It's called a moment of clarity. Some people get it at the top of a mountain, others as their life flashes before their eyes during a traumatic incident.
For raunchy rapper Too Short, it came during a solo road trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and back.
"I listened to every album I've ever made on that trip," said Short. "I listened to songs I couldn't even remember the words to, and I realized that my songs are not just about sex and sex only. I had a balance. Yeah, there were them sex songs, but there were some socially conscious ones, too. And some were funny, some were serious, and they weren't always just shocking sex songs."
That epiphany helped Short turn over a new leaf for his upcoming album, due in the fall, What's My Favorite Word? Feeling that the two albums he made following his decision to un-retire (1999's Can't Stay Away and 2000's You Nasty) were too one-dimensional, Short decided to make his 13th album a more personal, emotional affair.
"Those albums were cool, but not classic Too Short," he said. "I got caught in the hype whirlwind and I thought I needed to make it nasty and rap about shocking things in terms of sex. I was at a crossroads now. So I backed away from the sex stuff and did another angle of the Too Short persona. I talk a lot of pimp sh-- and sex sh--, but I also am the real Todd Shaw a lot on this album. It's the first time in a long time that I put myself on the record."
Well, kind of.
On the somewhat self-explanatory track "Triple X," Short is, as promised, just "talking a lot of sh--." "Lollypops" is about suckers, as in dudes who "get all emotional and call their women, like, 'Where you at? I miss you!' "
And "She Loves Her" isn't exactly going to have women's groups calling to compliment Short on his sensitivity.
"We basically had a couple of females go in the vocal booth and have sex while we played the song back a bunch of times," Short said of the hot and heavy track. "I sampled different things they said and sampled their moans and used them as a snare sound. It's about women having an intimate moment without male interference. I didn't curse on that song at all I said everything in a real respectful manner."
OK, so maybe Shorty the Pimp hasn't gone all "Donahue" on us, but the Oakland rapper, who has made a multiplatinum career out of talking dirty, does feel like he's gone back to his signature formula for the new album.
Nurturing the songs from birth to mix, Short Dog said he had his hands on every track during all aspects of recording. The hands-on approach helped Short realize what bugged him about some of his older material. "Listening to my first 10 albums, I realized you could sum them up by saying that every song I made was about a [woman giving me oral sex]," he said, only in different words. "Now I might rap about, 'Why does she [give me oral sex?] Why does she want to?"
The album's first single is slated to be "Quit Hatin'," a down South anthem produced by Lil' Jon and featuring the Eastside Boys and Chicago rapper Twista. The B-side, "Female Players," gives props to independent female ballers. "This ain't about some Destiny's Child 'Independent Women' stuff this is about females who like to hang out in the night life," Short explained.
"They got her own truck with some 20s on it, and when they roll in the club they buy their own champagne and they don't need a man to give them any money."
Using a forgotten track funk legend George Clinton had recorded at Short's East Bay studio, the rapper put together the bizarre song "The Movie." He described it as having a vibe similar to Clinton's spacey band Parliament, "where you don't know what they're singing about, but it still says something."
Short is joined by old pal E-40, former Tony Toni Toné singer D'Wayne Wiggins, Ant Banks and B-Legit on the ode to fine orange California weed, "Cali-O," and Petey Pablo stops by for the song "Call It Gangster."
And, as promised, Short and E-40 will deliver a collaborative album soon. The old friends have already recorded more than 10 song ideas for The History Channel, which Short thinks will be released early next year.
"We're the inventors of Bay Area rap. There was nobody before us, and nobody did it like us since in our area," Short said. "We just have a good chemistry together, and I think this will help take our whole thing full-circle."