After a talent show at Grambling State University E-40 and his cousin B-Legit decided to attempt a career in rap. Later on, his nephew, Mistah F.A.B., would go on to have a successful Bay Rap career. They moved back to Vallejo and teamed up with D-Shot, E-40's brother, to form the group Most Valuable Players. E-40's gospel singing uncle (see "I got the game from my Uncle Saint Charles") helped them put out the record. E-40's sister, Suga T, was then added to the group to form The Click.
The "40" in "E-40" was chosen by Earl as a reference to "40s" - 40 ounce bottles of malt liquor. The "E" was simply derived from Earl's first name.
After the release of The Click's first album, Down and Dirty, E-40's local solo debut, Federal, was released. E-40 then gained statewide recognition with his early EP, The Mail Man, featuring the underground hit Captain-Save-a-Ho.
E-40 has released over ten CDs, including those with The Click. He has also appeared on numerous film soundtracks and guest appearances on other rap albums. His distinctive voice and rapid lyrical delivery have resulted in collaborations with many West Coast hip hop stars, including Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, Brotha Lynch Hung and Too $hort.
After completing a deal with Jive Records he signed with Lil Jon's BME Recordings and Warner Bros. Records
E-40's single "Tell Me When To Go," featuring Keak Da Sneak, has become nationally popular, and E-40 has appeared on MTV's Direct Effect and BET's 106 and Park. Publicity for E-40 and the greater Hyphy Movement was achieved through the recent MTV feature "My Block: The Bay."
E-40's new album "My Ghetto Report Card" debuted at #1 on the Billboard Rap Album chart (#3 overall) on March 14th, 2006. Released through Sick Wid It/BME/Warner Bros. Records, the album was produced by Lil Jon, Rick Rock, and E-40's son, Droop-E.
E-40 released a new single "U And Dat" in April 2006, which features T-Pain and Kandi Girl, and is produced by Lil Jon.
E-40 also features on DJ Shadow's new album The Outsider, on a track called Dats My Part.
In addition to record sales E-40 has opened a Fatburger franchise in Pleasant Hill, CA San Francisco Bay Area along with NFL player Chester McGlockton. 40 is the author of the book, E-40's book of slang to be published by Warner Books. Earl also has his own line of liquor called Cloud 9. Additionally he opened the now-defunct Ambassador's Lounge, a nightclub in Downtown San Jose.