“You can sell out if you want to, homie, but I’mma stay short and funky,” rapped Too $hort on his sixth album Short Dog’s in the House, repping Oakland to the fullest. Today’s history corner finds a host of artists who, like $hort, stayed true to their artistry and brought it to the world.
Rapper and producer Randy “Stretch” Walker was a vital part of Hollis, Queen’s Live Squad who most notably produced for 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G. and Nas and was believed to have witnessed Tupac Shakur’s non-fatal yet still pivotal shooting at Quad Studios in 1994. He was tragically killed in a high-speed car chase on November 30, 1995, about “one year and five minutes apart” from Tupac’s incident, according to Lieutenant Vito R. Spano of the NYPD, speaking to the New York Times. Stretch was 27-years-old.
Kelis Rogers was born 39 years ago today in New York, New York. Named after a clever combination of her father Kenneth and mother Eveliss, she grew up in the Frederick Douglass Houses in Harlem, sang in church and played multiple instruments.
“My mother told us all we were great and pushed us to do what we naturally did well,” she told SWRV in 2010. “I shaved my head when I was 12 or 13 years old and it’s been a downward spiral probably ever since.”
Todd Shaw’s sixth album under his Too $hort alias cracked the Top 20 of the Billboard 200 and reached No. 3 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. In contrast to some of his more sex-forward albums, Short Dog’s in the House features “The Ghetto,” which is a rap remake of the Donny Hathaway classic, and the MC Hammer dissing “Short But Funky.” A generous sampling of funk, especially George Clinton’s P-Funk, gives the album its swagger.
“In all of my early albums with Jive [Records], they all had lots of songs that weren’t about sex, that didn’t have curse words in ‘em, and I would pick subjects like crack cocaine, poverty and police harassment and rap about it,” he explained to HipHopDX in 2012.
Kanye West sampled the Jackson 5 song “I Want You Back” and Dr. Dre’s “Xxplosive” beat heavily on “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” the best-performing single off Jay-Z’s classic album The Blueprint and Hov’s first Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The song helped to solidify a mentor relationship between the Brooklyn rapper and the up and coming Chicago producer.
“I still look up to Jay like a father figure,” Kanye told Rolling Stone three years later, with Jay adding, “We talk about a lot of things. About how shit will go, what shit he gonna step in and what to look out for.”
Choices: The Album is a soundtrack to Three 6 Mafia’s independent movie of the same name, about a Memphis ex-con’s choices and penitentiary chances. The collection features crew members like DJ Paul, Juicy J, La Chat, Project Pat, Gangsta Boo, Koopsta Knicca, Lord Infamous and Crunchy Black alongside Atlanta friend Ludacris.
“We already losing on music, so I’m just trying to figure out a way to put out a movie and do it with a skeleton crew and small budget so we won’t completely lose,” DJ Paul told Consequence of Sound of the group’s interest in movies in 2011. “‘Cause I mean, you know, I’m in the hood and I’m at my boy’s house, and they be like, “Hey, man, let’s pop in the Transformers DVD,” and I’m like, “Damn, Transformers ain’t even out yet!”
Project English is New Orleans rapper Terius Gray’s fifth album as Juvenile. Loaded to the gills with appearances fellow Cash Money artists Big Tymers (producer Mannie Fresh and label head Bryan “Baby” Williams), Lil Wayne, and B.G., it’s the album that ironically drove him from the fold, despite massive success reaching No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Juvy would leave Cash Money for the first time following the release of Project English over a money dispute with Baby.
"It was a lot of business that wasn't being taken care of,” he told MTV in 2003. “I would say things to [the Hot Boys] like, 'It's cool we on TV and everything, but we need the money.' Nobody wanted to stand up, so I had to stand up and be the one to say, 'Hey, I got to move and do me.' That's what separated the Hot Boys. Me leaving messed the whole group up."
Taken from the third album Good Girl Gone Bad, the Platinum-certified Rihanna ballad “Hate That I Love You” was written and produced by Norwegian beatmakers Stargate and Ne-Yo, who also sings on the song and helped bring it to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and top 10 in several countries around the world.
“It’s such a beautiful song,” she told Teen Vogue in 2007.
"The best way to express an emotion like love is through storytelling," Ne-Yo said of the song to Rolling Stone the same year. "It makes it more, 'I can relate to this character in this song because I've been through something similar.'”
Singer, rapper and activist Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam’s second album Kala, named after her mother, was recorded on the fly all over the world after U.S. Homeland Security deemed her a threat and temporarily kept the British citizen from her home and her musical gear in Brooklyn. Despite her difficulties coming back to the U.S., the worldwide album hit No. 18 on the Billboard 200, largely off the strength of the enduring single “Paper Planes,” which landed at No. 4 on the Hot 100 chart.
“Every song has a layer of some other country on it. It’s like making a big old marble cake with lots of different countries and influences,” she told Rolling Stone in 2013.
“It’s a hard album sonically,” she added. “And it’s hard in terms of what it stands for.”
After spending years in the trenches producing for the likes of DMX, Busta Rhymes, Young Gunz and Beyoncé, Swizz Beatz dropped his first of two solo albums, One Man Band Man. The full-length features guest appearances by Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, R. Kelly, Jadakiss and Drag-On, was a No. 1 hit on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and a No. 7 debut on the Billboard 200.
“A classic,” he told Hard Knock TV of the album right before it was released. “I’m just having fun, trying to take the music to the next level.”
Eardrum was the first album that Brooklyn MC Talib Kweli released on his own his label Blacksmith Records, with distribution by the mighty Warner Brothers. The album is one of his most expansive and is packed with a diverse roster of guest collaborators, including UGK and Raheem DeVaughn, will.i.am, KRS-One, Musiq Soulchild, Jean Grae, Roy Ayers and Kanye West.
"My job is to be a rapper and to be the best damn rapper I can be,” he explained to Pop Matters in 2007. “If I focus on being an activist and my job is to be a rapper, I'm not going to be as good of a rapper. I need to focus on hip-hop and focus on making the music, so that when the activists come to me and they need my voice to create a platform, then I've got enough people listening to me. Not because I'm conscious, but because I'm Vivien Killileadope."