Lessons From a Legend: Too Short on Pimping, Surviving Controversy, and Living vs. Dying


Todd Shaw, better known as Too Short, is a Hip-Hop legend. With over 20 albums under his belt in a career that started during Reagan’s first Presidential term, he has been through a lot. He is a pioneer of independent music, one of the few rappers who recorded with Tupac and Biggie, and, perhaps most famously, brought pimp culture to pop culture.

When AllHipHop.com spoke with Too Short for our continued “Lessons From a Legend” series, the West Coast vet had plenty of wisdom to share:

Lesson #1: Respect the Audience

I feel that somewhere along the line I had always intended for it [rap] to be a mixture of funny sh*t, ignorant sh*t, social commentary type sh*t-just a reflection of me. But somewhere down the line, people liked the dirty stuff a little better.

I think I kept integrity in the game as far being a mascot for the pimp life. I’ve always had strong ties with the pimp community. I’ve had guys tell me that the only thing they listen to when they take their girls to work is Too Short. Or girls want to hear that sh*t, it’s like motivation music to get everybody in the right frame of mind. And even though some of my biggest records were “The Ghetto”, “Life is… Too Short”, they don’t really go down in the Too Short legacy. The one thing I do have peace of mind with is that when I did put out conscious records as singles, [they] did really good.

Lesson #2: Save Money Up Instead of Showing It Off

When you come from nothing and you get a whole lot of something, you have a tendency to splurge on sh*t that you don’t need. And it was hard to tell me when I was 21, or anybody else who’s 21, not to spend your money on stupid sh*t. But when you get to be my age, you look back and think the stupidest sh*t I ever did was keep buying jewelry on top of jewelry on top of cars. It’s just a nasty habit to look back and think about how much went down the drain.

Lesson #3: Don’t Believe the Hype

Ice Cube came out with a [group] called Westside Connection. He was saying that the media that covers Hip-Hop was not showing just due to West coast rappers. At the same time, Tupac was getting shot and robbed in New York. Even though he loved New York and he loved his homeboy Biggie, he came out of that experience [thinking] in his mind that Biggie and Puffy set him up.

The East Coast/West Coast really was about Suge and Pac (being) mad at Biggie and Puffy. That’s what it was. Everybody else and the media fed into it and started putting it on records. Rappers started pretending like they had to take sides and sh*t. If we didn’t lose Biggie and ‘Pac, I’d say it was just a bunch of total bullsh*t. But we lost two of the greatest rappers ever, and the story goes that there was an East Coast/West Coast war. But I never fed into the sh*t.

Lesson #4: Watch Your Words

Earlier this year, XXL did the little swindle on me by posting that sh*t up on the Internet and trying to make it seem like I was giving little kids advice about sex. In reality, XXL was actually participating in some online joke or some sh*t. But then when they posted it, they posted it as “Too Short’s Advice to Kids.” And basically, they didn’t even run the f*ckin’ story.

I was at XXL for two hours for an interview about music. The lesson learned from me in the new social media age is how to be responsible with what you’re saying. You know what they do to politicians and sh*t. It’s like anything; they take that sh*t out of context and just run the f*ckin’ story with a piece of a sentence.

Part of the reason I did “Couples Therapy” was because [XXL] put a bunch of negative sh*t out on me like that. And I was like let me do something in the same timeframe that’s positive.

Lesson #5: Sleep When You’re Dead

You’ve always got to set goals for yourself. You’ve got to work toward something. Secondly, you’ve got to overachieve. And then, and most (importantly), is once you achieve your goals and you get to where you want to be, then you gotta work harder than you ever worked. And that’s the secret. It’s to work harder after you make it. Some people put their all into it just to get to a certain level and when they get there, they relax. Don’t relax.

Follow Too Short on Twitter (@TooShort), get his new History: Function and Mob Music albums with E-40 on iTunes here , and see him on “Couples Therapy” on VH1 on Wednesdays at 10 PM EST.