“I’m so large, I boned Michelle’, in the bathroom – we was bonin’, you shoulda heard how the bitch was moanin’ [followed by the most accurate karaoke rendition of Michelle’s “No More Lies” I’ve ever heard]… shut the fuck up bitch, you can’t sing, ya found like a kid playin’ on the swing.”
At at time when 50% of the folks walking around the Metro New York area were certified God damn nuts looking to break your jaw for a Starter jacket, I heard that stanza being shouted over a pulsating, prison wall-hard, melody-less beat. It was blasting out of a black Pathfinder. Somebody was not only dissing the fuck out of all things N.W.A (the world’s most dangerous group of the moment), but an entire coast. He didn’t sound happy, lyrical, clever, smooth, dapper, Afrocentric, quirky – none of that shit that most rappers from NYC were at the time. Just hard and pissed off, but not to the point where he wouldn’t get a mean-spirited laugh at your funeral.
“Yo man, what the fuck is that!?” I asked the twenty-something driver.
“Fuck Compton,” he responded in a disinterested ‘kid get outta here’ tone. He was probably in the midst of a transaction that would one day make him the next Nino Brown, so I skedaddled.
Shortly after that sonic shock, a review for “Fuck Compton” by Tim Dog appeared in The Source magazine’s 12” single section. About a month later, I stumbled into a Harlem record store and bought the cassette single for $4.99. Three months after that, my father bought me Tim Dog’s Penicillin on Wax CD for Christmas. My life was forever changed.
In 1991, great rappers were a dime a dozen, good ones weren’t good enough to compete, and sucky ones made hits. But what about rappers who weren’t skilled, but immensely entertaining? Twenty years later, “personality rap” pays the bills and that term usually applies to the majority of likable rappers that can’t really rap worth a shit (insert just about any current acclaimed rapper here). Tim Dog got points for being both bold and the poster child for Mayor David Dinkins-era NYC – an NYC overrun with robberies, racially-charged fights, and hair-trigger violence – but most people back then said the same thing with regard to his skill level: “Yeah, but he can’t rap.” NYC’s infatuation with lyrical skill caused them to overlook one of the most ground-breaking and important albums in its history. Penicillin on Wax enjoys more appreciation on YouTube two decades later than it did at the time of its release. (Despite Sony’s claims that it went platinum, it’s still impossible to find on CD today.)
What the naysayers didn’t understand was that Tim Dog’s modus operandi was not one of lyrical dexterity, but brute force. In 1991, brute force embodied the streets of New York and balanced out the “Prisoners of War” and “Verses from the Abstract” type of songs. Instead of being cerebral, brute force rap beat you in the cerebrum with a baseball bat. This wasn’t hip-hop; it was rap. Rap was bold, vulgar, hard, alpha male, gold rope-wearing, chest-beating shit, not the more eclectic stuff you played for critics to prove that all rappers weren’t ignorant hooligans. Visual symbols for this type of rap would be the likes of Schoolly D, Cool C, Eric B., and yes, Tim Dog.
Rapper beatdowns, taunts, disses, celebrity sexcapades, grunts, screams, humor, non-lyricism, and threats of extreme violence over a stolen bicycle were all put into a Cuisinart and the result was one of the most cinematic rap albums to ever come out of New York. Let’s glimpse at one of the most entertaining songs on the album, “Dog’s Gonna Getcha”, an epic three minute sleigh ride into psychosis, non-lyricism, angst, threats, and the detriments of being soft circa 1991 – all done with brilliant use of the echo chamber.
New York’s staunch refusal to big up anything not overtly skilled in ’91 meant Abbey Road-level genius like the “Dog’s Gonna Getcha” was doggy paddling below the radar. Not anymore. As I got nostalgic in the 20-year anniversary of my introduction to the rapper who created my favorite rap album of all time, I started a trending topic on Twitter called #timdogquotables for fun. What I soon realized was Penicillin on Wax needs to the first album in history that has its lyrics re-issued on Twitter – one line at a time. Every single stanza on the album can be sanded down to a 140-character statement that makes you say “damn!”, “whoa!”, “pause, son”, “… the fuck?”, or “there’s no fucking way the engineer kept a straight face with that nigga in the booth doing that shit.” Penicillin on Wax is not only the unheralded soundtrack to a pre-Whole Foods and devoid of Bloomberg-ism New York, but the most Twitter-friendly rap album of all time. Let’s pin 2011 technology on a 1991 masterpiece; share these 15 Tim Dog-penned brain farts of brilliance to stimulate the minds of your followers.
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