Making up for his coast’s late arrival in the game, Oakland rapper Too $hort (Todd Shaw) set about becoming the mackest daddy of them all, the big-money, fat-rope-wearing super-player who gets all the ho’s. If record sales are the means by which such races are decided, the consistent platinum-winner is certainly up there in the same lewd, apolitical non-gangsta league as Sir Mix-a-Lot and the 2 Live Crew. It took Too $hort a few albums to wash the diffidence out of his mouth, but once he did, this larger-than-life character became an archetype for pottymouth banality. He’s since become a major force in the free-fire-zone of rap’s wild side, and his musical quality has been on the steady rise.
Busting rhymes of heartless sexin’ with average skills in a nearly conversational style — that, ironically, owes a lot to the lighthearted old-school, where his explicit verbiage would hardly have gone over — Too $hort has also demonstrated a surprisingly strong social conscience, although it’s hard to imagine what good straight talk from the author of “Pimpology,” “Blowjob Betty” and “Don’t Fuck for Free” does anybody.
Following a trio of albums (compiled on The Player Years) for a California indie, he released Born to Mack on his own label, making weak work of simple beats and unconvincing boasts, big-booty fantasies (“Freaky Tales,” “Partytime”), ugly putdowns (“Dope Fiend Beat”) and jailbait concerns (“Little Girls”). With guest MCs, more diverse beats and ruder misogyny, Life Is… spins its wheels through the innocuous boasts and crack-criticism of “Nobody Does It Better” and “I Ain’t Trippin’.” On the vinyl’s XXX side, however, T$ delivers mean-spirited tracks like “CussWords” (in which he describes getting a blow job from Nancy Reagan), “Pimp the Ho” and “Don’t Fight the Feelin’.” Short Dog’s in the House zips up his hot dog to concentrate on crack denunciations (see “The Ghetto”) and a clever statement against censorship: “Ain’t Nothin’ but a Word to Me,” a tag-team performance with Ice Cube in which the pair’s stream of profanity is intentionally obliterated by maddening beeps.
After dicking around with better ideas, the entrepreneur seems to have settled for being a caricature with a small, crude vocabulary, a chip on his shoulder about his skills and a few simple desires in the world. Get in Where You Fit In doesn’t bother to look up from a gutter-minded dedication to smoking dope and scoring with the ladies (if only T$ called them that; he throws around the word “bitch” like an interjection without regard to context or content, as in “We ain’t leaving — bitch!”), but benefits from a live combo augmenting the 808s and samplers. If Too $hort would shut up, the album would be entertainingly funky.
Like a fast-food restaurant, $hort Dog goes with what works on Cocktails — and hold everything else. A heap of producers delivers easygoing, nicely accented funk grooves that suit $horty to a T; he floats his slow flow like a promenading pimp inspecting his staff. With few interruptions, track after track — whether done solo or teamed up on the mic with 2Pac (“We Do This”), producer Ant Banks (“Can I Get a Bitch”) and the Dangerous Crew (“Giving Up the Funk”), all of whom out-hustle the star hustler — spews out tedious sex talk with all the insipid imagination of a bathroom wall inscriber and the narrative content of a porno movie with all the extraneous scenes consigned to the editing room trash bin. The album’s only ear-opener is “Thangs Change,” in which T$ offers a moralistic complaint about women’s loose behavior and trashy clothing. Hunh? What would have merely been absurdly arrogant hypocrisy turns out to be much weirder than that: “Rappers like me always disrespect ladies/Wonder why it’s like that?/Well, so do I/But I just turn my back and then I go get high.” For an illustration of the thinking that leads to countless social ills, $hort Dog’s shrugging lack of concern for his admitted irresponsibility is one trick of his that can’t be beat.