Was going to answer @Jamos in the "Artists / types of music you’ve been meaning to get into for ages, and would like a helping hand as to where to start" thread but then I thought hey E-40 needs a thread of his own ytf not.
This is reeeeallly hard to answer, he's not really an 'album artist' per se but that shouldn't be held against him. I mean, he has definite classic albums but they aren't the type to bate critics and be ranked highly in the hip hop canon. His voice is pretty polarizing and lot of people dont 'get' him. Also, you could ask a handful of 40 fans and you'd probably get vastly different top 5-10 albums. He has different eras of sound so it just depends on the mood. I would recommend:
For the early mob sound
1. In a Major Way (1995)
2. The Element of Surprise (1998)
3. Tha Hall of Game (1996)
but dont sleep on the early EPs (Mail Man is 100% perfection)
this video/song is all time
1. Grit & Grind (2002)
2. Charlie Hustle (1999)
3. Breakin' News (2003)
1. My Ghetto Report Card (2006)
Probably his most fun album^ so many head bangers. tell me when to go was the song that put him on the national spotlight. that and do ya head like this are some of my kids fav songs to dance to
Late period regional slaps and comfort zone
1. Revenue Retrievin': Graveyard Shift (2011)
2. Revenue Retrievin': Day Shift (2010)
3. Revenue Retrievin': Night Shift (2010)
4. Revenue Retrievin': Overtime Shift (2011)
Those first three are very interchangeable and replay-able. Kind of miraculous records really, I thought he was done releasing anything essential. After these records he's settled into a nice comfort zone of steady releases (a lot) that all strong textkind of stick to the sound/blueprint of these four. I'm still getting through them all tbf. He struck gold again with Choices (Yup) which got radio spins. Great video and song, simple concept/gimmick but done perfectly.
If I were to make a best of e40 playlist I bet it would be around 200 songs.