With a hustle unmatched and a career more consistent than most, Too Short is considered to many as the first true rapper. Now in 2010, Short faces the new digital landscape of the industry with an internet only release, Still Blowin. He talks about the events that lead to his Jive release, compares the old bay to current day artists, and talks about his final full length LP.
Baycentrik: You have your new project, Still Blowin with a release date of April 6th. You've come a long way from the era of selling tapes out the trunk, why did you decide to go digital only for Still Blowin?
Too Short: It's just an appetizer for the album, that's the follow up. I'm dropping an album later this year. It'll be full plain, in stores, available situation. But right now just to get a little activity going. It's partially financial and partially marketing type stuff. We make a lot of songs now, and with the internet access to all the music it's easier to let some songs, either leak out or be available on the internet before you go through the process of manufacturing and distributing. It's just a quicker way to get a buzz going.
Baycentrik: It's more convenient for you to get your music out there this way.
Too Short: That's the word, convenient!
Baycentrik: So this is the appetizer until the main album comes along...
Too Short: On this project, I would say 3, not more than 4 songs will make the album.
Baycentrik: Are you gonna be shooting any videos for Still Blowin or you gonna save it for the real album?
Too Short: I'm actually gonna do a video only for the Still Blowin song, which will be very non commercial and a lot of marijuana. I'm just playing on that raunchy side that I always play on. Not too conventional, not ever conforming to the commercial world, you know? It works for me.
Baycentrik: So it's the usual player type music we've come to know from Too Short?
Too Short: Yeah even when you get the Too Short clean version you still in the car yelling out bitch, you know? I figured it out man.
Baycentrik: So talk about how you came to this point. Rewind a little. You were on Jive for years, I'm not sure about your situation right now...
Too Short: I haven't been signed to any label since January 2008. That's when my deal with Jive went up.
Baycentrik: The last one you put out was Get Off The Stage in late '07, early '08.
Too Short: That was December '07 and I turned that album in only for the benefit of being released from the label and they released me a month later.
Baycentrik: Did the time come for you to renegotiate and you were at a crossroads, and decided to go independent? What lead you to go on your own and back to taking care of everything on your own.
Too Short: I made a mistake and renegotiated with Jive in 1996-1997. I did a renegotiation for a second term on my contract. That was just prior to Jive hitting major success with Britney and Backstreet, and then N'Sync and Justin and that whole pop thing "Jive totally, totally, totally wiped the major label taste out my mouth. I don't wanna have nothing to do with a major, period."
they got into. Once they take to that, it probably started immediately after I signed with "Jive totally, totally, totally wiped the major label taste out my mouth. I don't wanna have nothing to do with a major, period."
them, by 98,99,2000 they had clearly totally abandoned the whole urban department. They would put out urban products, and totally not nurture them properly. They didn't give a fuck anymore, it was a R&B and rap label, definitely an urban label 100%, that got a taste of pop music and started turning to a much bigger label. You can talk to some of the artists who Jive acquired through the Arista deal and all that stuff, careers were murdered over there! They took hot artists, the list is long of artists who died over there.
I personally had one monumental moment at Jive. I really don't have nothing bad to say about Jive because it is what it is, and I had a very long career and a lot of success and money, but I remember the day that they told me, I don't know what year it was, I was talking to the head of the A&R department, and he made a statement to me that said, everything is okay now Jive is back in the rap game. This was during the time where I had been signed to Jive since 1988. I'm trying to figure out, between me and E-40 and the rest of us, we been over there for years and years, we never knew you got out of the rap game, how could you get back into it! It was like an eye opener for me.
From that statement on, I only had one mission and one mission only and that was to fulfill the contract and leave. I wanted to fight my way up out of it, but lawyers told me, we can get you up out of this contract and get you somewhere else, it's not like you'll make any more money or anything, so you know. You might as well ride it out and get your money and move on. So I rode it out, good spirits and stuff, watch them take records like "Shake That Monkey" and totally not promote them, take records like "Blow The Whistle", totally not promote them. I would promote myself. I'd go out and take my relationships with program directors, call in offering my services for free in exchange for some spins, whatever I could do! Any favors, any friendships I built over the years, I was trying to everything just to keep any kind of light shined on me. I had 100% zero label support in the last 5 or better years.
Too Short: They would actually treat me like a superstar while I recorded an album and got ready to release it, and the Tuesday, the day the SoundScan would come back, they wouldn't even take your calls anymore. Certain people couldn't ignore my calls, but they would be like, man there just ain't no money in the budget for you, they don't wanna do nothing to promote it anymore. But three months prior, they were like, we gonna blow this out the water, this shit is bangin, we love it! It became that type of situation.
As a grown ass intelligent man I decided to play the chess game, wait it out. I could have wanted to be on 5 different labels, Warner Bros, Def Jam, whoever, but Jive totally, totally, totally wiped the major label taste out my mouth. I don't wanna have nothing to do with a major, period.
Baycentrik: Your name is so strong at this point that you can just do it independent, so that's a great move for you.
Too Short: Oh yeah.
Baycentrik: Now that you mention Jive, E-40 was on there for many years. Now that you guys are pretty much freed up to do what you wish. Will we ever get that History Channel duo album that's been talked about for years?
Too Short: Yup. That's why if you listen to his new album, I'm on several songs, and we have several songs in the can. There's nothing holding us back and we've already agreed. Me, as far as my career, I don't know what his future plans are, but I'm getting ready to "After that I doubt I'll make anymore [full length] albums.."
drop this internet album. The next project I'm gonna do is either the duet with 40, or a "After that I doubt I'll make anymore [full length] albums.."
album depending how fast things come along. I'm damn near finished with my solo album, the second one. I don't know what's coming first, the next Too Short solo or the Too Short and E-40 album, it doesn't matter to me which one comes next. But, after that I doubt I'll make anymore album albums. I'm just seeing, keeping my mind open, how this digital thing works out. I potentially may just start scaling down to smaller projects that have like 3 songs, 5 songs and a video. Nothing real pushing 14-15 track album in stores competing with the top market. I think I'm just gonna take a new route. Song for song, if you get a hit record, a nice record that moves around and is getting some spins, and some ringtone downloads, iTunes hits, that shit generates income.
Baycentrik: Ive talked to a lot of artists about that, the way the industry is now you gotta stay in peoples' face with new music, you can't just drop an album and wait a year. The fans...
Too Short: You outta there!
Baycentrik: Right. Music is just so easily accessible, they expect more. You're definitely thinking along the same lines.
So going back to the E-40 thing, the video you guys did for "Bitch" really was a reminder of the chemistry you two have. That would be huge for you two to finally do The History Channel album.
Too Short: We getting ready to do another video too, it's called "Show Me What U Workin With". I like that song even better than the "Bitch" song. We got a lot of stuff coming. I don't know how we can be rap artists, pushing into your 40s and still making hits that people liking. It's like a blessing, that you really can't define it. How the fuck is these old cats hanging in there?
Then if you ask me my take on Hip Hop, I'd tell you that I'm feeling the young artists who are establishing long careers such as the TI's and the Kanyes, I don't wanna say Outkast is young, the people that are laying out that Lil Wayne, I'mma be around. Like you don't have to worry about am I gonna make another album and are you gonna like it. Just setting up careers. If you ask me who am I feeling, I start naming Fat Joe and Ghostface, I'm into the career. You see them making careers out of Hip Hop. The behind the scenes cats that aren't artists that make money off of Hip Hop. I respect Soulja Boy for coming in and establishing himself as a business and getting his money on, more than somebody that just had the hot record of the year and toured, you know, that shit. From day one I seen that shit come and go so many times. Who's the hottest artist of the year, I'm not really impressed by that, I'm impressed by is the hottest artist of the year gonna be the hottest artist of next year, or a couple of years down the line continue to be around. That's what I'm into.
I'm feeling Nicky Minaj, I want to see her have a 10-15 year career, that's what I wanna see.
Baycentrik: Even guys like Ludacris, it seems like just yesterday he came out, and he's major now.
So now that you talk about establishing yourself, In entertainment, most people are responsible for their own come up. Actors, entertainers, so on. There is always talk about rappers, specifically, helping other artists with boosting their careers or taking them under their wing. The responsibility to pass the torch. Why is it only rap that that's held to that responsibility and do you agree with that?
Too Short: Because we have this unwritten rule that Hip Hop is not gonna really give you your stamp of approval unless you affiliated with the right crew, you from the right city, right side of town. Just the whole credibility thing. We so big on credibility, that we forced our young rappers to lie about their background so they feel accepted. I love Hip Hop from "I had an agreement with Lil Jon, not to be his label but to help him make some moves…In return, he got back at me when I was a 42 year old rapper and gave me a hit record. What kind of return favor is that! That's huge!"
the truth, when it was "I had an agreement with Lil Jon, not to be his label but to help him make some moves…In return, he got back at me when I was a 42 year old rapper and gave me a hit record. What kind of return favor is that! That's huge!"
the truth. When you say I'm broke and I want some shit! I love that
shit much more than the Hip Hop... I work with a lot of young artists, the first thing they say when you put them in the studio is 'I got 40 thousand dollars, just spent it on my jewels!' Dude you caught the bus here! I get a whole lot of that, asking rappers why are you lying? You got a very interesting life, something is going on around your house, in your community, something that you really going through, tell it!
Baycentrik: That's what people will relate to more.
Too Short: But we told them that we can't accept you until we know you been a gangster, you been in trouble, in and out of jail and we know you hang with killas. And we gotta know you ain't broke, that you wealthy. So the minute you come in the door you gotta pretend like you're rich!
I like some of the new artists coming out, like the kids on the west coast jerkin and stuff, I kinda like that feel good music.
Baycentrik: You brought people under your wing, you had The Pack and a couple of artists on Up All Night Records. What are your future plans to bring out new artists?
Too Short: That's the only plan! To lend that helping hand, I been doing that since day one. I really don't look at it like I gotta pull somebody and put in the game. I look at it like, I just like to be a stepping stone. You trying to get from point A to point B, and you come across obstacles and speed bumps on the road. I just like to be the person that helps you get past that. Favors come back around.
A lot of people that know about my affiliation with Lil Jon and how I helped him in the game, they say man if you knew Lil Jon, he should of worked for you, and you should have got a million dollars. I'm like man, from the start I had an agreement with Lil Jon, not to be his label but to help him make some moves. I helped him make some moves and in return, he got back at me when I was a 42 year old rapper and gave me a hit record. What kind of return favor is that! That's huge! The last two decent records I had, "Shake That Monkey" and "Blow the Whistle", the records that kind of extended my career came from him. I'm like shit, I don't give a fuck what kind of deal we had, just the fact that years later when he became a super established artist, he passed the favor back. That's big to me. That's so much of what I wanted from him, instead of telling him, man I can't help you out unless you sign to me and I'm your label and all that shit. We would have never had the friendship we had cause that's not what he needed from me.
Baycentrik: He gave a rub to you and E-40, the biggest artists in the bay, and he didn't really have to!
Too Short: Exactly! It turned around, not only did he throw the favor to me, he threw E-40 some heat. That "Tell Me When To Go", that might be the biggest record 40 ever had in his life! Who's to say if that shit wouldn't have happened for me and my homie, if it wouldn't have been for my way of handling Lil Jon when I met him?
Baycentrik: You built your own buzz but major labels helped you reach people with music along the way. Do you think artists, more specifically bay area artists, are better off controlling their own careers? We've seen artists such as Mistah FAB, Clyde Carson, and once they signed that dotted line....
Too Short: It's over!
Baycentrik: They slowed down releases, when if they stayed independent they would have probably dropped 2 or 3 albums by now. What do you feel about that, do you think artists are better off signing to a major or sticking with independent?
Too Short: If you plan on being with a major, you need to know for a fact that if you don't satisfy them with your first week SoundScan, they don't wanna fuck with you. You can think all you want about that million dollar advance, that shit is blood money. You gotta be Lil Wayne, Kanye West, one of these other mothafuckas if you wanna satisfy the appetite of a major label and the new millennium. They not feeling that 100,000 first week sales.
Baycentrik: Do you think the bay area as a whole should be doing something differently? Why don't we have any new break out stars? Just like you mentioned earlier, a guy in his 40s like you and E-40 you guys can still do it, and I think that's mainly in part that we don't have many new break out stars.
Too Short: Man, I got a million opinions, on that thing right there, when the labels took a first look at the bay, they got Digital Underground, the list was long, it went all the way "Who's the hottest artist of the year, I'm not really impressed by that, I'm impressed by is the hottest artist of the year gonna be the hottest artist of next year, or a couple of years down the line."
down to the Luniz, Spice 1 was on a major label. It was a nice little thing. Cats was hangin' "Who's the hottest artist of the year, I'm not really impressed by that, I'm impressed by is the hottest artist of the year gonna be the hottest artist of next year, or a couple of years down the line."
plaques on the wall. I can't remember everybody who got on, but it was so much that got on. Then it went away, the whole little west coast thing died down. They right back with it's over for the west, it's over for the west. Folks is still eating in the bay, they getting money, independent still crackin, and then the hyphy thing comes along. They take a second look and they go, alright we think we wanna pick Mistah FAB, Keak Da Sneak, Clyde Carson and The Team, Federation. We gonna pick em, sign em, this the new hot thing. For one, it was in the day and time when first week sales mean everything. Shit wasn't like that back in the day. Two, I feel like the artists themselves, I can't point the finger at anybody, there's a certain level of hustle that's just mandatory. I know FAB, and I know Keak, I know they get on the road. But when I think back to 40 and I think back to Short and how we did it, it was definitely a 20 year time span, so it's a different day and age, but the hustle was just undeniable.
I personally have driven to every distributor in the early days before Jive, and paid them out of my pocket for the shipment of records that's about to get manufactured and shipped off. I personally went to the distributor and dropped the shit off, and picked up the check and shook the hands and made the phone calls. I personally sat in on every mix of every song, with every producer and every beat maker, always! I never put my career in anybody else's hands. I personally went to the promoter and negotiated the deal for the concerts, and when the money was paid up, whether I had one of my employees pick it up or I pick it up, the money comes straight to me, wired to my account. I never had handlers.
I think that's the difference between... You take an artists like B-Legit. You say okay, B-Legit was never as big as E-40. But B-Legit made a lot of fuckin' money because B-Legit was 50/50 partner in Sick Wid It Records with E-40. They made a lot of money off that shit. So Bela was getting his just like 40 was getting his, 40 was just getting a few more sales! You look back and you go, good business move Bela. I just feel like, look at Richie Rich, he was on major label, Def Jam. Videos with T-Boz, nice career, a lot of respect at the house. But he didn't have the extended career like me and 40 did, but if you know Rich, you know that he owns a Bentley, and a Porsche, and a house with a pool, and a boat, sports cars and shit. It ain't that he's the rapper, or the label made him, he's a hustler! You get the point I'm trying to make?
Too Short: It's the individual hustle. So I'd have to say, what's the difference between Keak Da Sneak and Richie Rich in 2008, 2009, 2010. Why does Rich have a Bentley and Keak don't? It's just the hustle. I'm not blaming anybody I'm just saying that's what it is. I'm not saying one is better than the other, it's just the hustler in you. Me personally, never had Bentley, but I never wanted a Bentley.
Baycentrik: So do you have any closing words to end this interview with?
Too Short: I just feel like it's a stay in your lane situation. I say that to every rap region in the game. When your time comes, you wanna be Dallas, Texas the newest hot market, play your part. Bay area play your part. Mothafuckas eat good in the bay. Ask Messy Marv or anybody else who ship they own records off and get the check. It works. If you feeling cheated, because it's so many artists, FAB and all them come to me like, BET won't play us, MTV won't show us no love if we not on radio. Fuck the radio! Fuck BET! Fuck that shit, just rap! Rap and get money, it don't matter.