You Only Know What You Heard on Cassette: Shawty Pimp “Comin Real Wit It”

In light of his reissue on LA Club Resource, a look at forgotten Memphis rap pioneer, Shawty Pimp
By    November 11, 2014

shawty pimpTorii MacAdams prefers Memorex to TDK

The cassette tape has made a comeback, which is ostensibly a bit absurd. Cassettes are relatively fragile, degrade over time, and don’t make cool noises when they’re put on turntables. They don’t make any noise, really. In the mouth breathingest corners of the Internet, audio rips from mostly forgotten rap cassettes are exchanged on forums with closed membership, or, if someone’s generous, posted on a blog. Guys with umlauts in their names are spending my rent on two or three cassettes of poorly mastered (or unmastered) music made in shotgun shack home studios. The major benefit of the cassette (aside from improving on the 8 track) is the low cost of production– not necessarily the great equalizer for Southern rappers of the 80’s and 90’s, but still an incredibly important asset for those who aspired to rap careers. On eBay, authentic Tommy Wright III cassettes are sold for hundreds of dollars to Europeans located closer to Georgia the country and Memphis, the ancient Egyptian city. For fans of rap from the contemporary Memphis, the reissue of Shawty Pimp’s 1995 demo Comin’ Real Wit’ It, featuring Reddog on every track, is an interesting chapter in the city’s largely unwritten rap history.

Of Memphis’ cassette tape hustlers, the aforementioned Wright has received the most (if still minimal) press, and Shawty Pimp is one of Wright’s many peers relegated to YouTube videos with grainy photos. Pimp, and Wright, alongside MC Spade, actually collaborated on “Pushin Powder” from Wright’s 1992 album Memphis Massacre Mix Vol. 1. The relationship was apparently short lived, as Spade and Pimp would later record “Bitin Ass Nigga,” a diss correctly aimed at Wright for biting Spade’s verse from “Pushin Powder” on “One Man Gang,” from Wright’s 1995 album Runnin-N-Gunnin. Wright’s style, face-clutching, punishing gangster raps in the very bloody vein of early Three 6 Mafia, is a stark contrast to Shawty Pimp’s funkier inclinations.

Listeners expecting intense crunk raps will be disappointed to find that Pimp’s style is…pimpish. The low fidelity of the original recordings only adds to the smooth, almost whispered tales about North Memphis. Pimp’s voice is light and sing-songy, a nicely curled pimp perm bouncing all over drum rolls and understated soul samples. The most obvious corollary for the instrumentals on Comin’ Real Wit’ It is 8ball & MJG’s “Pimps,” a XXX-rated how-to guide based around a sample of the slow grooving Womack & Womack. “Play No Playa” is illustrative of Comin’ Real Wit’ It’s dynamic, with Reddog and Shawty Pimp trading bars over a grainy guitar sample. Reddog asks “What’s yo name?,” to which Pimp replies “Shawty Pimp, definition:,” with Reddog answering “making grip, breaking wimps, breaking simps.”

Comin’ Real Wit’ It is, at 43 minutes, a really enjoyable, compact peek at a bygone style of pre-Internet, regional rap music. The prospect of further arcane rap reissues excites; they may devalue the cassettes of covetous fans, but the pursuit would be worthwhile if the Shawty Pimps and Reddogs of the world receive deserved, if delayed, plaudits. In 2014, when the wimp and simp breaking industries are suffering from record lows in production, Shawty Pimp’s Comin’ Real Wit’ It is emerging from a time capsule to provide a direly needed stimulus.

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