Too $hort vows to pimp the system?
As told to Ozone Magazine West:
Nobody really knows how I became Too $hort "the dirty rapper." Most people only know the story of me selling cassette tapes out of the trunk of my car before I made it big. I didn't write explicit lyrics until I noticed how much people liked it when I used curse words in my rhymes. It was always on some comedy sh*t. The truth is I didn't even have a car before I made it big; I sold tapes with my rap partner Freddy B on the bus or we walked around the streets of Oakland on foot.
Even before crack cocaine hit the streets, Oakland was a tough, violent, no-nonsense city. I quickly learned the codes of the streets and the rules of the game. My friends have been getting arrested and doing time since I was 14 years old and quite a few have been murdered since then. When I moved from Los Angeles to Oakland, I started running with the thugs. But even if I had never moved to Oakland, that would've been the outcome. The streets were calling me just like they're calling so many young homies today. It's always been that way.
Some of our fathers and grandfathers were criminals and street thugs when they were young. I've always understood how the REAL drug dealers and gangbangers justified the homicides they were doing by saying, "If somebody kills my homie or family member, I'm killing them," but somehow it doesn't settle the same way with me now that I'm 40 years old and my homeboy's sons are getting shot and murdered in the streets.
Somehow, I feel partially responsible for the state of mind these youngsters are in. I can't 100% blame myself, Tupac, Master P, N.W.A., Scarface, any other rapper, or Hip Hop as a whole for the condition the streets are in now, but I know that if you look at the big picture, we all made thuggin', gangbangin', pimpin' and being a hardcore rapper look like fun. A lot of people in my generation eventually found out, after the judges started handing out 20-30 year sentences, that we were set up. There used to be lots of career criminals who would be in and out of prison. They'd make a lot of money, lose it all, and then get it back again - but that was before privately owned prisons, "three strikes," and all the Federal laws that were designed to lock drug dealers up forever.
I truly feel that the generations older than me have no idea what's going on in the streets and how so many kids became murderers. I don't think any of us have a solution that would stop the killing immediately. They say jobs, housing, education and inner city programs are the solution. They say lock 'em all up and they problem will go away. I honestly don't know what needs to happen.
I've been working at Youth Uprising in East Oakland for the past year and it's not your average youth center. It's located next door to Castlemont High School, one of the toughest schools in Oakland. The building looks new inside and outside. They have recording studios that kids use for free if they're members (age 13-24). They also have modeling and dance classes, video editing, counseling and health care among many other things. My only purpose there is to pass down some knowledge and to be a positive role model. Imagine that! I don't get paid one dime.
Some residents of Oakland don't like the fact that "the dirty rapper" is working with the kids but there's nothing to worry about because my generation is the bridge between the youngsters in the streets and the political powers that run the city. I was 17 when crack hit the streets of Oakland. Most of the kids at Youth Uprising were born into the crack epidemic just like the kids in Los Angeles and Chicago were born into the gang culture. The kids don't know how plants grown in Columbia became crack cocaine in the ghetto. The way I see it, it's not much different than the blood diamonds in Africa. Kids are killing kids.
Earlier this year, I recorded a 10 song CD for Jive Records, the last thing I'll do with Jive as a solo artist. It's a very typical Too $hort album and this time I'm not celebrating my album release, I'm celebrating my release from a major label. I'm looking forward to being independent again.
There are too many young homies getting killed for me to keep writing songs about bitches sucking my dick. I'm too intelligent to let my knowledge go to waste without passing down some of this real game to the youngsters. When I talk to politicians, preachers, teachers and parents, they all agree that rappers have a loud voice and we really don't use it to motivate the kids in a positive way.
If you're a rapper, you probably already know that if you went into a major label on some positive sh*t, you won't get any support. You might get dropped. Kanye is definitely on some positive sh*t but he gives them what they want with his super-fly swagger and his million-dollar wardrobe so they can market his image even though his lyrics are positive. If you go to a record label on some dead prez pro-black, I'm-for-the-community sh*t, you won't get a marketing funds or video budgets. You won't even get a deal.
Every time a rapper tells me he's the next big sh*t that's gonna blow up and then I listen to his music and all I hear is "I sold dope, I'll kill a nigga, I got hella cars and money," I wish could make him be original. I wish I could make the next generation of rappers tell the truth about what they really feel. Rap is all about boasting and bragging. It's all about being invincible and coming out on top. It's all about rivals and battles. It's also always been all about uplifting and speaking out against the system.
As things are getting worse in the inner cities, us rappers are popping bottles, getting pussy and celebrating lies. Most of us aren't Forbes Magazine-rich but we've convinced the youngsters that we are.
Some of the kids I talk to at the youth center don't have Hip Hop dreams of fortune and fame. They just say things like, "I don't wanna get shot." I'm not talking about adults who made the choice to be gangsters. I'm talking about kids who have no choice in the matter. They feel like they need to carry guns if they wanna stay alive.
I've seen too many kids wearing "R.I.P." t-shirts with pictures of other kids on 'em. I've seen too many obituaries of kids who were born in the late 80s/early 90s. I don't even know the majority of them but it hurts like I did. I just jumped on a plane in Oakland and on my way to the airport I saw about 15 cop cars racing to the scene of a crime and I assumed another youngster had been shot in broad daylight. Maybe not, but I decided to write this and let you all know that I'm going to focus on making positive songs instead of nasty sex songs. Some people might misinterpret that as "cleaning up my act," or trying to be something I'm not, but I already have a history of making positive songs from the start. Check my track record. I've recorded and released several positive singles in my 25-year professional rap career - "The Ghetto," "Life Is Too Short," "Money In The Ghetto," and "Gettin' It," just to name a few.
Starting in 2008, I'm gonna be on some other sh*t. I'm still gonna make party songs and I'm still gonna use explicit lyrics but after 20 years on Jive Records, I'm not gonna let my voice go to waste once I'm independent again. Our youngsters need guidance and every last one of 'em LISTENS to rap music.
Hype really wants Too Short to do a rock album..