Album: Short Stories
Label: Bow Tie Entertainment
Rating: 7 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Start talking to hardcore fans of West Coast Hiphop about classic albums, and sooner or later the subject of “Guerillas In Tha Mist” will come up. Criminally underrated and overlooked at the time, the Lench Mob’s 1992 debut was dripping with funk, and coming at a time when mentor Ice Cube was going through his “Death Certificate” phase, is laced with similar pro-black gangsta rhymes to Cube’s sophomore solo effort. Following this was always going to be tricky, moreso when group member J-Dee was sent to prison for attempted murder. The remaining members Shorty and T-Bone hooked up with Oakland rhymer Maulkie, and this revised lineup released the largely disappointed “Planet Of Da Apes” which quickly faded from view. After that – nothing. Cube moved on, becoming “The Predator”, and giving us a “Lethal Injection” before inflicting the agonies of his horrible “War & Peace” double set upon us. J-Dee remained in jail, and Shorty and Maulkie and T-Bone drifted off into obscurity.
Fast forward to the present day to find that during his period out of the public eye, Shorty spent time in the studio, picking up tricks and techniques from the likes of QDIII and Wendy Day. His ambition? To come back out with an album that showcases his skills. With “Short Stories” his ambition has finally been realised – released on his own Bow Tie imprint, this 20 track effort is notable not only for Shorty’s skills on the boards and the mic, but also for the appearance of several familiar names on the guest’s list, and the obvious absence of one major name.
Things kick off with a remake of Da Lench Mob’s classic ‘Buck Tha Devil’, that exchanges the funky bass of the original for a sparser synth-heavy update as RBX and newcomers Polar Bear (who also handles the majority of production on the album), GI, Rosey Cross, and Lil Chalk combine with Shorty to produce something that maintains the same level of anger and venom, but isn’t nearly as addictive. Luckily ‘What Up Loc’ heralds a return to da fonk, with a Too $hort sampling chorus, and a rejuvenated Coolio thrown into the mix for good measure. Polar Bear’s production here is absolutely disgusting, with rumbling basslines meshing with an array of trademark echoes and squeaks to produce a perfect barbeque anthem.
As things continue it becomes clear Polar Bear intends to spread heavy funk over as many tracks as he can. ‘Put Yo $ Where Yo Mic At’, a challenge to ‘Hollywood rhymers’ to back up in real life the rhymes they spit in the studio, features familiar Average White Band guitar and horn loops, that still sound fresh as Shorty and his guest Kam trade verses; ‘You Neva Thought’ introduces the staple of West Coast funk, the vocoder, into the fray with typically Troutman-esque results; and Shorty’s ode to LA lifestyle, ‘Cali Funk’ features Polar Bear’s skill on the live instrumentation tip, with equally sparkling results.
Its the title track and ‘O’Shea’s Great Adventures’ however that will be the main talking (and selling point) for many people. As you may have guessed, the relationship between Shorty and Ice Cube is no longer an amicable one, and on these two tracks Shorty pulls no punches as he exposes Cube’s “fake persona” for the world to see. (“It was me who set it off in the NYC, when Eazy-E and ATL had you off your feet”) The title track is probably the slightly weaker of the two, with its more mellow backing pointedly at odds with the venomous content that Shorty’s lyrics contain –
“Guerillas In The Mist, Buck Tha Devil was the shit
Freedom Got An AK, we never seen a payday
Mayday, the homie J-Dee gets cracked
And looked to Cube to have his fucking back
Dirty Mack laid down on a fellow soldier
And left my nigga hangin’ with a drunk lawyer.”
Things REALLY jump off though with ‘O’Shea’s Great Adventure’ – over Polar Bear’s menacing audio backdrop, Shorty comes as close to a return to vintage Lench Mob material as he’s ever likely to. This COULD have come off “Guerillas In The Mist” – and that don’t mean it sounds dated at all y’all. The horns all over this track act as early warning sirens as Shorty unleashes the bombs, dissing Cube’s latest efforts…
“I checked your stats, your War was wack
As a matter of fact you don’t got no fucking getback
With Peace, no love on the streets, aint feeling your beats
You can’t wage War then Peace with the beast…
… Fuck a Don Mega – dumb nigga
You ain’t a mega, trick – you’s a megabitch.”
The amount of venom that Shorty has reserved for his former mentor, makes it interesting to see if Cube will make a verbal comeback. Will he view Shorty as beneath his radar, or he will be stung into another back-and-forth battle the way he traded insults with Cypress Hill several years back?
Elsewhere, despite the appearance of a few damp squibs such as the tired double-time rhyming on ‘Get Shorty’ and the ill advised remake of ‘Lord Have Mercy’, the majority of rest of the album is quite solid. Tracks of particular note include the East Coast sounding ‘Fake Azz Gangsta’ and ‘Neva Cry Wolf’ (the latter which resurrects the infamous “Boom Ping Piiiiiing” Lench Mob call), the silky smooth ‘Natural High’ and the hard bump of ‘Ghetto Treason’, remarkable in its own right, as it features the return of the Boo-Yaa Tribe on wax.
Overall, this is a solid return to the arena for Shorty, and with the promise of J-Dee’s release from prison late next year, a Lench Mob reunion could well be on the cards. The fact that J-Dee shares a similar point of view to his partner-in-crime regarding Ice Cube, may well have O’Shea suffering a few sleepless nights. This may be hard to track down, but for West Coast fans especially, this could be a worthwhile purchase.