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The 50 Greatest Debut Albums in Hip-Hop History

46. Too Short, Born to Mack

Label: Dangerous Music/Jive/RCA
Release Date: 7/20/1987

Along with the paintings of Barnett Newman and the prose of Jim Thompson, Too Short's 1987 debut Born To Mackis one of the great minimalist expressions of American art. Although Todd Shaw had already produced and distributed a string of successful independent albums within the Bay Area, this full-length was his first introduction on the national stage. At 21, his aesthetic was more than fully formed-it was idealized.

The eight songs on Born To Mack present a duet between a young man and his drum machine. His rhymes are as insidiously catchy as they are unrepentantly filthy, and he makes that drum machine sing and groan and wheeze like an apocalyptic oracle. "Partytime," "Mack Attack" and "Dope Fiend Beat" are the subwoofer's aphrodisiac.

As much as it seems useless to isolate tracks from an album that is so sonically unified, "Freaky Tales" towers above the rest, a sparse epic within a sparse epic. In corporeal measurement, it runs for nine-and-a-half minutes, but really it is a vision of the infinite. Insane Clown Posse eventually released a 60-minute version in tribute and even that seemed insufficient. To listen to "Freaky Tales" is to picture its gaseous riff hurtling and uncurling through the space-time continuum, dispensing ever more obscene rhymes into eternity.

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