Too $hort’s one of the most well-known artists to come out of the Bay Area. Born and raised in Oakland, Too $hort had his ear to the streets of his city and knew what kind of music the people wanted. With the same gangsta content as N.W.A, but at the same time incorporating hyphy music elements into his music, Too $hort quickly created a buzz in Oakland with his cassettes that flew around Oakland and San Francisco, leading him to get signed by Oakland independent label, 75 Girls Records And Tapes.
On this label, in 1983, he released his debut album, Don’t Stop Rappin’, and from there, continued to grow. In 1985, Too $hort and Freddie B formed a label to create and distribute their music independently, and they had continued success.
However, slowly but surely, their music began to travel the Bay Area. Too $hort eventually signed with Priority and is considered one of the first mainstream rappers to emerge from The Bay Area.
As a West Coast artist, prior to the mid-1980s, there were not many MCs in California whom Too $hort (real name Todd Shaw) could look up to. As the birthplace of hip-hop, the late-70s and early-80s saw New York dominate and cultivate the culture. With lyricists from the Bronx sending shockwaves across the US, many were in awe of acts from New York.
That said, Shaw was no different and in an interview with Pitchfork, the Oakland artist unveiled one of his favourite group’s growing up and his favourite song. Speaking with the publication, Shaw unveiled, “‘The Message’ is probably the most important rap song in my life because it changed the direction of how I wrote songs.”
He continued, “I was in high school when it came out, and I was just writing party rhymes that weren’t really about anything. But after I heard ‘The Message,’ I started telling the story of Oakland. That was the basis of all my songs from that point on. Besides that, it still sounds good today. It never really went the way of becoming a novelty hit or an oldie. That’s still a solid beat, and whenever somebody samples it, it’s a fuckin’ hit again!”
‘The Message’ released by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five in 1982, was a hit and is looked back on as one of the first political hip-hop songs of all time. It is undoubtedly a classic. You can hear Too $hort’s favourite song in the video below.