Too $hort: Keep On Truckin’

As the well-known freaky tale goes, Too $hort’s multi-platinum dreams started in the streets of Oakland. Close to a quarter century later, the after-effects of Todd Shaw’s still-monumental achievements still reverberate throughout the Town (as the city is affectionately known), and on blocks all over the country. Whether it’s encouraging the current generation of Hyphy youth in the Bay Area, or making moves in his more recent home, the ATL, $hort has stayed current like few of his veteran status have managed.

With the Lil’ Jon produced single, “Blow The Whistle” ringing out everywhere and preparations for the sweet 16th album, Up All Nite still in progress, $hort Dog took some time to talk about the Hyphy movement and offer some guidance for not only the Bay Area, but artists all over. He also reveals more of his tremendous goals and how he plans to drive towards true independence until the wheels fall off. Just don’t ask him to ghostride the whip.

AllHipHop.com: You seem to be particularly feeling your Bay-ness right now, really digging into the local scene and helping people out. Have you always taken that much initiative?

Too $hort: From day one, I always felt like if someone like a Rappin 4-Tay or Spice-1 rises to the surface, and you could just see they got a hot song and you could just see the talent in them, I always immediately go to that person and say, “Let’s do something together; let’s work. Do you need any help? Can I help you? What you need?” I’m passing on the word to the insiders in the industry, the executives and whatever. I’m just doing whatever I can to help people in the Bay Area make the right decisions and get the right shine on them.

And we’re doing it right now with the whole Hyphy thing. We talk on the phone all the time, me and 40, and it’s like, we gotta do something for the youngsters. We’ve gotta present this Hyphy movement to the masses so that the youngsters can just step into it and really show you what it is.

AllHipHop.com: What’s been some of the advice you have been giving to these younger cats riding on the Hyphy movement?

Too $hort: I’m telling ‘em right now, I’m saying, “Do you know that the hottest sound to all the kids – everybody around the country – is music that makes you bounce?” If you look at the Dipset, they’ve been doing that bounce stuff. You can say they’re biting on ATL, biting on the South, it doesn’t matter. It’s bouncing, it sounds good; the kids love it. You can throw all your eggs in the Hyphy basket and think it’s a new thing and jump on the bandwagon. But really I’m saying the Hyphy is a hot sound – it’s an uptempo West Coast sound, it’s hot. But at the same time, why are people from the West Coast scared to make bounce music? People from the South actually borrowed many, many elements from the West Coast – that whole Tupac thug swagger – to create Crunk, you know what I’m saying?

I’ve lived in Atlanta since ’93, I was there before Crunk. I’d come back here [Oakland] over the years and talk about OutKast, 8Ball and MJG, UGK and people would say, “We don’t wanna hear that s**t!” The West Coast was dissing the South and so was New York while the South was steadily brewing and really coming up, ’94, ’95, ’96. They didn’t want to accept it. I remember in ‘98 being told by a record company executive in New York, “Don’t bring me that Lil’ Jon s**t. That s**t will never sell outside of Southeastern America. That’s for down there, we don’t want that s**t.” And we see where Lil’ Jon went with it. I just feel like it could be a local sound, it could be a national sound. It could be whatever, but you can’t control it. You just gotta let it do what it’s gonna do.

Even in LA, that Dr. Dre sound ain’t never went nowhere. I was listening to some new stuff that come from G-Unit that kinda had the Dre feel. It don’t bounce, it ain’t Crunk, it ain’t Hyphy, it ain’t East Coast. It’s the Dre sound and it’s hot. So that’s certified West Coast music, they keep bringing that sound and it’s permanent. I’m not scared to make bounce records. I’m hanging in there, I’m working with all the South artists, I’m bringing producers to my studio to make me Crunk tracks, bounce tracks, Snap tracks. I’m doing everything, let’s just have it come out. Jay-Z knew that s**t. On his first album, he worked with me, a California artist. He worked with cats like UGK and he got with Timbaland and ended up doing bounce records and records that sounded like an East Coast artist. He knew that to absorb and accept all the elements of Hip-Hop was a successful move. I knew the s**t, Biggie Smalls knew the s**t – that’s why he made different kind of records and tried different styles and made records with like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and s**t.

AllHipHop.com: Regardless of what happens, as usual, cats in the Bay will complain about being ripped off…

Too $hort: I don’t care about that originality s**t. I’m into bank deposits, I don’t give a f**k about originality. I don’t use anybody’s rhyme, I’m never gonna use anyone’s signature whatever, I’m never biting on anybody. Me personally, I’m the one who’s always my lines borrowed. You know, everybody wanna say “b*tch” like Too $hort, so no comment on that! I appreciate it. Every time somebody say “b*tch,” I like it. I’m really not condoning all these Bay Area muhf**kers running around talkin’ bout, “Man, they’re stealing from us, they’re stealing from us!” Steal it back muhf**ker, s**t! Quit complaining!

AllHipHop.com: What can you say about your next album Up All Nite? Who produced it?

Too $hort: Jazze Pha did half of the album, and Lil’ Jon did the other half. I got a few miscellaneous producers, but basically they did the whole album. I’m in the process of doing the last couple of songs. I’m trying to do some different elements like work with T-Pain, and Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas, just to get some different type of stuff.

AllHipHop.com: Between your song “Blow The Whistle” and E-40’s “Tell Me When To Go,” Lil’ Jon has been making some key Bay Area anthems. You’ve worked with him for years, but what’s it like working with him right now?

Too $hort: If you wanna get real technical, Lil’ Jon is the n***a who put the stamp of approval on Crunk, right or wrong? He’s the n***a who brought it to the world, right? The Crunk had been there before Lil’ Jon, but he took the word and he took the Crunk movement, and he brought it to the masses. And basically, that woulda never happened had I not been in Atlanta and I not been in the right place at the right time and stepped in and helped Lil’ Jon get out of the situation he was in so he could move on with his career, you feel me? That’s why he’s working with E-40, that’s why he’s working with me, ’cause it’s in appreciation for – you know, he was stuck in a f**ked up situation and I stepped in and just helped. I didn’t make him, I didn’t promote him, I didn’t invent him. All I did was help him. And he’s been reaching back and helping me ever since. I never knew he was going to be double, triple platinum, MTV, Chappelle Show. I just knew he had talent and I was helping out another youngster who had talent. And he’s been helping us like a muhf**ker. He’s delivering us hit records – Lil Jon just stands next to you, it’s like a hit record. If he jump in your video, it’s on MTV, you feel me?

What I’m trying to say is he appreciates the Bay Area. Not just that $hort Dog helped him, but he likes the Bay Area. Lil’ Jon been telling me for two years, “Man, they crazy out there in the Bay with the Hyphy s**t.” He wasn’t saying it was gonna be the next hot thing, he liked it ’cause he’s from that Crunk s**t: Jumping around bumping into each other. Lil’ Jon made “Burn Rubber,” that was like one of the hyphiest songs ever. Nobody really knows he made that beat. He appreciates us, we appreciate them.

AllHipHop: So will you and E-40 be the ones to really bring Hyphy out to the masses?

Too $hort: Nope, I think 40 and Too $hort are going to endorse it, and I think that if 40 or Too $hort tried to take it to the masses we’re almost just like perpetrating a little bit. We shouldn’t be the pied piper that leads ‘em in, we should just present it. Keak da Sneak or Mistah F.A.B. should. It shoulda been Mac Dre to be the one bringing it to the masses, but his life was cut short. I think it’s on the next generation. Me and 40, all we can do is help. It’s an endorsement, that’s all. ‘Cause me and him sat around and talked about the youngsters and how much our songs influenced them, but me and 40 don’t jump out of cars and ghost ride the whip and go stupid hanging out of windows. We don’t do that s**t. Somebody who does that needs to lead it. Mac Dre did that stuff. Keak da Sneak does that stuff. Mistah F.A.B. does that stuff. They need to lead the moment. 40 and me just need to be the Bay Area ambassadors we are, just stayin up on the throne or whatever and just overlook the masses and just say, “Handle your business.” I’m trying to be a guiding light.

AllHipHop.com: You recently dropped the “Gangsters and Strippers” mixtape/compilation on your Up All Nite label. Do you have a distribution situation worked out for your label?

Too $hort: It’s a little premature [to talk about] but we’re starting our own label without any involvement. We’ve got our own distribution, everything, our own marketing department. We don’t have a deal with Koch, or Navarre, or City Hall, we’re doing our own thing, figuring out a way to get back into the record stores. We own the manufacturing equipment, everything. I’ve been dealing with this thing for the last three years on the low. I’m not afraid to say it now – the last few years, I haven’t been saying anything about it, but I can certify it now that we’ve really been brewing. I’ve been rebuilding, learning how to be independent the right way. The only thing I don’t have is the truck, the 18-wheeler to ship the CDs out. And, believe me, the first chance I get to buy it, I’m buying it.

Too $hort is one of the great legends interviewed in Tamara Palmer’s book Country Fried Soul: Adventures in Dirty South Hip-Hop (Backbeat Books). Check it (and her) out at http://www.myspace.com/countryfriedsoul

Related Stories