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E-40 and Mistah F.A.B. Welcome All Warriors Bandwagoners

Talking NBA Finals with the West Coast rap legends (and die-hard Golden State fans)

The Bay Area, and its idiosyncratic superstar rappers, earned this. Given the Golden State Warriors’ current dominance, it’s easy to forget that they were terrible for decades, so credit those beleaguered longtime fans who stuck with it. Especially the ones who killed time by putting out, like, 12 billion beloved underground mixtapes apiece.

E-40 — a.k.a. Earl Stevens, from the small-for-California city of Vallejo, just north of Oakland — is a West Coast rap legend with 30-odd years’ experience defining the region’s sound and slang alike; lately he releases albums in groups of two, four, or six. (Look for two volumes of The D-Boy Diary this year, and please enjoy his wine, his malt liquor, and his bottled rum cocktail Sluricane in the meantime.) Mistah F.A.B — a.k.a. Stanley Cox, a.k.a. the unofficial mayor of North Oakland — has a similar résumé, punctuated by this year’s excellent, exuberantly grimy Son of a Pimp, Pt. 2. Both are die-hard Warriors fans, as proved by this incredible recent F.A.B. radio freestyle and this 2015 team-themed remix of E-40’s regional smash “Choices (Yup)” — during last year’s Finals, 40 even did a full halftime show.

As the team is now on the cusp of back-to-back championships, it seemed like a good idea to call the die-hard fans up and let them brag, or not. Here are excerpts from our conversation, including their thoughts on bandwagoners, hecklers, gentrification, and adding Kevin Durant.

I should tell you up front that I’m a Cavs fan — I was born in Cleveland, and I’m calling from Ohio right now, and everyone here is very sad, so please be nice to me.

Mistah F.A.B.: Hey, we got you, man.

Are you guys feeling any anxiety or suspense at all, or are you already making plans for the victory parade? This series is over, right?

E-40: No. Not necessarily. If we get too comfortable out there, you know … the Warriors, man, they gotta want it. [The Cavs] ain’t gonna just let ’em punk ’em out, out there in Cleveland. If [the Warriors] lose one, I’m not gon’ talk it up — if they lose one, we gon’ get ’em when we get home. But we’re not taking them lightly. Right, Stanley?

F.A.B.: Being biased as Warriors fans, we would say, “Yeah, it’s over.” But speaking from the point of view of understanding that you have a LeBron James, who arguably and for several years has been the best player on earth, and a champion, and a proven champion — you can’t doubt the heart of a champion. So we can’t take those guys lightly, man.

I’m trying to trick you guys into jinxing this, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

E-40: Humbleness, man. The Warriors are a humble team. And I think humbleness gets you further than arrogance. From my experience, I know from me being humble in my life, I’ve gotten far, ya feel me, just from being humble. I’m not into arrogance. If you look at the Warriors, you see they’re all down to earth, and they humble. Fo’ sho’ we not gonna take ’em lightly. We know LeBron. And then, you know, OKC gave us a hard time. They was hitting them shots, Westbrook and the boy Durant and everybody else on the team, everybody was hitting 3s. Cleveland could get real hot, quick. We just don’t wanna be cold while they hot. You feel me?

Are either of you actually coming to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4? There’s a chance they’ll clinch here, obviously.

F.A.B.: Yeah, I’m going to Game 4.

E-40: I got shows. [Laughs.] I got shows. I got one in Salt Lake City tomorrow, and Las Vegas. I got Denver. But we gon’ pull it off.

Do you get to many away games in general?

E-40: Mmmm, no. I go to the home games. I ain’t got time to be, you know — I can take it when some people say stuff to me crazy, but it’s hard for me to hold back. Especially when it’s a person. I ain’t trippin’ on this Instagram or Facebook and Twitter, stuff like that, just people hiding behind computers. But it’s personal for me, if they just, if you excuse my French: Eff you, 40! You know what I’m sayin’? In real life, I’m not gon’ take that lightly. Because now we in person. You ain’t behind a computer. You feel me? And so I just kind of stay within my envelope.

Does that actually happen? People actually yell at you?

E-40: Nah! I just don’t want it to go like that. I can see it happenin’! I can see somebody in the stands sayin’ that to me!

How long have you guys been Warriors fans? How do you tell a true believer from someone who just jumped on the bandwagon last year?

F.A.B.: Me personally, I’ve been a Warriors fan my whole life, man. I’ve been a season-ticket holder for 10 years. So to me, man, we welcome the bandwagons, I don’t care, it is what it is. Long as they rootin’ for us, give us some energy, keep us going, it’s all good. I don’t sweat it.

E-40: A lot of Bay Area cats have been waiting for this for many moons. Personally, like I say, you go back to 2007, 2008, when I had my album The Ball Street Journal, I had on all Warriors gear. You could go back to 1998, when I had Thunder? Remember the Warriors mascot, Thunder? Remember Thunder? Remember him? I had him in Vallejo with me — he set up a whole full-court basketball court at Dan Foley Park in Vallejo at my children’s fun day … when I had all the parents bring out all the kids, I had like 2,000 kids out there. I’ve been a Warriors fan since Rick Barry — as a matter of fact, I got a selfie with him the other day on the court. Courtside. Yeah. Yeah. I had to do that. Legendary Rick Barry. Two-hand under-ball free throw.

Of course.

Know what I’m saying? But I will say this: I have been to the Kings games, too, when my partner Mike Bibby used to play for them, that’s my partner, so. They dismantled their whole team! But at the same time, I never said, “OK, man, I ain’t rockin’ with the Warriors.” First of all, I’m on the West Coast, and I’m a Northern California guy, you know what I mean? When Baron Davis and them was doin’ they thing, definitely, we were all goin’ crazy rootin’ for ’em. We was like, “Uh oh, they might do it!”

Only thing I haven’t liked in the past — some of the owners in the past got rid of great players that became great, I mean greatest, like Robert Parish. He played for the Warriors. Now he’s a Hall of Famer. He went over to the Celtics, I believe. Going that far back, man, they just got rid of so many players that was good over the years. Personally, I didn’t understand why they would do that. But it’s good. I think it’s time. We already showed that last year, and just like F.A.B. said, we welcome all bandwagoners.

Did you ever think this would happen? It seemed pretty hopeless for the Warriors for years — for decades, really. Did you ever picture being on the brink of back-to-back championships?

F.A.B.: I didn’t.

E-40: Me neither.

F.A.B.: As a fan, you definitely want your team to win — no one wants to go in thinkin’ that their team’s just gonna be a terrible franchise forever, but what [general manager] Bob Myers has done, it’s definitely been amazing. Like 40 said, I really don’t agree with some of the reconstructing of the team — a lot of players that we had had to be sacrificed for us to get where we are, but there can be no success without sacrifice, so unfortunately, we had to endure those things.

E-40: And now we got the team. And like I say, I think it’s definitely a dynasty type of squad.

F.A.B.: For sure, dynasty.

E-40: I don’t wanna stop. I think we can get 10 of them things. Ten rings! I really do. Curry is what, 27, 28? … And ain’t just Curry. The whole team is young, the majority of ’em. So, hey, ain’t no tellin’, that’s what Jack told Helen, mane.

Now that tickets are insanely expensive, is it a strange feeling to sit in that sold-out arena and think, I’m probably surrounded by tech billionaires who’ve never been to Oakland before?

F.A.B.: Nah. Being a fan for a long time, the feeling isn’t different — it’s just, you’re surrounded by a different group of people. What I mean by that is, the average blue-collar fan who can’t afford to have the luxury of taking the family out to a game to enjoy good hometown basketball. You now have — like you said, you’re surrounded by the tech world, as well as the upper echelons of financial-stability individuals.

To be down there, to be where we are, it’s good. It’s a great thing, to watch your team win. We just wish that, I know me personally, I wish that some of the blue-collar fans could see the games up close. I remember the $2-seat games. The $5 games. Even if there was just one time of the year now that they’ll let you have affordable seats. But it is what it is. We can’t forget the fact that this is a business. The NBA is a multi-billion-dollar business. So it is what it is.

How traumatic will it be when the team moves from Oakland to San Francisco?

F.A.B.: My answer might be more biased than 40’s. It’s different. With the Bay Area, the greater Bay Area, it’s the Bay Area’s team. With Oakland people, we be like, “It’s the Oakland team.” It would be sad, I think, just based off the fact of what Oracle Arena does for employment, for several residents of Oakland, how many jobs would be lost, and what that would confiscate from the city of Oakland. It’s just one of those situations. But that’s an ongoing problem in a lot of inner cities. 40’s from a city that has actually filed bankruptcy. So it just goes to show you, the financial management of these inner cities, it’s not being paid attention to. And the backlash always comes back on the poor.

People talk about San Francisco and the new tech boom — does the Bay Area as a whole seem radically different to you guys?

F.A.B.: The gentrification has radically changed things. Because the communities we were raised in, they no longer have the black homeowners anymore — they’re getting pushed out. So the communities are definitely being more integrated, and they’re intertwined with the high-ups as well as the people who are regular citizens, and the gap of financial status is what causes confusion. A normal day of us hangin’ out around the liquor store, just crackin’ jokes amongst community council — to the outsiders, that looks like some drug activities going on, so now you have these people who have no idea what’s going on in the community calling the police on people. That definitely changes the way things happen. It’s just an unfortunate situation. Because I don’t know if you know, but to live in the Bay Area is extremely expensive.

Of course.

E-40: Definitely.

F.A.B.: So it definitely changes, it changes a lot of things. It changes the way people think — it changes the despair for money, the things that they’re gonna do for money. So when you have people in that position, desperation causes desperate measures. That’s why Oakland is one of the worst places to live, and the violence in Vallejo continues to rise.

E-40: I trip on this, because I guess some statistics came out a couple weeks ago, and if i’m not mistaken, i think they said Vallejo was the no. 4 most dangerous city in California. But we so small. It’s a small city. It’s a trip.

F.A.B.: Whenever the money and the financial backing for a city is down, the crime is up. Let’s look at all the cities that’s worst on these lists, the Top 5s. We look at Detroit — look at what’s going on in their economy. We look at Baltimore. We look at Oakland. We look at Vallejo. These are all communities and cities, their economic structure has been destroyed. So in return, when there’s no money to help people, the people go out and go to the streets, so that raises the crime rate. That’s why these cities are bad places to live, because of the crime. It’s crime- and poverty-stricken communities. And they’re acting out of a need of survival. It’s not just a bad city because it’s a bad city, because these are great cities that we come from. These cities are great cities. But, when you have nothing, you have to do to get. So. That’s the result of these things, man.

E-40: True story, true story.

Looking beyond this year, to next year’s roster, they talk about Kevin Durant. Do you think you guys have a shot at getting Durant? Or do you even want him?

E-40: I think he’s a great athlete. I think he’s a great player. Depending on how they move things around, if they move things around, I would welcome him. I know they say, “Why fix something that ain’t broke,” but I do understand business. And it has been talked about, Durant coming over. But it’s also been talked about him going to other places, too, so. So, hey, ain’t no tellin’, that’s what Jack told Helen. We’ll see how it works itself out. What you think on it, F.A.B.?

F.A.B.: Hey, I’m right with you, man. You’d be a fool not to welcome a player that’s 7-foot, one of the best shooters in the NBA, top 3 players, you gotta think you would have two of the top three players in the league. If the top 3 players are Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant — in whatever particular order you wanna have them in, however you look at it — but if we had two of those guys on our team, come on, man, that’d be crazy to pass on an opportunity to get him. And, as much as I love Harrison Barnes, who’s a close friend of mine, who does a lot of things in the community, a very great guy, a humble guy, great from the beginning …

E-40: And he raw. And he raw.

F.A.B.: And he raw. And he’s very young, so he definitely still has an upside to him. But if the difference between keeping Harrison Barnes and getting Kevin Durant is $5 million, saying that Harrison Barnes may want $20 million and Kevin Durant would take $25 million to come play for us? I’m gonna go give him that $25 million.

So hypothetically in a week or so, if the Warriors are in the locker room spraying alcohol on each other, is there any chance that the alcohol will be Earl Stevens wine, or Sluricane, or an E-40 40?

E-40: Oh, man! I don’t have a champagne, though I’m working on that. And it has to be from France. It has to be from Champagne, France.

Yes, it does.

You know what I’m sayin?

I do.

Yeah. I gotta do it right. I can’t do it wrong. But I’m working on that. So most of the time when they celebrate, it’s the bubbly. Now, if they wanna shake the 40-ounce bottles of real glass, of E-40’s craft malt, with a head of honey? They can do that, too. You feel me?