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Too $hort

Get Off the Stage

(Zomba; US: 7 Dec 2007; UK: Available as import)

There was a time when Too $hort was relevant. Indeed, there was a time when his relentless misogyny was somehow acceptable, when his hopelessly limited vocabulary was a kind of asset, and when he seemed important, worthy of respect, or, at least, of our attention. That time has passed.

Too $hort is now, on this, his 16th record, a boring, uninspired artist with nothing new to say about anything at all. While his raw fuck-jams, his furious woman-hating, and his casual homophobia might have seemed a significant “message” back in the era of Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube (two overrated MCs who idolized $hort), it now sounds completely pointless. This is, by any measure, an entire record of graphic sex fantasies punctuated by the endless repetition of the word “bitch”. It’s goofy, since it’s all so horrifically insipid, but it seems somehow darker than that—this isn’t a funny album, even when you want it to be. It’s close to self-parody, but the reality is that everything is delivered with such earnestness that you’re left with the ugly feeling that this guy actually lives like this.


Rare is the record that inspires a personal hatred of the musician behind the music. And for good reason—as an omnivorous listener, I tend to harbour respect for just about every artist out there, even if I don’t think much of their work. But I think I hate Too $hort.


I certainly hate what he says about just about everything. I hate that he feels a burning desire to (on the title track!) assail small-chested women for having the gall to dance in front of him: “If you ain’t got big titties, then why you up there stripping? Get off the stage, bitch!”. I hate that when a poor woman comes on to him, he chastises her before warning that “right now, I want to make you taste my nuts”. I hate that he tells a woman he wants to sleep with to “pull them panties down” and “let that pussy hang”. In three quick lines, Too $hort manages to attack a (silenced) stripper, insult a “broke” woman (high target, tough guy), and then order a bedmate to get naked for him (even as he obliquely slurs her vagina).  It’s all of this thoughtless anger toward women—which I know is hardly unknown to the world of hip-hop, but one of $hort’s claims to fame is that he started it!—that highlight his lack of creativity. 


In his website bio (which is by turns hilarious and unsettling), $hort emphasizes that the word “bitch” (which he has always made a point of pronouncing “biatch”, “biiiiiitch”, and “beeeeeeaaaaaatch”) is his trademark. In fact, he seems to think that this contribution was some kind of innovation. Yes, many artists copied his pronunciation, and indeed turned the word into a kind of street currency before it mysteriously made its way into the mainstream. Now, white suburban kids use the word “beeyotch” to refer to each other on the playground. Score one for Too $hort.


But are we really talking about this? Is this artist’s proudest legacy really his ground-breaking use of a word which, at the very least, denigrates women, and at most, well, denigrates women? On this record, Too $hort uses the word so often that it’s basically a comma, but every time he spits it, he’s talking about women. Even when he’s attacking men, his calling them a “bitch” is a put down—in his tune “Shittin’ on ‘Em”, he calls a bunch of different men “bitch”, and it ain’t because he likes them. Even when he’s vaguely trying to defend his use of the word—as in this supremely weird moment in “Pull Them Panties Down”: “Bitch, take ‘em off. Yeah, I called you a bitch. All bitches ain’t women. Pull ‘em down”—he manages to avoid making any goddamn sense. I know he’s not the only guy who does this stuff (hardly!), but he claims to have been the first. So, I’m shittin’ on him.


Musically, the record follows the trend $hort established upon moving to Atlanta from his native Oakland a few years back. It’s all treble click and booming bass, slow jams with interchangeable vocal lines—which, if you’ve been following the underside of the crunk scene, means his record sounds like every other lousy crunk record from the past four years. Guest MCs tend to be Oakland friends, but none seems up to the low-bar task of upping the ante on any of the tracks. Mercifully, the record is a mere 35 minutes long. At this length, it hardly qualifies as a complete album in the current world of bloated releases. Still, it’s a pretty long 35 minutes to sit through, especially if there are any women or homosexuals around when you’re doing it.


If you want, you can easily reduce all the songs on this record to one, awkward message: Too $hort hates “bitches”, but wants to fuck them. Freud would love this guy. Me, not so much. While I am so cherry picking using this line, how can a guy resist? Hey, has-been! Get off the stage, biatch.

Rating:

Stuart Henderson is a culture critic and historian. He is the author of Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s (University of Toronto Press, 2011). All of this is fun, but he'd rather be camping. Twitter: @henderstu


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