Legendary Oakland, California, rapper Too $hort has had a long career catapulted by sexually-explicit songs, or “dirty raps” as he likes to call them. But it was his recent controversial video interview giving advice to boys on “how to turn girls out,” that has caused the greatest outpouring of rage that's ever been directed at him.
There is no question or doubt that a line was crossed, especially when you consider the young boys and girls that the video was meant for and that the advice that leaned toward sexual assault.
Just beyond the controversy, AllHipHop.com was invited to interview Too $hort about his new album, but before getting to that, we had to talk to Uncle $hort about this serious issue - and to his credit, he didn't duck or hide behind a list of “don't asks” from his publicist. We went to interview the rapper Too $hort, but instead got a very open and candid interview from the man, Todd Shaw.
AllHipHop.com: It's been a rough couple of weeks for you in regards to the negative feedback that you received for your recent XXL video. Tell us what that was all about.
Too $hort: At the time, I thought it was something of a comedy nature. As they released it, it was put up in such an irresponsible manner. They just put up a headline without any type of real description of its intended nature. It's been a blessing in disguise, though, because as the negative reactions poured in, my first reaction was to just be like, “it's just a damn joke.” It took a moment though to understand what was really taking place here. Initially, I was being nostalgic about my situation growing up with games like “Hide and Go Get It” - you know just doing stuff as bad little kids. That goes from learning to how kiss to a lot more than that.
I say that it was a blessing in disguise because I had a conversation with Dream Hampton about it. Immediately when this happened I began to question why anybody would release the video in the manner that they did, and why would I even allow myself to be recorded? And especially during these times of social media, where you can grab any piece of that video and use it as you wish. The person who asked me to do the video set it up as a joke, but didn't release it with the premise of being a joke. I did an interview about music and my career. We finished, and while everybody was packing up, they asked for a little drop for their website. I still haven't seen anything else from the interview put up – just what they got from the video. I should have been much more responsible knowing what bloggers do. I take full responsibility. I have to reverse that bad energy.
Dream Hampton explained to me about how this is a time when women are fighting for their rights, and here's a video that describes an assault. I'm actually a very knowledgeable brother, but Dream schooled me in the conversation. It really opened up my eyes to something I had not known about. She told me that if we were kids at a pool and I ran by and yanked her top down, it wouldn't be a joke or a prank to her – that would be a traumatic incident, and it is along the lines of sexual assault. As little boys, we're running around tapping girl's a**es like it's funny, but they're really victimized by it. I learned that it's not a joking matter. I feel like I needed that education because had I not, I could've continued thinking that it is a joke. Even with my music filled with misogyny, I still have morals.
AllHipHop.com: I've listened to your music over the years. Although it's filled with misogyny, I can't recall any songs being about sexual assault.
Too $hort: The thing that bothers me is that I never get into that stuff during my interviews. When I do interviews, I talk about music and the business of making records – not about sex, pimps and hoes, or any of that. That video got me out of my element, and I rolled with it and tried to have fun with it – but it was a mistake – a big f*cking mistake.
AllHipHop.com: What was the conclusion of your conversation with Dream Hampton? Did she forgive you?
Too $hort: There can't be any forgiveness. I don't expect anybody to be like, “I forgive you for being remorseful.” That's bullsh*t. You've got to do something. I have to reverse the message. I hope that there aren't any kids who have seen that video. If it never resurfaces again, I'll be fine with that. Someone else would have ate up the negative publicity and ran with it for the shock-value and sensationalism. I've never gone the route of doing shocking things right before a release date. This is something that I could have done without.
AllHipHop.com: Ok, so this wasn't some type of pre-album release stunt?
Too $hort: Definitely not. I think some people would have been capable of actually creating and building off of something like this. I'm just glad that it gives me a purpose to do something positive now.
AllHipHop.com: Have you dealt with any Women's Rights or Abuse/Assault organizations yet?
Too $hort: This is still a pretty new situation, and I've been focused on my schedule in regards to my album release, but it's definitely on my agenda to make myself available to some worthy causes where I can be of some help – or do whatever it may take to help. I believe in karma. If you put that bad energy out, it's going to come back unless you put some good energy out.
AllHipHop.com: The last time I interviewed you, you had some choice words for fellow Bay Area rapper Messy Marv. I recently interviewed him again, and when I brought you up, he seemed to have eluded to a truce in the beef.
Too $hort: I don't know; he just stopped. I was on the defense, and I was never on the offense. I was only upset about the stories that were coming out of Fillmore – like we spoke about in our last interview. I had guys from Fillmore come to the studio and make songs about him. Some of them were like, “I ride with him but I'm not going to ride with him over you.” All of those songs are in the computer – I'm not even touching it. I dropped one song trying to be funny, and that was enough for me. I could have went to the extent of shooting videos, but I didn't. All of that stuff is what I feel to be bad energy. I like a challenge and a fight – fair or not – just don't punk out. I just waited to see where the fight was going to go.
It wasn't going to be a rap battle, that's for sure. I'm glad that he didn't, though, because I was like, “This is more about The Bay, then it is about you.” I'm glad he backed up off of it. Even from that moment, I've always said that when it comes to having hustle, fans, reppin' The Bay and being relevant – I've always liked Marv. His name always comes up, and he's one of the ones that got outside of The Bay and made a name for himself. I've always respected that about him. If you can live off of this Hip-Hop and feed your family without having to go get a day job, I commend you.
AllHipHop.com: The new album is called No Trespassin,' and it comes out February 28. I don't know how many albums you've done. I've lost count over the years [laughter].
Too $hort: I've kind of lost count myself, but we're officially calling this one #19. It's an album designed for – by request – for the older Too $hort fans. I'm not trying to say that I've made an album that young people won't like. I put some stuff on there for all of the older fans that tell me that they don't like the new stuff. It's like a combination and mixture of both. This is really the first independent album that I've ever put out. The freedom part of it feels really good. I don't have anybody all over me asking what the single is going to be.
During the recording process, A&R people like suggesting stuff. That kind of stuff doesn't throw you off – but it affects the album that you make. You've got someone suggesting what song to make, which direction to go, what song not to use or which feature to have. This is just me letting everything happen organically, the way that I like to work. I wanted to make an album that had a lot of instruments and a lot of singing. The beats are smooth. I had the option of speeding up the tempo like “Blow The Whistle” but I wasn't feeling that for me. I do feel that when I'm working with other artists, but there's a place and time for me. I don't feel like just because that sound works, that I should make a whole album of that sh*t.
AllHipHop.com: Does being independent take you back to your “tape” days when you were selling them out of your car?
Too $hort: It's kind of like that, but kind of not because of the Internet. The Internet gives you the opportunity to reach out really far. It's a lot of fun because it's not as limited. The time that you referred to, I was riding around vehicles, knocking on doors, and dropping stuff off. Now you can just click a button. The Internet is a motherf*cker [laughter].
AllHipHop.com: I bet you wish you had it back then.
Too $hort: Yeah, but you would also be missing an element of the hustle. I'm glad that I walked the pavement and the route I did to become Too $hort. I'm glad it was a foot thing instead of a social media thing. We really had to go to every trap around the corner and get people aware of us.
AllHipHop.com: What's next for you after this album?
Too $hort: I have the duo album with E-40 called The History Channel, which will be out in 2012. I'm developing some film projects. I'm not exactly sure how we are going to release them, but it's going to be something original and with a message. I'm also writing a book. It's not an auto-biography, because I don't want you to know what happened when I was five years old [laughter].
AllHipHop.com: So it's fictional?
Too $hort: No. It's true, but it's not in chronological order of my life. It's my experiences and the first one that I'm telling is my love affair with the city of Oakland, California. The city inspired me to write all of these songs. In light of what happened recently, I need that thing to deliver my message.
All of this negative stuff has sparked my positive juices. Its always been with me but you pay me so much money to rap dirty – I keep doing that. I would have been just as comfortable rapping about life, love and politics. Every time I say “b*tch” and you keep paying me – then I'm going to keep saying it. That was my philosophy all of these years. People are like, “You keep rapping, huh?” And I'm like, “They keep paying me.” If you stop paying me, I'll stop rapping that day [laughter].
AllHipHop.com: I get it now. So when is the book coming out?
Too $hort: I don't think it's going to be a 2012 thing, but I guarantee you that once I get the first one out, I will not stop writing.