b. Todd Shaw, 28 April 1966, South Central, Los Angeles, California, USA. Diminutive rapper from Oakland, California, where he moved at the age of 14. His first introduction to rap, not a familiar form on the west coast at this time, came after hearing the Sugarhill Gang and Melle Mel. In 1983, on the back of three years hustling his own homemade tapes with partner Fred Benz, Too $hort signed to independent label 75 Girls. His first two albums, though musically valid, suffered from an over-reliance on hackneyed tales of pimping and gun fights. After another album he set up his own Dangerous Music company in 1986, co-founded with manager Randy Austin. Born To Mack whistled up sales of over 50, 000 from the trunk of the artist’s car, and Jive Records became intrigued by this parochial phenomenon. They re-packaged Born To Mack which went on to go gold and establish Too $hort as the first west coast rap star. Lyrical matters had, however, only improved marginally on the arrival of his first Jive album proper, Life Is... Too $hort, which went platinum and stayed in the US pop charts for 78 weeks, helped in no small part by rumours about the rapper having met a violent death. The album was also released in ‘Clean’ and ‘Explicit’ versions, a practice that would soon become commonplace in hip-hop. The artist has never offered much in the way of justification: ‘No one can lay any guilt trips on me and tell me that I’m corrupting the youth of America or that I’m disrespecting all females. It’s just a money thing’. Despite such myopia, the album was at least a more considered effort than the following collection, Short Dog’s In The House, where titles like ‘Pimpology’ illustrated the sort of material on offer. Its saving grace was a double-take with Ice Cube on his anti-censorship hymn, ‘Ain’t Nothin’ But A Word To Me’. The largely unappetising lyrical fare rode roughshod over an otherwise acceptable melange of funk and breakbeats. Musically, Too $hort had always based his career on a limited diet of samples drawn from the likes of Sly Stone, Graham Central Station and Kool And The Gang. Although Short Dog’s In The House gave Too $hort his second platinum album, 90% of those sales were exclusively in Oakland and its neighbouring districts. Something of a departure, especially for an artist previously as one-dimensional as Too $hort, arrived with 1992’s Shorty The Pimp. This exaggerated his hustling image, inspired by Superfly and other blaxploitation films, and extolled the adventures of his semi-autobiographical alter-ego Shorty the Pimp. It featured the rapper’s own Dangerous Crew, several of whom released solo albums on the back of Too $hort’s success. His fourth platinum album, Get In Where You Fit In, retraced the steps of his earlier material by concentrating on rapping over crude sexual anecdotes. However, there was evidence that by 1994 Too $hort was growing a little jaded with his one-track career, and its effect on his private life. Bugged by hangers on and the IRS, he moved to Atlanta to concentrate on music. Free of Jive’s punitive contract following the release of 1996’s Gettin’ It (Album Number Ten), the rapper set-up his own Short Records label and announced his retirement from recording. Re-establishing his name with several prominent guest appearances on tracks by the Notorious B.I.G. , Lil’ Kim and Jay-Z among others, he renegotiated his contract and returned with 1999’s Can’t Stay Away. Too $hort remains a major force on the mainstream and underground scenes in the new millennium, making him one of the most enduring success stories to emerge from the rap scene.Portions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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