick Wid It camp, and I was the first rapper to speak about being a tycoon on my album, In A Major Way, in 1995. I would always see people in VIP be a tycoon, so I had to call it Tycoon Cognac. People may seem like they don’t have the money, but when a motherf–ker wants to be flamboyant, they’re going to have them a tall bottle of tequila, probably. The most expensive s–t, whether it be shoes, belt or jewelry, they’re going to make it happen, due to the social media aspects of the game these days.
I’m not saying tycoons do that, but I feel like people are doing tycoon s–t. So we came out with the cognac to help you feel like one. I trademarked the Tycoon name many years ago, and we made it official like a military missile. Tycoon Cognac lives up to its name, because the bottle and the packaging is beautiful, and the liquid is magnificent and remarkable. My VS should have been a VSOP, and my VSOP should have been an XO. Stayed tuned for the XO too. That’s coming soon.
Kuiper Belt Bourbon
I have the Kuiper Belt Bourbon and the Kuiper Belt Gin. The gin isn’t out yet, but it’s coming. I’m just waiting for a schedule on the production. I have everything ready to go, from the bottles to the design to the label and formula approvals. We got everything in motion like the ocean, ready to launch very soon. Once I get Kuiper Belt Gin on the production schedule, we’re going to see it floating out there within the next… I would say five weeks.
The Kuiper Belt Bourbon is a small batch, aged over eight years, that’s carefully sourced and nicely picked — like, I’m talking A-plus top-shelf quality. The Kuiper Belt is in the solar system, and when I thought of it, I thought about being sky-high — like, what’s going to get the people feeling right, not wrong? What’s going to give them a buzz right away with no delay? I did my research on the Kuiper Belt, and it’s in the solar system surrounded by a whole bunch of dwarf planets — like, it’s up there. You see where I’m going with that, though. People think that I’m crazy, but I’m brilliant, and I didn’t make it this far from being dumb.
Category Five Sluricane (Hurricane, Sweet Tea, Blue Lagoon, Yellowbird)
I went to Grambling State University in the fall of ‘86, ‘87 — and going there, at that age back then, you could legally drink at 18 years old. I would go to this place in the village that had different cocktails in a daiquiri form. One of the daiquiris was a “hurricane,” and at that time I didn’t really trip over the name — I just knew it was good as f–k, and that’s what I would always drink, because it would have me toasted. The teachers didn’t know I was drinking it in class, but it actually helped me be in my mind.
Years later, me and my family, The Click — which was my brother D-Shot, my sister Suga-T and my cousin B-Legit — were out in Arkansas doing a little tour. We go to the bartender to get us something, because we’ve been drinking nothing but gin and juice for three weeks straight. We wanted a lift-off right away.
She made us these drinks, and we went on with the show, which was perfect. Afterwards, we asked the bartender what the drink was, and if we could have the recipe and the name of it. She said “hurricane,” and I was like “I remember drinking that in college but it wasn’t in liquid form like this.” She gave us the recipe, and everywhere I went I would make it. A few years later The Click came with a song called “Hurricane,” and the album it was on, Game Related, goes gold.
“Hurricane” pushed that album to gold, even when BET wouldn’t play it. That shows you how popular that song was — and years later, here I am. I spoke it into existence without even knowing it would come into existence. I have E-40’s Slurricane Hurricane Premium Cocktail Drink, E-40’s Slurricane Blue Lagoon, E-40’s Slurricane Sweet Tea and E-40’s Slurricane Yellowbird, which is a tropical drink from the Bahamas. There’s so much more we’re coming with, just sit tight.