Yesterday, famously antagonistic Bronx-born rap artist Timothy “Tim Dog” Blair died of a diabetic seizure at the age of 46.
One of the most boisterously brash voices ever heard on a rap record, Tim Dog was the epitome of the hulking hip-hop bully archetype. Debuting in 1987 as the featured guest opener of Ultramagnetic MCs’ “A Chorus Line,” Dog premiered his signature style in his very first outing. By adopting Big Daddy Kane’s famed syllable-chopping flow and morphing it from a smooth roll call of rhymes into an unrelenting barrage (“Procrastinator, laid her, hate her, played her, sprayed her / You wanna be taught? Later.”) divvied up between statements that each sounded like a unique hybrid of boasts, threats and insults (“I’m so large, I boned your girl Emily”), Dog birthed one of the most consistently entertaining personas in hip-hop.
Tim Dog found his greatest success during the early rumblings of the East Coast-West Coast feud. At a time when N.W.A. were among the most controversial and intimidating entities in all of entertainment, Dog looked them in the eye and threw a molotov cocktail in the form of his critically acclaimed 1991 single “Fuck Compton.” At a time when threatening imagery was commonplace, the single’s black-and-white flaming “Compton” hat cover and unsettlingly grim video made for some of the most replayed visuals throughout the media’s obsession with the East vs. West Coast Beef.
Along with having the sheer balls to call out the most dangerous group on the planet by name (“‘Why you dissin’ Eazy?’ Cause the boy ain’t shit / Chew him in tobacco and spit him in shit.”), “Fuck Compton” also painted Tim Dog as a loner outlaw. While the single included the line “Fightin’ over colors? / All that gang shit’s for dumb motherfuckers,” his album Penicillin on Wax proved Tim Dog had everyone from Kid-N-Play to Kwame to MC Hammer (“a wack ass rapper, but a dope ass dancer”) to even the positive Afrocentric movement as a whole (“You can be home preachin’ to your brotherman / I’ll be home fuckin’ his girlfriend” on “You Ain’t Shit”) on his list of things he passionately despised.
But instead of coming off like a bitter curmudgeon, Penicillin on Wax‘s traditionally East Coast thump allowed Tim Dog’s incredible charisma to make the havoc of a pre-Giuliani New York feel like a tumultuous carnival of sex and violence. While he may not have been the “lyrically lyrical spiritual miracle” type of lyricist so many of his contemporaries aspired to be, Dog’s utter fearlessness and comedic timing (“She wanted me to pee in her face / (so what did you do?) I pissed in her face!”) has allowed for even the most dated references on Penicillin on Wax to age incredibly well.
So much so that, while the album wasn’t among the biggest releases of its time, it’s spawned a passionately loyal cult following in recent years, with producer J-Zone among its most vocal proponents. As he described Penicillin on Wax to EgoTrip in 2011, “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.” As a result, hashtags #TimDog and #TimDogQuoatables have spent more time trending on Twitter than just about all of Tim Dog’s peers.
While Tim Dog’s name never fully vanished from rap’s conscious thanks to being dissed on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic album, and shouted out on tracks by both Nas and Eminem, his legal issues of late have overshadowed his musical legacy. While he’s no stranger to lawsuits, (in 1991 N.W.A. responded to “Fuck Compton,” not with another diss record, but by charging Tim Dog with copyright infringement in the landmark first case of a rap artist suing another rap artist for sampling. Last summer his charges of grand larceny were the subject of a two hour episode of NBC’s “Dateline.” Unrepentant and antagonistic as ever, the episode was wildly entertaining and showed a possible social media interest in its proposed 5-disc Tim Dog Greatest Hits anthology.
Whether you best remember Tim Dog for feuding with an entire city’s worth of rappers, fantasizing about absurdly deviant sexual encounters with En Vogue or allegedly defrauding women he met through online dating out of thousands of dollars, it’s a challenge to name a rap artist with a more unapologetically entertaining legacy. He was 46.