Short Dawg: Little Brother

As Def Jam was a building empire in the mid ‘80s, Russell Simmons would have been working the phones, handling important business for LL, EPMD, and Slick Rick. Perhaps along the way, Simmons heard of Too Short, a slow-talking rapper with pimpish lyrics, that was selling boxes of records from the trunk in East Oakland, […]

As Def Jam was a building empire in the mid ‘80s, Russell Simmons would have been working the phones, handling important business for LL, EPMD, and Slick Rick. Perhaps along the way, Simmons heard of Too Short, a slow-talking rapper with pimpish lyrics, that was selling boxes of records from the trunk in East Oakland, California. At that time Def Jam couldn’t get behind it, but Zomba/Jive Records did, where Short remains over 15 years later. However, Russell’s got a better knack for the market outside of New York, and that may be why the teenaged Short Dawg is his prized asset today.

Raised in Houston, moved to Detroit, and relocated to Atlanta, Short Dawg has portions of three hoods already behind him. The Russell Simmons Music Group star has an album backed by T.I. producer, DJ Toomp. But even before one mainstream verse has hit, the young rapper has been scrutinized – including some strong words from Pimp C – on his name. Short Dawg introduces himself, speaks of meeting and impressing Rush, as well as the paperwork that held him back from promises of making impact in 2006. From older people in the Hip-Hop community, when we hear the name “Short Dawg,” we think of Too Short. There’ve been issues before with younger people not respecting pioneers in their namesake. How do you address that?

Short Dawg: Like you say, [it’s] older people. A lot of younger cats, not necessarily people my age, but younger than me, you’d couldn’t say the name “Short Dawg” and think of Too Short because they wasn’t a Too Short fan, or they didn’t listen to Too Short music. Me, myself, I’ve been following Too Short since I was little. Coming up in the hood, I got the name [Short Dawg] for being the shortest kid on my block or on the basketball team. I really didn’t start rappin’ ‘til a few years ago. When I did, I used the nickname that was given to me in the hood. I never expected to really to be at this level that I’m at. So you look at it as something that kind of fell upon you?

Short Dawg: If there was any problem with [Too Short], I’d correct it. I [met] Too Short, and we kicked it, and he took me out to eat and everything. We put things together, and it was all cool. The reason I had to go legally with it, was because there’s somebody in California who has the exact [name] as me. That’s why you spell it the way that you do?

Short Dawg: Exactly. Because you kicked it with Too Short, Hip-Hop loves that old to the new collaboration, like G Rap and Big Pun or Snoop and Bow Wow. Is that something we can anticipate?

Short Dawg: Oh yeah, definitely – an old school, new school collaboration – definitely. You were born in Houston, spent time in Detroit, and now you’re in Atlanta, at a young age, no less. Walk me through that…

Short Dawg: Born in Houston, went to school and everything. Once I decided that rap was what I wanted to pursue, it came to me. Two years ago, Atlanta was so poppin’. I knew if I could just get around, and I could just be heard, then somebody’d pick me up. Houston is a big independent market, but it’d be harder for me to start fresh, start my own label. I went to Atlanta to try and steal that shine and bring it back home. In the process, I ran into my manager, [who hooked me up with some guys from Detroit], and my fanbase in Detroit started with The Dirty Glove Network, a TV show we had everyday for two hours in Detroit. Once the Detroit fans caught a whiff of it, my buzz started getting bigger in Detroit. I already had a nice buzz in Atlanta. A lot of producers that I was working with started sending my music to different A&Rs at labels like, “This kid’s from Houston, check him out.” That’s how my name got poppin’ in the industry. My CD ended up in Russell [Simmons’] office, and I caught a meeting. That’s how I met Russell, and I figured Russell’s a good person to be in business with. Spending time in three places, do those local identities affect the way you made music?

Short Dawg: My raps and my rhymes, they pretty [timely]. If you ain’t heard from me in a month, then next month, I’ll tell ya – I’ll give it to ya. What I’m going through right now, the situations I’m in, it comes out in the raps. If I give reference to everything that I do, of course I’m gonna have to give reference to what I’m doing in Detroit, Atlanta, and home. Russell Simmons is no doubt the mogul of moguls. But the label, RSMG doesn’t have the strongest track record from the gate. Rev Run was panned. A lot of rappers might see that as a risk…

Short Dawg: When I made my decision, the only artist over there was Black Buddafly and Rev Run. Everybody has to fight for a position, but they seemed to be based around me, hopefully. If I can get this rappin’ poppin’, they can put the label on my back and bring it home. I can be the center-point, the focus. That was part of my decision. Plus, there’s Russell. If you were a center-piece, why aren’t the Waist Deep soundtrack? That’s a big project for the label…

Short Dawg: I had a lawsuit with a guy out there in Detroit over copyrights, tryin’ to steal my songs, frauds, and stuff like that. That caused me to be in litigation, and not able to come out on a lot of different things, like the Letoya Luckett remix, the Yung Joc song I did on his album couldn’t get released, all because I was in litigation. Those were big breaks missed. How did you react to that?

Short Dawg: It was very frustrated. I was frustrated when you a young kid, comin’ up, and you get an opportunity to make something for yourself, and you got people who tryin’ to take it from you, and they’ll do devious things. As a kid, it’s frustrating. I never expected people to be like this. In one breath, it’s like, “Damn, that’s f**ked up.” But in another, it’s like, “Work harder.” On Run’s House, viewers saw, firsthand how hard Russell can be on prospective acts. What kinds of things, or changes were made in your development?

Short Dawg: That’s funny, ‘cause when I first met Russell, we had the cameras rollin’ for our TV show. It was amazing to me, ‘cause I know Russell’s not the type to front for nobody, and while we were playin’ my music, Russell’s reaction was the same as a fans. I never seen that from nobody that’s high up [in the industry] before. A lot of people try to s**t on you, “Work on this, work on that.” Russell was like, “Yo, this is amazing.” He gave me a couple of criticisms on this here and this there, but his words were, “Yo, this is amazing. Let’s sign this kid.” You’re cursing a bit in the interview, but I know you don’t use profanity in your rhymes. Why is that?

Short Dawg: It’s something that I’ve done since the beginning of my career. I’ve never been enthusiastic with the curse. When you represent yourself in a form of art, don’t [show] negative stuff. When I’m expressing myself, I don’t have to say f**k or s**t to get my point across, my message. I know you’re very close with DJ Toomp. Tell me about the logistics of your album, and the people you’re going to get the final product you envision…

Short Dawg: I was in Atlanta, and I was gettin’ a lotta beats from producers, and I really wasn’t feelin’ ‘em. I was like, “This is Atlanta. Somebody gotta have the crack, man.” What I did was, I got tired of runnin’ around. I bought T.I.’s album, Trap Muzik, and I saw that most of the beats was done by DJ Toomp. I said, “I gotta find this dude. If I don’t find this dude in the next month, I’m goin’ home – for real.” Finally, I ran into Toomp. [My friend] had him in the living room after school one day, listenin’ to some freestyles I did. Toomp said, “I like what I’m hearin’.” He gave me his number, and a few months later, we was in the studio makin’ magic. This dude works hard. He just inspires me to work harder. At the end of 2005, Murder Dog magazine said that you are the artist to watch for 2006. It’s nearing the end of the year. What kind of pressure do you feel?

Short Dawg: I don’t feel no pressure, man. Everything is cool. There’s not really no pressure. Every time I step in the studio, I don’t think about anything that’s goin’ on me. If I do think about it, it’s ‘cause leads me that way. Until I have finished product, no pressure. The pressure comes when I turn it in and [executives] make decisions for me. God blessed with talent, I feel like I’ll always be able to deliver.