West coast hip-hop dates back to as far as 1981. Their were many left coast pioneers who helped advance hip-hop, giving the west a voice in the genre. While there have been many pioneers, there are only a few who can truly be credited with putting west coast hip-hop on the map. In my opinion those three acts are N.W.A, Ice-T, and the subject of today’s write-up, Too-Short.
Todd “Too-Short” Shaw was born and raised in Oakland, California and begin rapping in high school. Legend has it that he would write songs based on special requests from fellow students (the request must have come from horny little teenage boys, which would explain Too Short’s mastery ((and obsession)) with sex raps throughout his career). Not long after, Too-Short begin making and selling his own home-made cassettes on the streets, which over time created quite a buzz. That buzz eventually led to Too Short signing a deal with a small independent label called 75 Girls (how fitting), on which he would release 3 EPs, before inking a deal with Jive/RCA and releasing his major label debut Born to Mack in 1987 under his vanity label Dangerous Music.
“Life Is…Too Short” (the title song of his second full length release on Jive) was my first introduction to Too-Short; but my first true Too Short experience was Short Dog’s in the House, which of course is the subject for todays write-up.
I was thirteen or fourteen when I first heard this album. Lets see if 20 or so years has altered my opinion on this one.
Short Dog’s In The House – Before Canibus or the Game spit 100 bars verses, there was Too Short. Too Short will never be mistaken as the greatest lyricist ever but he sure has a knack for making his rhymes entertaining (the Bobby Brown reference and the “engine, engine #9” piece still make me chuckle). Too Short’s self-produced instrumental was decent and works well as the backing for Short’s one verse wonder.
It’s Your Life – As much flack as Too Short gets for his misogynistic rhymes he never gets enough credit for his more “conscious” songs. Over his self-produced (with a co-production credit going to Keenan “The Maestro”Foster) “laid back funk instrumental, our vertically challenged friend acts as a sage, as he instructs the young brothers to be wise with how they live their lives. Not a great song but decent.
The Ghetto – See. Consecutive conscious songs back to back. Short Dog tackles all that’s
wrong with the hood over his instrumental (co-production credit to Al Eaton) that samples Donnie Hathaway’s classic of the same name. This is arguably Too Short’s biggest hit, and in my opinion best song in his catalog. Sidenote: after Too Short’s 4th verse the cassette version of Short Dog’s In The House includes a portion of the Last Poet poem “Die Nigga”.
Short But Funky – This was the first single released from Short Dog’s in the House. Too Short takes a shot as his Oaktown brethren, Hammer in the final verse, which should come as no surprise since everybody and their momma were taking shots at him back then. Too Short sounds right at home over his laid back funk instrumental.
In The Oaktown – Too Short and Al Eaton’s instrumental sounds a lot more entertaining today than I remember it sounded back in the day. This is Short Dog’s ode to his home town (Oakland) as he raps about women, cars, and even spits a few battle rhymes (which is rare to hear coming from Too-Short). This was pretty enjoyable.
Dead Or Alive – I must have missed all of the rumors that were circling of Too Short’s apparent death back in the day (or maybe I just forgot..or better yet, maybe the rumors never existed and Too Short was just looking for a unique subject matter to cover). Either way, Too Short doesn’t have anything interesting to say about the subject at hand (I still chuckle at his line “reincarnation of something old”, as if something new or that never existed could reincarnate. Thanks for the clarification, Short Dog). Too Short’s instrumental was pretty bland (what’s up with that cheesy Atari 2600 video game type sample used during the hook?) The first real mishap of the evening.
Punk Bitch – I still remember listen to this song off my brother’s cassette version of Short Dog’s in the House back in the day and giggling over Too Short’s outrageously comical and misogynistic rhymes. I also remember loving the instrumental work. Listening today, Too Short and Al Eaton’s instrumental still sounds pleasant; and Short Dog’s line still make me chuckle. One of my favorite Too-Short songs.
Ain’t Nothing But A Word To Me (featuring Ice Cube) – These are the type of songs (and the previous) that Too Short is remembered (and ridiculed) for. For this one he recruits fellow leftcoaster Ice Cube to help him, as they tag team the mic in an attempt to see who can disrespect women the worst (and after listening again today Cube definitely give Short Dog a run for his money). Is it just me or was Cube’s line about “cutting out the middle man” kind of gay? Sir Jinx’s instrumental was bordering on dull but Too Short and Cube’s rhymes will make you chuckle; just don’t take them too serious.
Hard On The Boulevard – I forgot about this song. Too Short’s instrumental was a pleasant surprise, especially since it bangs. As far as Sir Too Short’s (as her refers to himself in this song; when did he get knighted?) content, its more of the same misogynistic gibberish as the previous two songs, only less entertaining.
Pimpology – Professor Too Short gives us a brief (I use that term loosely as this song rambles on for well over 6 minutes) lesson on the study of pimping, which he learned at the impressionable age of three after his father enrolled him in pimp school (somebody get this guy a father of the year award). No new ground covered here but you have to listen to it at least once to hear Too Short’s bangin’ instrumental.
Paula & Janet – After starting thing off with his trademark (“bitch”), Short dog spits a signature freaky tale about two of his many “tramps”. DJ Pooh’s instrumental samples Stanley Turrentine’s “Sister Sanctified” (which 3rd Bass also used on “Soul In The Hole”). This was a pretty entertaining listen in a juvenile kind of way.
Rap Like Me – This is probably the only battle rap in Too Short’s extremely lengthy catalog (although I stopped listening to Too Short after the mid-nineties, so there may have been a few more in between then and 2012), and based on the results that is probably a good thing. I imagine he’s going at Hammer on this one, but I could be wrong (what the hell does “your eyes pop open like paper plates” mean?) Regardless, the instrumental is trash so even if there was any potency in Short dog’s rhymes the instrumental would have sucked the life out of them.
The Ghetto (Reprise) – Instrumental version of the earlier song.
Let’s be honest. Too Short will never win any awards for being the most profound or lyrical emcee. Nor will he be mentioned with the Premo’s and Dre’s as one of the most prolific producers in the genre. Yet some how our vertically challenged friend managed to hold the listener’s attention during the first part of his career, including Short Dog’s in the House. Short Dog’s in the House is not without mishaps, but overall it’s a pretty entertaining listen (assuming you like funk beats and aren’t expecting Rakim type lyricism). Too Short says it best himself: “the style is mine I’ve been doing it for ten (years), you might say its simple but I’m making my ends.” Too Short staying in his lane: simple lyrics and beats. I’d be hard pressed to name another rapper in the game who ever made simple sound so entertaining.