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This or That (The Abridged Version)……Too Short

by Travis on September 8, 2008

Two Weeks Ago:

After skipping last week, we have to go back a couple weeks and look at the Redman week we had between his first three albums. I had a good idea that Whut? Thee Album would pull it off, but I wasn’t so sure by how much. In the end, it won by thirty votes over the next nearest album, Dare Iz a Darkside, which in turn only beat out Muddy Waters by one vote. I guess the more fair comparison would have been between Dare and Muddy.

This Week:

I learned a valuable lesson this weekend. I learned that Sundays during football season are going to be pretty useless to get anything else done. My day consisted of the Steelers’ game, nap, second half of the San Diego/Panthers game, dinner then first half of the Sunday night game between Indy and Chicago. After not doing a “This or That” last weekend, I knew I needed to get the weekly series done tonight, but motivation just wasn’t there. So here I am, at 8:30 on a Sunday night, with my back against the wall. These things take some time, and I’m not prepared to stay up until one in the morning like I have in the past. It’s just too rough getting up at 6am the next morning. So what is a lazy blogger to do? That’s right, it’s time to half ass it. For that reason, I picked an interesting artist tonight, one that probably deserves better, but is also more of a regional favorite than a nationwide legend. Too Short is an important artist on more levels than one. It’s important to point out he was one of the first artists to take the “do it yourself” mentality when it came to getting his music out there. Starting in Oakland in the early 80′s, he sold tapes out of the trunk of his car. Slowly, Mister Todd Shaw built his name around the bay area, eventually leading to a partnership with the local record label, 75 Girls. In 1986, he would drop Born to Mack on his own Dangerous Music label, which in turn would get him signed to Jive/RCA in ’87.

Personally, while I recognize Too Short’s importance to the history of the Bay Area and hip hop in general, it’s Short’s first four albums that got the most play (I also got into Get In Where You Fit In and Cocktails, but not as much). It’s unadulterated funk and theme music for Short’s tales about pimpin’, “beee-yatches” and the hustling game in Oak-town. He did it better than anyone else at the time time. The bass he crafted could make any Jetta with 12′s in the trunk sound good and it would rattle enough little trucks. For the west, he was our version of the raunchy 2 Live Crew. I didn’t jump on the Too Short bandwagon until the release of his “second” (it was his first major label album) album dropped, Life Is….Too Short, but I would soon enough be enthralled with his raunchy, dirty rhymes (you have to remember I was a high school Sophomore when it dropped in the autumn of ’88) and would snatch up the 75 Girls tapes as well. I wish I still had those, but they’ve been lost for awhile…I think. Born Mack would be the next progression when it was re released either in late ’88 or or the spring of ’89. After that, I wouldn’t miss a short release until Get In Where You Fit In, by that time, my east coast bias was in full swing and I was looking for the harder beats and the more complex rhymes.

Born To Mack Vs. Life Is…Too Short Vs. Short Dog’s In The House Vs. Shorty The Pimp

Born To Mack

Too Short was still kind of raw on his legendary independent release. You could still hear some of the electro influences from the SoCal area in tracks like “Partytime”. It’s early Too Short still, and it was pretty much all about macking and females. It’s stuff that Short was famous for at the time. It’s what sold for him, it’s what worked. It’s a good album, but compared to his later efforts, it just doesn’t hold up. Still, “Freaky Tales” will always be a sex rhyme classic.

Best Songs:
Born To Mack
Freaky Tales

Dope Fiend Beat

Life Is….Too Short

The album would to Short’s major label debut and would be my introduction to Too Short himself. If you watched Yo! MTV Raps during those times, you undoubtedly saw the title track, over and over and over again, which to me, was a good thing. I was attracted to Short’s minimalistic approach to both his rapping and his beats. It was just Short telling tales of the rough Oakland streets over a 808′s, a synth beat, a bass, and some shakers. It was simple but brilliant as it’s still one of my favorite all-time songs. The rest of the album is all great in my opinion, bringing the East Bay funk and raunchy raps to the ears of many snot nosed high school kids in the west. It kinda of went the way of the 2 Live Crew in the fact he put out a clean version as well. Also, the first side was cussword free, if I remember right, or at the very least, it was a lot cleaner than side B.

Best Songs:
Life Is…Too Short

I Ain’t Trippin

Nobody Does It Better

Don’t Fight The Feelin’

City of Dope

Short Dog’s In The House

Ahhh, my junior year in high school. This tape was always in the glove box at all times in my little Jetta. Short still stayed true to his formula, and took the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” rule of making records. But in some ways, he did branch out a bit on Short Dog’s In The House, even if it was very subtle. He utilized the funk samples even more than the first two albums. I consider this album a transition from early Short to a more modern Too Short. Gone are the electro influenced joints found on Born To Mack and Life Is…Too Short. There were guest appearances that consisted of artists outside of his Dangerous Family crew, with the dope cameo from Ice Cube on “Ain’t Nuthin’ But a Word To Me” and he also added some outside production in the form of Sir Jinx on the aforementioned song and DJ Pooh on the dirty dream inspired “Janet & Paula” (as in Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul, wouldn’t mind being in that sandwich myself). In some ways, it’s somewhat more unfocused than the other first four albums, but I think it’s this variance that puts it in the running for my favorite Too Short album.

Best Songs
Short Dog’s In The House
It’s Your Life
The Ghetto

Short But Funky

Dead Or Alive
Ain’t Nothin’ But A Word

Hard On The Boulevard

Paula & Janet
Rap Like Me

Shorty The Pimp

Musically and concept wise, I’ve always thought his fourth major label album, Shorty The Pimp was the most tight out of the bunch. He had the formula dialed in on this album. He knew exactly who his audience was and what they wanted. Musically, this album hit as hard as any album I ever played on my system back in the day. It packed a punch and really should be required to be heard on a quality system, because there is so much to more to his music that you can only hear on a juiced up system. A lot of the songs have long solos, hence most of the songs last over the traditional three minute rap song that is standard these days. If you look back at a lot of Short’s early work, a lot of sings are this way, untraditionally long. “Something To Ride To” last close to 12 minutes, something almost unheard of anymore.

Best Songs:
In The Trunk
I Ain’t Nothin’ But A Dog

I Want To Be Free


Step Daddy

It Don’t Stop

So You Want To Be a Gangster

Final Verdict

My qualms with Too Short is if you heard one album, you’ve pretty heard them all. I know we bitch about artists who stray away from their formula, but when they stick to it, we tend to bitch about that as well. I don’t want to hear Too Short rapping about saving children in Darfur, but it’s nice to switch things up from time to time. The joint “It’s Your Life” (one of my favorites from Short Dog’s In The House) could have easily been on any of his albums and sounds like “Life is…Too Short” on that album, or “It Don’t Stop” on Shorty The Pimp. The topics and the music is all the same from album to album. Which is precisely the reason I stopped listening to Short after his Cocktails album.

But you have to admit, especially if you were from the west, Short’s albums were part of your adolescence. Something that you played in your ride with the boom in the trunk. You have to admire his hustle and the legacy he left on the Bay Area. I enjoy all four albums that I discussed, but for me, two of them stand above the other two. Both Life Is…Too Short and Short Dog’s In The House were my personal favorites and the ones that got the most play from me. They were rude, crude and full of funk filled grooves that even in my rudimentary mind I could enjoy. In the end, while it’s not the best effort musically or lyrically, nostalgia wins out and I’ll have to go with Life Is…Too Short.

Life Is…Too Short

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