On his past albums, Oakland rapper Too Short's favorite activity appeared to be dissing women. And we're not talking mild, good-natured jabs. This is heavyweight battering, using the foulest gutter lingo.
So why has he toned down his act on the new album "Shorty the Pimp"?
"There's more to me than sex," insists Too Short, 26, whose 4 1/2 million sales on his previous six albums have been mainly in the underground, with almost no radio airplay. "Do you really think I was going to spend the rest of my life rapping about sex? "There are other subjects. I like to talk about Oakland as long as it's not politics, which I can't stomach."
Don't get the idea, however, that Too Short entered the pop mainstream--"Shorty" is in the Top 15 on the album charts--by suddenly becoming G-rated. He still disses women, but less viciously and less often. What he also does now is flash his social conscience on a few songs, including "I Want to Be Free (That's the Truth)."
Too Short, whose real name is Todd Shaw, has been rapping since the early '80s. He might never abandon sex raps, because they're the primary appeal of his music. It's certainly not his rapping, which some critics charge is bland. But these attacks are mild compared to the blasts leveled by women. His first line of defense:
"I'm a businessman," he says. "Making records is my business. I have a big operation and I employ a lot of people. My goal is to be successful, so I do what works."
If women don't buy that explanation . . . .
"Too Short is a character," he says. "I don't live his kind of pimp life, and I personally don't believe what he believes. I'm just a writer putting over a character I created. Everybody knows rappers don't do all they say they do."
And if that explanation still doesn't sway them . . .
"I don't get upset because I know that's not me they're putting down," he says. "I'm not trying to hurt them, but if they don't want to believe it, to hell with them. . . . I'm not going to change that just because some women object to what I'm saying."