Pioneering west coast rapper Too Short’s “In the Trunk” song bumps majestically during the opening scene of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther movie. When the Marvel Studios movie opens, it’s Oakland, California circa 1992, with kids playing basketball in the park, as the bay area anthem “In the Trunk” serves as the soundtrack to sonically epitomize an era and time period. It was dope.
“In the Trunk” is vintage Too Short spitting effortlessly over a bass-heavy, Barry White drum loop. Also, the lead-single 26 years ago to the Shorty the Pimp album, “In the Trunk” proudly displays the funk with which the song was built upon. With Too Short providing his unique, laid back flow, Shorty B brilliantly compliments the beat with a funky bassline that rolls coolly through the song.
DubCNN sat down with Too Short, Shorty B, and Ant Banks of the Dangerous Crew to discuss the inclusion of “In The Trunk” in the Black Panther movie, the process of making the record, how they found out about the song being in the movie, the accuracy of the representation of Oakland in the movie, and more.
Interview conducted in March 2018.
Questions Asked By: Chad Kiser
Too $hort – In The Trunk (Video)
DubCNN: It’s crazy that a song you created together 26 years ago, “In the Trunk”, is also the song that opens the recently released, record-breaking and billion-dollar box-office smash “Black Panther” movie from Marvel/Disney Studios. How did you feel when you first heard that this song kicked off the movie?
Too Short: I was at an NBA all-star event, the Kenny Smith party, and somebody told me it was in the beginning of the movie. So, I had gotten a heads up my song was in there. I knew Kendrick Lamar and them had been going around the west coast trying to get a bunch of songs for the soundtrack, but it wasn’t really clear if it was for the soundtrack or the movie. And then I just went to see it to find out for myself, but nobody said it was the opening song, so that kind of fucked me up that it was the first song.
Shorty B: I was surprised. It was shocking, but it felt good. I was proud to be a part of that. It was so unreal because when you first sit down to start watching the movie the first thing you hear is me [laughs]. It’s shocking because you wake up one day and your record is opening a billion-dollar movie. I’m grateful and proud that it was picked.
Too Short: It’s part of that whole long-term, hard work, paying your dues shit. The director grew up in Oakland, he’s from Oakland, and it was part of the fabric of his existence in the city. For him to direct the movie like that and put Oakland in the beginning and the end of the movie the way he made it make sense. It’s where he’s from! It’s Too Short’s shit. His mama probably grew up on Short [laughs].
Ant Banks: When it came on I was totally shocked, like oh my God! The theater was packed, and the crowd jumped into it. I don’t think anybody was ready for that big of a movie, that magnitude of a movie to have Too Short kick the movie off, with his song in the background. It’s huge.
DubCNN: Oakland, in 1992. Tell me what you remember from that era and point in time. Did the movie capture the Town correctly, and did Black Panther spark any memories from that moment in time for you?
Ant Banks: In 1992, the hottest thing in Oakland was “In the Trunk”. If you weren’t from Oakland and didn’t know that, you wouldn’t have known. The setting of the movie all kind of went hand in hand for me because that was what was going on. As far as me, I was living high off the hog back then because I had just produced Dangerous Dame, Spice 1, Pooh-Man, and then Short was my first really big nationwide release. That was a crazy time for me because I was the hottest name, hottest producer in Oakland and pretty much the west coast at that time. The only thing you really had big at that moment was Dr. Dre and DJ Quik.
Shorty B: It was crazy, but I was selling crack cocaine in the Acorn projects around this time frame in the last 80’s and early 90’s. One day there was a knock on my door and when I opened it up it was the homie Really Raw, and standing behind him was Huey P. Newton, Mr. Black Panther himself. I’m sorry to say it, and I’m not glorifying it by any means, and I knew who he was and heard he was already out there like that in the streets pushing up hard, but I hate to say that I sold him drugs. I feel bad about that.
Too Short: It was a rough city. A kid coming up in Oakland now would probably say it’s tough for them, too. But statistically, the years from ’92-94 were very, very violent in Oakland. The movie opens with a violent act affecting a little kid. I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t him as a little kid, somebody close to him had an experience like that, where they lost a male figure in their life or a male figure probably lost to the streets. For that to be in the movie, it just rings true.
DubCNN: If you could relive 1992, is there anything different you would do or change? Projects you would work on, or projects you turned down that maybe you wouldn’t have in hindsight?
Ant Banks: There was a few big projects I turned down, and actually the Big Thangs album I did in ’96 was really brought to me to do when Jive had initially signed me. I was signed in 1991 to record an album, but they were more so wanting me for my voice. Not for the lyrical skill or nothing, but they loved my voice. They wanted me to record an album, but I just wanted to do the production thing. It was always supposed to that Big Thangs that I did later down the line.
Too Short: For me, in hindsight, I can’t look back and see a career change that would have been a drastic change, but I do know that guys my age in that era we were in the midst of something that we could have never imagined with the early stages of what soon came to be mass incarceration. At the time, we were focused on personal gains of jewelry, cars, and just kind of like trophies, and that was a great opportunity there to where there was so much money that was dirty, but instead of waiting around to get 30 years in jail and it just be thrown away, a lot of young guys had the opportunity to become business men or real estate owners; or things that would have empowered the community more than what we did. The next generation after us came up calling the streets the trap, and it really is the trap. But they’re celebrating the trap. When I look back, I could have been a louder voice because I was one of the people who knew that crack was a trap. I’d been writing songs about it since day one!
Shorty B: In 1992 I was just coming off the tour with Short, and we were transitioning to Atlanta, and I had met Rico Wade from Organized Noize. He was trying to get a new deal with a company called Red Ant, I believe it was called. We were in Curtis Mayfield’s studio with Rico, Ray, Goodie Mob, Outkast, and all of them when they were trying to get their stuff to take off. I had also met up with MC Breed and I ended up staying at his house with him, D.O.C., Jazze Pha, Jibri, Jamal and Malik from Illegal, and DFC, and we were all just making music at the time. I even met Dr. Martin Luther King’s youngest son at a night club in Atlanta, and we went outside to the van we had rented and smoked a joint together, man. It was a crazy time for me.
DubCNN: Featured on the multi-platinum Shorty the Pimp album, tell me how “In the Trunk” came about from idea and concept, to finished recording.
Shorty B: It was one of those things where I put riffs on and tried to turn it into music. The whole riff was me as far as the bom-bombom-bom-bom-bom. Banks did the break beat sample, but as far as instrumentation I pretty much played everything. It’s fairly simple, it’s not a complicated song at all.
Ant Banks: It was me, Shorty B, and Short. In 1992 there was a big lawsuit involving George Clinton and Bridgeport Music over sampling. So, dealing with “In the Trunk”, it had a sample in it that we were forced to take out. Shorty B was messing around and that one little riff of the song, it was just a riff, it wasn’t even the bassline.
Shorty B: I think when the bass riff was made, and Short decided he was going to use that, Banks went and programmed the drums and matched it up. I played the riff over it and “In the Trunk” was born.
Ant Banks: When Short heard the bom-bombom-bom-bom-bom riff, he just said the repeat that part right there. The rest of the song just came together as we were trying to pull the sample out. We were so stuck on trying to pull the sample out of the song, that that’s what we had left.
Too Short: It was an obstacle, a bump in the road, but we always got around that issue because we were musicians, you know? You can listen to something you were trying to sample, change a few notes or play it yourself. Samples sometimes have a perfect feel. I listen to a lot of old Too Short songs, and we skipped over the sampling a lot. Most of the time we just played the music over. I like that process because I would listen back to hip-hop in general and a lot of artists just went for the sample, and they weren’t really dealing with musicians.
Ant Banks: It came out dope as hell, but we accidentally came out with the product we came out with. The drums and all of that I put all of that together. Shorty B came in and played the bass on top of the sample. Short was the main one that wanted the sample out. In my mind, I think Short came up with the title for it because he kept going back to his truck to play it and saying it was in the trunk. That’s all he kept saying.
Too Short: It was made during, what I call, the best years of my life making music in my career, when I fully assembled the Dangerous Crew and the guys did most of the production. It’s when I had Shorty B, Ant Banks, and Pee-Wee. We all made beats and between us four, you could pretty much interlock the pieces or add somebody to it, and it was just always the funk. We had a good four or five year run, and “In the Trunk” falls right in those years.
DubCNN: What equipment were you guys using to create “In the Trunk”?
Ant Banks: The Roland JD-800, Roland TR-808, and Shorty B playing the bass. That was all we had that day. I sampled the drum loop of “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby” by Barry White.
Shorty B: I was using the SoundGear bass guitar by Ibanez that Short had bought when we first started messing around, and it was the same bass you see me playing in the video, too. My normal guitar of choice at the time was the Fender Jazz four and five string guitars, but the Ibanez is just what I had at the time.
DubCNN: When a song an artist or producer has recorded ends up in a movie like this, what’s the process for clearance and whatnot? I had heard that neither Too Short nor yourself even knew it was in the movie, but you two wrote and produced the record.
Shorty B: I was just talking to my attorney and he was telling me that I should be getting a check for a couple hundred thousand just for the licensing itself, not even talking about the publishing. I guess when the record company signed off on it they have to honor everything in the contract we had. I’m still getting paid for “In the Trunk” off my royalties already. But this ain’t nothing new because this is like my sixth soundtrack, I believe, like Menace II Society, Booty Call, How to Be A Player and others. I talked to Sony last week and they said they’d be cutting checks in about 6 to 9 months, so we’ll see. Like Short said, the check will be in the mail soon [laughs].