Too Short Interview (Part 1) (April 2013) (Dangerous Crew Series)
Don’t think we forgot! The Dangerous Crew Movement is still grinding along, and still growing.
The response to our Dangerous Crew features has continued to surpass all expectations and the unprecedented interest has only fuelled the desire to keep it moving forward with more interviews.
Features with other members of the Dangerous Crew over the last few years including Shorty B (Part 1 | Part 2), Pee-Wee, Spice-1 (Part 1 | Part 2), Goldy, MC Breed (Part 1 | Part 2), Ant Diddley Dog of Bad N-Fluenz (Part 1 | Part 2) and others has seen the re-emergence of many Dangerous Crew fans, as well as giving many readers of the West Coast News Network an opportunity to read and learn about the Dangerous Crew’s history and contributions to hip-hop.
This time around, we get an exclusive interview with Too $hort for our on-going Dangerous Crew feature series. Nobody represents longevity better than Too $hort, and after 3-plus decades of releasing multiple classic albums, featuring a catalog spanning longer than most rapper’s careers, there seems to be no end in sight for the godfather of bay area hip-hop. Still, with such an illustrious and extensive career as Shortdog’s, many fans of west coast hip-hop and hip-hop in general don’t know the story behind the Dangerous Crew era of his career. But Dubcnn caught up with $hort once again, this time to reflect with Too $hort about this eclectic group responsible in part for his multi-platinum success through the 90’s west coast rap era.
During Part 1 of this conversation with Too Short, we discuss things like his old school partner Freddy B, how he and super-producer Ant Banks originally began to work together, why he hasn’t worked with guys like Shorty B, Pee-Wee and Ant Banks in a while, and we get some additional information on how some of the members became involved.
Interview was done in December 2012.
Questions Asked By: Chad Kiser
Dubcnn.com: Short, let’s go back to the beginning. What made you decide to get in to this music business? Especially rapping, since at the time you got began, rap was a fairly new genre. What was it that made you want to do this and make this a career?
Well, I guess it was the love for not just for listening to music and collecting records and tapes and shit, but from a young age I took to it very easily and could play, and make some good music. When I first heard rap music I knew I could do it. I probably waited a year after the very first time I heard a rap record before I attempted to do it myself, and it was just something I did as a hobby; people liked it, so I kept doing it as a hobby and then one day started making money doing it.
Dubcnn.com: You’re early career has been well-documented about you selling tapes out of your trunk with your old school partner Freddy B. We haven’t heard from him since the “Don’t Try This At Home” compilation album.
We were rap partners in high school and then immediately after high school, right before I hooked up with 75 Girls, he went to prison. I don’t even know exactly what for, but I’m pretty sure it was probably drugs or selling drugs or something like that. Anyways, he went to prison and when he came out I was playing the 75 Girls stuff during that time frame, and he was like ‘yeah, I want get down’. Then he went right back to jail again. By the next time he got out, I had been rapping for a while. We had the Dangerous Crew album, and Cocktails, and stuff like that; that was during the time we had always kept in touch. I just recently found out he’s in Sacramento, he’s a preacher, or a deacon doing some kind of congregation church thing.
Dubcnn.com: When did you and Ant Banks first start working together? I understand he actually did some work on “$hortdog’s in the House”.
Well, Ant Banks did that song “So You Want to Be a Gangster” for the “Juice” soundtrack album, but basically I knew about Banks from those early days when it was him, Terry T, and MC Ant; I knew about Ant Banks when he was doing the early Pooh-Man stuff. Everybody was pretty much up on Ant Banks by the time he did the first Spice 1 album and his reputation kind of just stood out, like ‘I’m Ant Banks’. We just was always homies that would say what’s up around the town, and that was pretty much it. I always remember I was at the cable company paying a bill or doing something, and I saw him outside. We switched up numbers and the whole thing was like, ‘let’s hook up and do some work’. So from there, I’m not sure at what point in time we did the “Juice” soundtrack, but I do know that the first time we ever really, really, really got in the studio and started working was when I was working on the “Shorty the Pimp” album.
Prior to that, my engineer Al Eaton had been a very, very major part of the recording process because he would pretty much he would engineer and he would play the guitar like he did on “The Ghetto”, Life Is…Too Short” , and “Pimp the Ho”. He was just on a lot of songs from the “Life Is…Too Short” album and “$hortdog’s in the House” album, those songs had the Al Eaton influence on them. When we came in to do the “Shorty the Pimp” album, Al, during the time I was out touring with Ice Cube, had went over to visit old buddy Felton Pilate, who was one of MC Hammer’s producers at the time. So the same way Al was working with me — the OG artist from the bay working with the new rap artist – is the same way Pilate was working with Hammer. And Al had went over to see the facility that Hammer had built, all the people he employed, and the seeing that the album had sold 17 million records or whatever it was at the time. So when I got into the studio to start the “Shorty the Pimp” album, Al gave me a speech about how he didn’t want anyone to say the “n” word in his house and he didn’t want to make any “ghetto” music. He gave me a speeches like, “man, I’ve seen the light, it’s pop music” and “you gotta stop making music for black people and start making it for white people”. I was like I’m just making the funk; I don’t call it anything but funk! I came up with Parliament Funkadelic making the funk stuff; I’m not making any pop songs”. He had a whole list of beats he had made to present to me it was just some corny wack-ass pop shit, and I’m like “nope”.
Long story short, we had already paid him because he was such a like a member of the recording crew that we paid him in advance for the studio time. When I told him that I didn’t want to make pop music, he started playing this little game like his computer crashed and he had to reboot while we were trying to record, so his computer would take like 30- 40 minutes to reboot. He did little games like this for like 2 days and we didn’t get any work done. Normally, I would be sequencing shit, flying the hook and all kinds of shit. Al would basically just sit in front of the board messing around like that, fall asleep in the chair, and would only do stuff if you asked him to – he wasn’t doing shit. I had already seen how Ant Banks had worked, so I called him up and told him the same story I’m telling you. Banks shows up the next day with his keyboard, and he really didn’t know how to work Al’s studio because at the time Ant Banks had been working out of Live Oak [Studios] a lot with D-Wiz. Banks would go into a session with D-Wiz and tell D-Wiz to just sit back and tell him what to do — hit that button, turn that knob, do that. Ant Banks was learning how to engineer through D-Wiz. In no time flat, he had those skills down pat, so we just put Al to the side in his own studio and made the “Shorty the Pimp” album. That’s one of my favorite albums just because I can hear in the album how Shorty B, Pee-Wee, Ant Banks and myself were just about to learn how to work together. We hadn’t perfected it on that album, but we still pulled it off, it still sold well. I still listen back to it, I hear it, I get it, but it’s not that it wasn’t as clean as the next few albums, which was “Get In Where You Fit In”, “Cocktails”, and “Gettin’ It”, but you can listen to the music with Banks, Shorty B, Pee-Wee and just the process that we used to do to make beats and songs, and that was just a flawless crew we had.
Dubcnn.com: Why haven’t you worked with Ant Banks, Shorty B, and Pee-Wee in so long?
Personally, I feel like it was a chemistry thing to where the time and the place from us being in Oakland, and having the studio in west Oakland, to having everything moved to Atlanta and having the shit we jumped off in Atlanta. Pee-Wee never really moved to Atlanta, he would just stay at Shorty B’s place for a long amount of time and be there when we needed him. Ant Banks bought a house, stayed for maybe two years, and I don’t even know if it was a full two years, but Ant Banks wanted to be closer to his family, and his mother. Looking back, his future wife was there, too, so he probably wanted to be around her and do whatever. We still worked some for a while, but then somewhere along the line, I remember Shorty B came to my house in LA one day and he said, ‘I want more money. I just feel like $100,000 would make me feel better’. So I told him I would give him $50,000 and we did some deal on how he would get the other $50,000, or whatever it was. I guess he was in his mood that day or something because he just said, ‘well, fuck it if I can’t have a $100,000 right now, I ain’t gonna do no more work‘. So that’s how that kind of soured.
From there I was in Atlanta, where there was a lot of really talented people, and Shorty B started working with Organized Noize and spreading the funk around, and no matter what happened about the business, we always remained friends, hanging out at each other’s houses. Shorty B is just one of those attitude kind of people, you know, he’s just Shorty B. But, Pee-Wee went back to Cali, Banks left, so the whole thing just wasn’t there. I still had Banks beats on my albums, and I think the last time I got beats from him was for “What She Gonna Do?” a song I love, which was on the “Married to the Game” album. Lately, we’ve been trying to reach out, but this is the first time since that I been in Oakland and Banks has been in Oakland, we talk on the phone – it just has to have the regularity part to it because right now it’s just a big deal to just meet up or whatever, you know what I mean? For years there were a lot of miles between us with him in Phoenix and me in Atlanta, but recently we were talking about working together, and then his nephew, who he was really close to, tragically got killed. I mean, we still all cool and shit, I know all about Banks being on the golf course all the time, our friends in our circle still are in touch. I would love to work with Ant Banks because I know he’s got some heat sitting over there, I just don’t if he is still into it as much as I’m still into it. And Shorty B just does Shorty B, I just saw Shorty B out in Charlotte, NC. Pee-Wee is still working with Digital Underground, he never stops doing that because whenever I call he’s part of their show.
Dubcnn.com: How did the Dangerous Crew of you, Banks, Shorty B, Pee-Wee, Goldy, Father Dom, Bad N-Fluenz and the rest of the crew come together?
Well, Goldy was friends with Randy Austin, one of our business partners, and he started coming around the studio during the time we were doing the “Shorty the Pimp” album where he raps on “Something to Ride To”. If you listen to the style he raps, that was not really popular back then. Twista was rapping fast and it there wasn’t really a whole lot of people doing that style, so Goldy kind of flipped our style. On that day, he came in and rapped that shit in one take and kind of impressed everyone in the studio, so we paid attention and kept him around and agreed to put his album out.
Father Dom he was affiliated with one of our close friends Ron, who was one of the guys in our group of guys who tried to do some labels, and he had put out Father Dom’s first album. Well, Ron didn’t want to be in the business anymore so Dom just gravitated to us, and I agreed to put his album out, get him hooked up, let him appear in my videos, come out to Atlanta and stay in my house, record and stuff like that.
The way I really got affiliated with Ant Banks and Pooh-Man was the guy who was putting them out, and who was another close friend of ours named Big Bruce, had got murdered. They had hot songs out on the street, but they really didn’t have the knowhow of what to do with it, so I ended up joining forces with them, and we got them on board and we did the deal with Jive.
Rappin’ Ron and Ant Diddley Dog were some youngsters we came across through another homie of mine Davey D, who started Cellblock Records and did those Cellblock compilations. But yea, we had a nice little crew; we had a studio on 16th and Myrtle Street in west Oakland that was in a house upstairs. We took one of the bedrooms, stripped it down and built a real sound proof studio in there. We did a lot of fucking hits in there!
Stay tuned for Part 2 with Too Short on Dubcnn…coming soon!