Music

Too Short: Blow the Whistle

There's nothing new or surprising here, but album number 15 is good enough to justify album number 20. Beeeitch!


Too Short

Blow the Whistle

Label: Jive
US Release Date: 2006-08-29
UK Release Date: Available as import
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With a career that dates back to the early '80s, Too $hort has outlasted every other rapper from his generation by following the well-worn cliche: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. That is to say, he has a major label contract, yet he raps like it's 1983. Rarely is there the faintest conceit of lyricism anywhere in his two decade span. No doubt, there are plenty of ways to make great rap music that don't rely on being in touch with one's inner Rakim. But dude just strings couplets together for as long as he can, never fucking with great discoveries like the internal rhyme scheme or the complex metaphor. Even his emotional depth is relatively limited. His rhymes have a weirdly antiquated quality, like time has not moved for him. It wouldn't be that surprising to hear him reference the Soviet Bloc. One of $hort's early albums was called Don't Stop Rappin'; he apparently can't pause even to retool his style. And yet, here he is, beloved, respected and still selling records.

This isn't to say it's hard to understand Sir Too $hort's appeal. He controls the mic with the charisma and finesse of an old-school party rocker. His intensity gives weight to his extra-large verses and hookless tracks. "In the Trunk", a six-minute manifesto with no hook, is riveting in a way few tracks are. His x-rated material ("Blowjob Betty", "Freaky Tales") is classic to say the least. And he championed the word "bitch", helping to make it into the staple it is today. $hort also has a great ear for a beat. His early production, a creeping, minimal, 808-driven funk aesthetic, foreshadowed the George Clinton-esque beats that would drive Bay rap in the future. In the 90s, he got tons of help from the legendary Ant Banks. More recently, he moved to Atlanta and got in on the ground floor of the crunk movement with Lil Jon.

But ultimately, it's all business for $hort: he will supply if there is a demand. There has been a reasonable demand for Too $hort albums since he was selling them out of his trunk in Oakland, and even as that demand wanes, his dinosaur style has gotten him this far. He has made it clear he'd rather retire than try something new. And so, as with Too $hort's last four or so albums, Blow the Whistle might as well be called Y'all Still Want Me to Rap?. His latest isn't a resounding yes, but it is everything we've come to expect from Sir Too $hort: funky, ignorant, and star-studded.

Whistle broke out early with a couple of wild singles: "Blow the Whistle" and "Keep Bouncing". The album's title track has been in heavy rotation since the spring. $hort mostly riffs on his influence on pop culture ("Ask Dave Chapelle about my rich bitch, / He got it from me, / He made 50 million dollars, / I'm proud of you, D"), while Lil Jon gets unconventionally fast and menacing on the beat. The Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am steals "Keep Bouncing" with his production, a strange mix of sparse drums, vintage synth buzzes, and maybe some marimba? Even though Snoop Dogg spits a pretty hard verse and $hort brings the usual, will's rhymes (which include a request for a national Titty Holiday) are idiotic brilliance.

Whistle never surpasses its singles, but it's still decent. Other highlights include some Jazze Pha-fueled indulgence in the form of "Playa", "16 Hoes" and "Nothing Feels Better" ( hook: "Nothin in the world make a nigga feel better, / Than when you're suckin my dick" . . . crooned by Jazze). David Banner stops by for "Baller", which celebrates entrepreneurship and scorns for-profit churches. "I Want Your Girl" is strictly Bay Area, with the requisite cameos from E-40 and Mistah FAB.

$hort's lyrics play mostly off two themes: he's a pimp and he's been around forever. Even "Burn Rubber Pt. 2", ostensibly about cars, is basically about pimpin'. And it should be noted that he is still a pimp in the most literal sense. While many so-called pimps would redefine pimping through rap as a vague mix of fucking a lot and / or not paying for dinner, Sir Too $hort does not beat around the bush. Though his X-rated raps no longer pack the shock value they once did, his descriptions of the pimp reality are pretty rough. The breakdown of the average whore's background on "Pimpin' Forever" is hard to ignore, as is $hort's readiness to smack his women. But $hort also disparages the tricks who would pay him and plays up the business relationship between a pimp and a whore. In nihilistic contrast to the "thug 'em, fuck 'em, love 'em, leave 'em, / 'Cause I don't fuckin need 'em" mentality, he may actually respect women more than so-called pimps.

There's nothing new or surprising on Blow the Whistle, but it is one of his better efforts since the mid-90s. His status as a living legend still earns him top-shelf beats and big name collaborations; Pimp C, Bun B, Kurupt and Daz (four legends in their own right) all contribute. And even so, $hort is still a little better than the only-as-good-as-your-guests status that marks a career twilight. This is Too $hort's 15th album. Judging from Whistle, he might make it to 20.

6

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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