Something has been bubbling in the rap world as of late and it’s time someone addressed it. I call it the White Gangster Rapper Complex. It’s a tricky issue and many would argue that it’s not an issue at all. While debating it, you could find yourself sliding down a slippery slope—so let’s try it.
One side finds that the ivory thug has about as much credibility as an Amish electrician. They just plain don’t believe them when they talk about growing up in the slums. This could be from the sad fact that poor areas are primarily minority-based or it could be the fact that previous white gangster rappers have been exposed as frauds. Nowadays, it seems most people relate white rappers to Eminem or to the indie scene where the color line is blurred by the unifying love of the art. In both cases they’re rapping about what people expect white people to rap about, and that’s almost anything except the street life. But when gangster content infiltrates the CD, new comparisons arise. Some might relate it to Malibu’s Most Wanted and we all remember the man who said:
“Shay with a gauge and Vanilla with a nine
Reading for the chumps on the wall
The chumps acting ill because they’re so full of eight balls
Gunshots rang out like a bell
I grabbed my nine all I heard were shells”
This “hardcore” rapper is now in a rock group and voluntarily cameos on a VH1 reality show that showcases the moldy residue of contaminated American stardust. These were gangster lyrics coming from the mouth of a beach boy trying to ride the wave of hardcore lyrics right to the bank. No credibility.
However, “Studio Gangsterism” can’t be narrowed down to one skin tone as superstars like Dr. Dre and Ja Rule have been accused of similar perjuries. Also, there are white people who did grow up in the streets and they can’t be automatically dismissed as false because of their color or lack thereof. Then there is the dangerous problem of possibly being under the deceptive influence of racism just for breaking the backgrounds of people’s lives into racial categories.
Why am I talking about all of this? Because this was the debate going on in my head when I started listening to Philadelphia native Shorty O’s new CD “Death Notice.” The album starts with an intro of news clips about his death, strikingly similar to the intro for 2pac’s “Me Against the World” album. This flows right into the catchy, official I’ll-Stick-in-Your-Head song of the album, “War Wit Us.”
“I’m down to blast fast cuz the glock carry on my pelvic
You get got, you stay spraying the shit
Got clips on my side, aint talking, a two-way on my hip
Yo homie, check it I will demolish
You now listening to the white version of the late, great Chris Wallace”
Although he has a slightly less coarse delivery, he carries himself on the beat in similar manner and with the same accent as fellow Illadelph white gangster rapper, Vinnie Paz from Jedi Mind Tricks.
The last line of the above quote sets up an ironic dilemma in the following song that’s been becoming more common in hip-hop as of late. This problem is people promoting albums by featuring rappers that aren’t quite alive enough to give their consent. And considering that this song “1st to Bomb” features 2pac, it’s unlikely that he’d want to make a song with the “white version of the late, great Chris Wallace.” That being said, this is still a respectable posthumous release and could hold it’s own against many recent remixes with 2pac’s vocals. The bouncy west-coast bass sounds like something that’s actually from a 2pac album featuring Shorty O as opposed to 2pac’s vocals mixed over a beat made for Shorty O’s record.
One highlight of the album is the catchy “Down to Ride” that has the energy to make bodies gyrate in the club. “I Got Dreams” offers a more sentimental view of the rapper and adds another dimension to his character when he spits lines like this:
“In a world where the rich don’t gotta move a muscle
And the hard working man come from the bruising struggle
You better hope you don’t lose the tussle
You on a grind nine-to-five, stick and move, use your hustle
I see you sinning, what you waiting for
You think Gods gonna open the gates or put you closer to Satan’s door?”
He also shows that he can deliver battle tested one-liners like “you’ll get X’ed like multiplication” on the Bon Jovi sampled “Wanted (Dead or Alive).”
After listening to the CD, it’s clear that you indeed cannot and shouldn’t make assumptions about anybody because of a category they might fall into; and that’s a moral that should be stressed far beyond the boundaries of hip-hop. This is a rap album and the biggest question is whether it’s good rap or bad rap, regardless of whose mouth it’s coming from.
Shorty O drops an album that seems just as street credible as any other rapper that nobody questions. However, the problem isn’t in the credibility, it’s in the repetitiveness and filler tracks that are found periodically throughout the album. Excusing a few original songs, a decent portion of the album is composed of respectable battle lyrics or somewhat catchy, radio friendly songs. The rest however, seem to be futile attempts to create respectable battle lyrics or radio friendly songs, and even a futile attempt at originality.
The latter is “Suicidal Thoughts.” As opposed to telling us the reason why he’s suicidal, he turns the potentially intriguing psychological title into merely a less capable sequel to “1-800-Suicide” by the Gravediggaz. By simply listing off random ways to kill yourself, he takes the easier, less personal way out.
When dealing with such a common spectrum of content, you have do it better than most others. Shorty O is no Canibus and he’s no 50 Cent. He’s not a great lyricist or hitmaker but he shows flashes of talent at both. If you’re into the rugged Philadelphia style found in Beanie Sigel or Jedi Mind Tricks then you’ll find a raw version of it in Shorty O.