March 15, 2012
The New Parish
Better than: A version of Girls Gone Wild set at the Oakland Coliseum DMV.
It's often been said, probably inaccurately, that the Inuit people have 100 words for snow or something, right? To illustrate the subtleties language is capable of, when a subject demands honor and precision? Too $hort's career could be said to demonstrate the exact inverse of that saying. For starters, Too $hort has at least 100 uses for the word "bitch."
It can be pillow talk, or a call to arms. An insult, a love letter, a form of punctuation. Too $hort doesn't use semicolons, opting instead for "bitch." Anyone keeping count last night at the New Parish would have noted all of these interesting usages and more, as one of Oakland's most prolific hip-hop veterans ran through a loose, sweaty, and very, very stoned set of songs from his 25-year career.
"How many of you in here have one of THESE?" demanded the rapper, hoisting his medical marijuana card into the air to cries of delight, after perhaps the third gargantuan blunt of the evening had made its way around the stage. (About an hour in, he started adding random ladies in the front row into the rotation, as said ladies' friends freaked out and snapped cell phone photos and shrieked.) Fifteen minutes later, the East Bay's favorite 45-year-old teenager knocked his drink over.
In between stage banter such as "Who really knows what 'Shake your monkey' means? It's not your booty," and joyful admissions like "Yeah, we don't really rehearse," $hort managed to jam out some freewheeling versions of "I'm a Player," Kelis' "Bossy," "Life is Too Short," "Blow the Whistle," "Freaky Tales," and, of course, last year's catchiest lament about the pratfalls of love, "Bitch."
Throughout, he was backed by -- and arguably, frequently saved by -- a six-piece lounge act of sorts, with endlessly cool piano virtuoso Kev Choice at the helm and the velvet voice of Martin Luther filling the room behind $hort's signature drawl. The venerable Richmond native and room-stealer Silk-E joined them for about a half a dozen songs, quickly earning the title of most passionate/least-stoned-seeming person onstage.
When she left, in her place, about eight different friends of Too $hort's took turns ambling onto the stage seemingly just to hang out. A few of them took solos of some kind, but at one point there were 15 people onstage and five of them weren't doing anything except passing around a joint, as $hort himself wandered off to find another drink.
It felt sloppy. He's still funny and charming in a sleazy way, but he was underwhelming in this context. And sure, after 19 studio albums and two and a half decades in the business, you're allowed to be a little sloppy. But it's tough not to consider his recent controversy with XXL magazine (in which the rapper doled out "fatherly advice" for elementary school-age boys on how to get into young girls' pants, uh, literally). The ensuing shitstorm of media attention saw the rapper attending a community meeting [http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/short/nLS62/] in Oakland the night before this show to emphasize how a lot of rap music is about showmanship, about the divide between what's real, and what's entertaining because it's ridiculous.
Which is to say: Some of us have enough conflicted feelings about the fact that we love a song called "Invasion of the Flat Booty Bitches." If your main defense for being gross and/or offensive is that you're a talented showman -- and you are -- then you at least owe it to your fans to put on a goddamn beast of a show.
Of course, he'll have many, many more chances to make it up to us. Though $hort's been hinting that the recently-released record No TrespASSing may be his last, it's getting hard to take him seriously anymore (see: "We gonna kick it like this on the last album," intro to 1996's excellent Gettin' It. Next album: 1999.) At the rate he's going, Oakland's prodigal son will be yelling his favorite word well into his 90s. He'll certainly have the best weed in the nursing home.
Quote of the night: "I'm sick of the O.G.s and the younguns hating on each other! The thing with the younguns is, they just make more money than we do." - Too $hort