Shoutout to HIphopDX for this one!
Legendary rapper Too Short sits down with HipHopDX and explains how Jive Records pushed him to be exclusively nasty and that the major labels plotted to keep positive Rap off the radio airwaves.
DX: I selected “I Want To Be Free” for the “10 Most Powerful Videos In Hip Hop History” editorial I did for DX a couple months back. I noted in my write-up about the video that you never really resumed your role of reporter of societal ills after “I Want To Be Free,” instead choosing to comprise your content almost entirely of Cocktails. Why did you shift away from doing heavier songs like that, “The Ghetto,” etc.?
Too Short: In the mid-‘90s when Death Row Records emerged to be like the hottest – no doubt about it on the West Coast – music around at the time, particularly with the Dr. Dre album, [The Chronic], Snoop Dogg’s debut album, [Doggystyle] and Tha Dogg Pound album, [Dogg Food], at that time I’m getting ready to make the album Cocktails and I moved to Atlanta …. I’m moving to Atlanta and things aren’t in my life, things aren’t the same as in Oakland. I’m leaving Oakland during a very, very, very hostile era, where there’s a major drug war going on between a lot of guys that I’ve known for years and years who are killing each other.
I’m rappin’ this pimp image but I’m also – In all of my early albums with Jive [Records], they all had lots of songs that weren’t about sex, that didn’t have curse words in ‘em, and I would pick subjects like crack cocaine, poverty and police harassment and rap about it. When I got to Atlanta in the mid-‘90s, Death Row’s emerging, Bad Boy [Records is] hittin’ and we’re just about to enter the bling bling era. And Hip Hop is in a mood where it’s like I’m rich now, I got money.
And, I’m not gonna blame this on anybody, but I was actually being pushed into a direction where I would talk to people at Jive [Records], I would go talk to the President, Barry Weiss, and he was like – I always wanted to do these [side] projects like the E-40 duet album, which was one they never would let me do. Jive would never let me and E-40 do an album together. They kept making excuses and so it never got done. I also wanted to do an album that was filled with songs like “The Ghetto,” “Life Is…Too Short,” “Money In The Ghetto,” “I Want To Be Free.” I wanted to do a whole album of positive Too Short songs, just to keep that balance. I had made a verbal deal with Barry Weiss, where he was like, “Right now would be the perfect time, you should do like the raunchiest Too Short album ever – the album cover, the songs, just do a dirty ****in’ Too Short album.” This is the executive running the company advising me to put out an entire album of just cursing and sex.
So I’m like, “If I did that I’d have to then do the exact opposite and follow-up that with an album that’s all positive.” And so, I did the album for him, we did You Nasty. I thought it was a funny idea at first – we had like a porn star on the cover, I’m naked, the girls are naked and we really did a butt-naked photo shoot. And it got a gold album and all that stuff. But when it came time to do the positive album, it was never a good idea. It never got the green light. Once I did what they wanted, they would never let me do what I wanted.
I started noticing at that time in Hip Hop that the labels were actually signing the artists and promoting the artists who would bring in just the negative messages: let’s have sex, drop ya booty. We getting off into Crunk now, the bling bling is out there … it’s going down. It was a new swag and everybody wanted to brag about – Rap has always been about bragging, but everybody wanted to brag about the millions. And I noticed that at a certain point in Hip Hop the major labels stopped signing and promoting the positive artists, the ones that was just really positive. Positive images were hard to get out there. So I’m just saying that at some point it wasn’t that Hip Hop changed on its own, it had a little push. I’m a real conspiracy theorist, and I just feel like there had to be a gathering of the major labels and somebody had to say like, “Look, we gotta keep this positive **** off the airwaves and let this booty-shaking **** take over. It’s time.” And after that it’s like the floodgates just opened with sex and violence.
And it was on the radio! You couldn’t get Too Short songs on the radio back in the early days. But now I’m saying “Shake That Monkey” – the song is literally saying shake your vagina – and it gets played on the radio. C’mon man