May 4, 2021

My Gut Reaction: The Dove Shack - Reality Has Got Me Tied Up (2000 or 2006, depending on your source)

In 1994, Long Beach producer-slash-rapper Warren Griffin III released his debut album, Regulate… G Funk Era through Def Jam/Violator Records. Far from being a solo album under any standard definition, Regulate… G Funk Era acted as a launchpad for Griffin’s stable of artists, each member of his loose-knit crew snagging multiple placements over the man’s ten provided beats. Warren G had visions of grandeur, hoping to create a collective of superstars just as his older half-brother Andre “Dr. Dre” Young had done over at Death Row/Interscope Records just two years prior. Instead of rap acts such as Tha Dogg Pound, RBX, The Lady of Rage, and the charisma magnet known as Calvin “Snoop Doggy Dogg” Broadus, however, Griffin bet the farm on artists such as the Twinz, Jah Skills, and The Dove Shack, and the fact that most of you two are likely rubbing your temples in an attempt to jog your brain into remembering just who in the fuck any of these folks even were means that Dr. Dre easily won that battle.

In an effort to kick off the Warren G-Funk Cinematic Universe, Griffin used his newly-acquired clout at Def Jam (selling three million copies of Regulate… G Funk Era will do that) to release projects from two of his acts in 1995: Conversation by the Twinz (I’m already on record as saying this album is underrated, a hidden gem, and Warren G’s finest production work not for himself, kind of like how DJ Premier’s beats on Group Home’s Livin’ Proof are his best outside of any of his own projects) and This Is The Shack by The Dove Shack. The latter album featured almost no real involvement from Warren G, as the Shack merely used his name-brand recognition to form their own identities as artists (and besides, Griffin was likely too busy with Conversation anyway). Both projects hit store shelves and were promptly forgotten, causing Warren G’s dreams of hip hop moguldom to self-destruct, forcing him to refocus his energy into his own solo career. (I’ll use this space to note that the Shack did have a song entitled “Bomb Drop” on This Is The Shack that was produced by the late Jam Master Jay, for what it’s worth.)

I’m fully aware that the Twinz, while relatively obscure artists today, didn’t exactly go off quietly into that good night, and we’ll pick up their story later on, I promise. But what a lot of people may not realize is how the Dove Shack at least tried to push their storyline further than what felt natural with their second and final (as far as I can tell, anyway) project, Reality Has Got Me Tied Up, which was distributed as a Japanese exclusive 2000, a mere five years after This Is The Shack was released straight into clearance bins nationwide. (That 2000 thing I’m merely gleaming off of the copyright on the back cover on Interweb images, however – most of the sources I could locate on this mysterious project seem to believe it actually dropped six years later in 2006, although that could just be the Stateside release date. Most sources seem to agree that it saw a “proper” vinyl release in 2017 thanks to the Germany-based Smoke On Records, a haven for artists long past their prime, kind of like a European version of the Koch graveyard.)

I’ll be honest, aside from the fact that it exists in the first place, I know very little about Reality Has Got Me Tied Up. The three members of the Dove Shack (rappers 2Scoops and C-Knight, along with singer-slash-sometime-rapper Bo-Roc, the Nate Dogg of the bunch) all appear throughout, as do a handful of guest stars, some of whom you’ve actually heard of. The production credits are a fucking lost cause, however: I couldn’t find any real liner notes that properly attributed things such as “publishing” or “writing credits” – while the Shack helpfully provides a list of producers that worked on the project (which includes names such as DJ Rectangle, and Goldie Loc), it’s up to you to determine who was responsible for what, which is awfully tacky on the group's part. Then again, this should have been expected given the horrific album art and a tracklist that is very wrong at times – it’s clear whoever distributed this record was more interested in profiting off of the Shack’s name than it was trying to make sure they got the little details correct.

You can actually hear me crossing the Dove Shack off of my project list throughout the body of this write-up, probably.

Oh cool, this rap album intro not only doesn’t feature the guest named it its own goddamned title, it’s also just the opening ten second of the first actual song on here. Great attention to detail here, boys.

Ah, I get it now – that first track should have read as “Intro: Scoop Says” (italics mine), since it’s 2Scoops’ voice we hear at the very beginning of “Going Down”. I will admit that my listening experience for this song wasn’t ideal – the song I just listened to sounded poorly mastered and mixed, as though it were a copy of a copy of a copy where the bass was set at its highest level, distorting the rest of the song. Still, I must admit that the production on “Going Down” wasn’t bad at all, at least what I could make out: the loop may never change, but it hits all of the G-Funk bullet points, in that it’s contagious, would be pleasant to drive to, and would sound good if played at a backyard barbecue. Lyrically, “Going Down” is mostly a mess, though. 2Scoops and C-Knight each tackle a verse where they compete against one another to see who can fit the most syllables into a single bar regardless of what the beat dictates, and Bo-Roc’s hook is both cheesy and too lengthy – you’ll find yourself looking at the clock on your phone wondering why it’s taking so fucking long for another verse to come in. Only guest star Kam, who sounds entirely out of place, comes across as decent on here, blowing his collaborators out of the water with his monotone, authoritarian flow which is leaps and bounds beyond what anyone in the Dove Shack had ever been capable of. His name being misspelled as “Kiam” in the liner notes plays like a subtle act of petty revenge from a group who felt slighted by the man’s cameo performance. And why does “Going Down” run for at least two minutes longer than the artists have material?

The problem I have with the Dove Shack, and the reason they’ve virtually all but disappeared from our chosen genre, other than the fact that their debut album only has maybe three decent songs on it (and one of those was lifted from Warren G.’s Regulate… G Funk Era, so it shouldn’t even count), is that, as artists, while they may be distinguishable from one another (which feels like it should be a given, but you’ve all heard examples of the contrary), they don’t really stand out when compared to their peers on just the West Coast, let alone the entire genre. Their personalities cause them to blend into the background more often than not, their respective flows generic and quickly lost in any shuffle. To wit: “Open Eyes” features four verses, but aside from the late Bad Azz (who opens and closes the song in addition to spitting a verse), I couldn’t fucking tell who was on screen at any point. Hell, Bad Azz is only recognizable because he’s smart enough to mention his own name multiple times throughout the song. The other guest is credited as Baby Boy Lil J, which seems too lengthy and awkward to be a stage name, but the female vocalist on the (crappy) hook receives no such billing (unless her name is Baby Boy (not likely) or Lil J (possible) – as the lines notes have proven to be absolutely perfect with zero errors made, I wouldn’t put it past our hosts). The instrumental is a limp-wristed loop that feels incomplete, its never-evolving nature bound to frustrate listeners who will actively seek this trash out. Bad Azz seems to be excited to play within the Dove Shack’s sandbox – too bad that doesn’t seem to have been reciprocated.

A questionable title choice saddles “We Funk G Funk” (referred to as “We Funk G Funk (Remix)” online, but not in the liner notes because reasons) with a doomed lifelong comparison with the song it ostensibly shares a vibe with, “We Funk (The G-Funk)”, off of This Is The Shack. (Which Def Jam Records released as a single, some of you two may recall.) This particular “remix” happens to use a different instrumental and entirely new lyrics – why the Shack couldn’t have just given this one an original name is beyond me, especially as it’s pretty enjoyable on its own. Although C-Knight starts his opening verse off in a similar fashion as he did on the “original”, it quickly veers off course, each member of the crew providing all-new boasts-n-bullshit for the listeners to enjoy, and god damn it, “We Funk G Funk” is actually entertaining, the instrumental presenting the finest example of actual G-Funk thus far while our hosts are all engaging and happy to be here. It’s a shame the “remix” tag is such a burden for it to bear.

“We Bump” is pretty fucking cornball, but it was also highly enjoyable and I liked it a lot? Apologies for the confusing sentiment, but this one truly caught me off guard. The most polished-sounding track on Reality Has Got Me Tied Up so far, “We Bump” rides a loop isolated from a small portion of En Vogue’s “Hold On”, which reads as a waste of the producer’s time (because why not just go straight to the James Brown source, am I right?) but, in execution, sounds pretty fucking clean, and the Dove Shack, appearing alone for the first time this evening, all have fun with this shit, a feeling that easily transfers to the listener. “We Bump is all boasts-n-bullshit of no consequence, but C-Knight, 2Scoops, and Bo-Roc (who, naturally, also provides the hook) spiral out of control, but in an entertaining fashion, during their respective verses, where random-ass references to popular culture clash with musical callbacks. (For his part, Bo stares directly at the elephant in the room while singing along a la En Vogue, and he also shouts out Warren G.’s “What’s Next” for good measure.) Knight has what has to be the goofiest line of the piece, mostly because it’s delivered with such a straight face that you’ll laugh even though it isn’t all that funny (“Are you Steven Seagal, because your ass is Marked for Death”), although I was more partial to his description as “not a studio gangsta, just a gangsta in a studio”. This was just fun, you two.

Thoroughly silly, but enjoyably so. “Low Low” features our trio portraying different talking cars throughout their respective verses, spitting bars that mostly appeal only to other vehicles with personified human qualities, and it’s obvious that the Doves treated this as a fun creative writing exercise. Bo-Roc’s hook is brief and outlandish, but, again, enjoyably so, and the verses themselves are entertaining and pretty generous with the details. My only question is this: after attending a party at a car wash, 2Scoops talks about picking up “bitches” – is he talking about other vehicles who identify as female, such as in the Pixar Cars series of films? Or is he, a moving vehicle, trying to fuck a human woman? The world may never know. “Low Low” features a simple loop for an instrumental that manages to carry the track because there are absolutely zero stakes here, and I’d bet you two will like this one for what it is.

7. SKIT R.I.P.
A mid-project skit reveals that Reality Has Got Me Tied Up is dedicated to the various loved ones in the lives of the Dove Shack that have passed away. That’s all I got.

The Dove Shack take a huge gamble on “What You See”, one that doesn’t quite pay off. It isn’t so much because our hosts decided to give the listener a more serious-minded, sober song – no, the fault here lies with the instrumental, whose blatant Tracy Chapman “Fast Car” sample has to contend with the memories of not just the Chapman track, but also Nice & Smooth’s classic “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow”, which had already utilized the same sample to far better effect. Still, it’s important to note that simply because a song has already been sampled doesn’t automatically make it off-limits for anybody else to try, so “What You See” certainly has a right to exist. Bo-Roc’s chorus doesn’t really make all that much sense when compared to the lyrical content – it’s very likely that he had this hook locked in and ready to go prior to “What You See” even being written in the first place. But our hosts sound fine enough delivering bars addressing societal ills and talking about what’s important in their respective lives, and the beat is offered an opportunity to breathe toward the end, which was a nice touch. This wasn’t bad.

Disappointing. After a run of entertaining songs, the Shack falls into disarray with “When We Ride”, a lesson in inconsequential boasts-n-bullshit that borrows its name from a 2Pac track. The instrumental is G-Funk-esque, but lacks the soul and enthusiasm for life typically found within the best examples of the sub-genre, and the performances wherein are rather uninspired, with none of our hosts mentioning anything worth listening for. Ah well, we were bound for a crappy effort after flying so close to the sun.

Utterly bizarre. Not because of the presence of the late (and uncredited) Nate Dogg on the chorus, however – not only is he always welcome, it also serves to legitimize The Dove Shack to some degree. (At least our hosts appear to think so, since they bring up Nathaniel numerous times during their respective verses.) No, it’s because having Nate Dogg there renders Bo-Roc nonessential to the track, a fact underscored by how he insists on singing a chorus… while Nate Dogg is singing his own chorus. Seriously. There was no reason for that, aside from general insecurity regarding one’s place in the crew. Bo is honestly so fucking distracting here that you’re likely to not pay any attention to the actual song, which is honestly okay, as “Sorry We Keep Ya” isn’t worth giving a shit about otherwise. It is what it is. R.I.P. Nate Dogg.

I realize that albums are almost never recorded in sequential song order, but it’s kind of funny to look at “Gangsta” as Bo-Roc’s direct response to the previous track: having burned a hook alongside a crooning Nate Dogg, the man overcompensates by doing the exact opposite on here, choosing not to deliver any hook for “Gangsta’, leaving glaring holes in the DJ Rectangle instrumental where a chorus would, nay, should appear. Accompanied by guest Madam Dree, each member of the Shack passes the microphone around spitting generic platitudes about being “Gangsta”, but while she slips into the role so comfortably that she could be the missing fourth member of the group, the performances themselves are corny, almost laughable in their reliance on cliché and stereotypes. But what else would you ever expect from a song literally just called “Gangsta”?

You look at that song title, which is as plain as vanilla yogurt in a snowstorm, and you don’t expect to hear Bo-Roc paying homage to Madness’ “Our House”, but that’s exactly what happens on “Ghetto Song” anyway, so I can’t write this song off entirely, as that flex is absurd as fuck. Sadly, that’s the only bit of this track that deviates from the standard-issue bland gangsta rap present, as 2Scoops, C-Knight, and the aforementioned Bo all seem to have run out of new shit to say, hoping that the music, which isn’t even remotely good, will carry their words for them, and boy oh boy it sure as shit does not. Mehs all around.

One of the most memorable (and I do not mean that in a positive way) components of This Is The Shack was “The Train (Skit)”, an interlude that in no way holds up today and was very cringe-y even back in 1995, as it features the members of the Shack tricking a woman into having sex with all three of them. So you can imagine my level of disgust when this track’s title came up on my phone. However, “Skit Train 2“ isn’t a follow-up to that earlier interlude, nor is it an interlude at all – likely a victim of the proofreading process that Reality Has Got Me Tied Up absolutely was put through prior to release, this winds up being an actual song with no ties to that demeaning horseshit from before. That doesn’t automatically make this a must-listen, of course: the instrumental is fairly weak, and the verses all blend into one another, a lyrical rat king with no discernible beginning or end, including those from the uncredited outside guests who I couldn’t quite place due to everyone sounding so fucking similar on here. The lone exception, as always, was Bo-Roc, whose opening verse was terrible, shirking the instrumental so blatantly that it was almost positively rude. While I’m grateful that this wasn’t just another horrific skit, this still sucked, so.

Hilariously, the regular program for Reality Has Got Me Tied Up ends with “Fucc You Bitches”, which is a strange (and erroneous – see: my constant "joking" throughout the write-up about the complete lack of quality control) title for what is just a remix of the earlier “Low Low”. The members of The Shack fully embrace the silliness of it all on here, altering the instrumental into a funkier affair while tacking on some background talkbox, a la the late Roger Troutman, during the chorus. Bo-Roc still sings the hook, and it’s still utterly ridiculous (it sounds like he’s just rattling off the Konami codefrom memory at times), but his verse is excised in favor of a contribution from (uncredited) guest Goldie Loc from Tha Eastsidaz, who takes to the whole, “hey, could you pretend you’re a car?” concept rather amiably. It’s weird and far too long to ever be an effective piece of entertainment, but at least the guys had some obvious fun with it.

The final two songs on Reality Has Got Me Tied Up are marked as bonus tracks.

A tighter version of the earlier “What You See”, by which I mean a minute-and-a-half is shaved off the runtime, some of the hook elements are shuffled around, and C-Knight is almost entirely left off of the final product. The beat remains the same Tracy Chapman-jacking effort, though, and the chorus still runs for far more measures than it should, but overall this version whizzes by much more quickly, and not just because it’s shorter. Really more of an “alternate take” than a “remix”, though.

One final alternate take, this one trimming nearly a full minute from “We Bump” by lopping off almost all of 2 Scoops’ appearance, thereby hitting the trifecta of three distinct remixes where a different member of the Dove Shack was removed from each. That doesn’t not make it a weird choice, of course, since this song was considered to be a group effort, The En Vogue-sampling instrumental remains the same, however, which was the best part of “We Bump” anyway, but I liked the original version of “We Bump” and enjoyed the instrumental enough that I wasn’t complaining when the track crossed the five-minute threshold, so I’d recommend you ignore this take and seek out the earlier one. Le sigh.

THE LAST WORD: Breaking down the horrifically sloppy liner notes and album sequencing even more than I already have will just expend all of my energy, so I’m going to look past the obvious flaws on Reality Has Got Me Tied Up in order to focus on what’s ostensibly important: the music. And that’s the weird thing about this project: somehow I enjoyed this one much more than the Dove Shack’s debut effort. Part of that may be due to how disappointed I was with This Is The Shack as a whole, the fact that Warren G barely did anything on that project likely tainting my view of what I found to be a slew of underwhelming gangsta rap over uninteresting beats – that might be the first real instance of young Max feeling tricked by the music industry into purchasing a product that in no way resembled the way it was being marketed. Conversely, Reality Has Got Me Tied Up had a nonexistent marketing budget, because there’s no way most of you ever knew this thing was a real album in the first place, and perhaps it’s my complete lack of expectations going into this write-up that led me to enjoying tracks such as “We Bump”, “Low Low”, “We Funk G Funk”, and even a bit of “What You See” much more than I had anticipated.

Performance-wise, you won’t find anything new on Reality Has Got Me Tied Up – 2Scoops and C-Knight haven’t aged much since their debut, their writing not having improved a single measure, and Bo-Roc’s crooning of phrases that never asked for that kind of treatment isn’t as amusing as you might have hoped. However, it’s clear that these guys work well together, bouncing ideas off of one another with a palpable chemistry that serves the generic subject matter well. As a rap trio, the Dove Shack is perfectly serviceable – they just don’t have anything to say, and under the right circumstances, that can be just fine. Songs like “We Bump” and “We Funk G Funk” will play well in your car or on your commute, and while they don’t exactly rank amongst the finest that G-Funk has to offer, they serve as little-known treasures that are deserving of a wider audience even if The Dove Shack maybe isn’t.

YouTube is your friend here, folks. If you like what you hear to the point where you’d like to throw some money at the trio, the Smoke On release seems to correct some of the song title issues and, as a bonus, appears to be legitimate, meaning that these guys would actually receive a royalty of some sort, but I don’t know if I’d recommend you go that far. Give the songs I listed a try if you’re a West Coast hip hop head on the lookout for shit that flew under your radar, and everyone else can sit tight until another review pops up.


There’s a tiny bit more Dove Shack content that you can find by clicking here, if you want.

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