Rap Atlas: Oakland

Dangerous Music Studios (Randy Austin's House)

1534 Myrtle St.

Randy was the man behind Dangerous Music, that was Too $hort’s label. $hort’s old-school patna Freddy B was also involved, along with this guy Ted Bohanon. Dangerous started in 1986, after $hort parted ways with 75 Girls, who had put out his first three albums, which all dropped between 1985 and 1986. $hort got a lot of fame and local notoriety off of the 75 Girls stuff, but apparently, he didn’t get any royalties. So he got his game tight and his business together and the rest as they say is history.

The first Too $hort album Dangerous was involved with was Born to Mack, which was actually $hort’s fourth album, but in a sense it was like his first official release. The 75 Girls stuff was legendary, but they didn’t really have wide distribution or anything like that, so Born to Mack was the first one that was really available. The first single came out before the album dropped, that was “Freaky Tales,” which was an instant classic. “Freaky Tales” and Born to Mack both sold like hotcakes, they really put West Coast rap on the map. Remember this was back in 1987, there weren’t even too many rap albums, period, at that time. Jive reissued Born to Mack and put it out nationally in 1988, and then they put out Life Is… Too $hort in 1990, and Short Dog’s In the House in ‘92, those are like the three most essential Too $hort albums.

1534 Myrtle was where the Dangerous Music studios were housed. Legend has it $hort had a few spots in the Town he would kick it at, but this was as much of a home for him as anywhere. Dangerous kind of defined the “Dope Fiend Beat” style of rap which was ubiquitous to Oakland and the Bay back then. Just bass for days, real slow, real funky, with dirty raps on top of it. That’s where the expression “Biiiiiiiiitch” comes from, it’s the hook on “Dope Fiend Beat.” Countless rappers have used that, and E-40 and $hort just had another hit based around that phrase. Dangerous had a compilation album on vinyl around that time, which had Spice-1 and a bunch of other artists on it. Also the first Kid Rock album was recorded at the Dangerous studios as well.

Dangerous ended up getting a distribution deal with Jive which included $hort, Spice 1, MC Pooh (who became Pooh-Man), Mhisani (who became Goldy), Ant Banks, Dangerous Dame. Spice 1’s debut album went gold. Dangerous did another compilation on Jive in 1996 which was pretty good, and featured a bunch of newer Oakland artists like Father Dom and J-Dubb. They changed their name to $hort Records after $hort moved to Atlanta and were responsible for Lil Jon’s first big hit, “Couldn’t Be a Better Player,” in 1998.

If you listen to the early $hort stuff, it pretty much defined everything he was as an artist, and he has really stuck to that script, he just got more well-known and put out a whole lot more records. Those albums are really a product of the time and of the environment: $hort came up in East Oakland in the ‘80s, just after the introduction of crack. If you weren’t there at the time, you can only imagine how wild that was. $hort would rap about things that were happening in the streets, and he had his dirty raps and bragging raps, but he would also tell you what was really going on. It wasn’t necessarily gangsta, but gangstas liked it, if you know what I’m saying.

E-40 - "Bitch (feat. Too $hort)"

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