Howls from the Hills

Howls from the Hills

Aside from Philly’s Schoolly D, not many of the first wave of gangsta rappers came with an approach as deadpan as the Oakland-based Too $hort’s. The 1988 Life is . . . Too $hort, his fifth album (and second for East Coast powerhouse Jive), places his matter-of-fact style over thumping, ’70s funk-tinged beats that are occasionally witty in themselves. (The title track is built on a simulacrum of the Average White Band’s “School Boy Crush.”) Short Dogg’s approach often recalls old jailhouse rhymes, as on the verse about Nancy Reagan’s sexual proclivities in “Cusswords.” Equally amusing is “Don’t Fight the Feelin’,” which begins as an outrageous attack on the era’s mainstream love raps before a female partner gets the better of the star. While bragging about the easy glamour of his persona’s dealer/pimp lifestyle, he also urges kids to stay in school in “Nobody Does It Better.” He also offers this bit of philosophy to would-be censors: “Some say I have a dirty mind/Sometimes that might be true/But these are just some dirty times/I ain’t trippin’ on you.”


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