Of the many chest-thumping reasons given to save Philly’s beloved generic cardboard cake brand Tastykake—misplaced source of local pride, exaggerated and/or outright false claims of deliciousness, exaggerated and/or outright false claims of childhood fondness—the only truly meaningful one has yet to even be discussed: Wu Tang Clan’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard immortalized Tastykake in his ice-cold stunner of a hit “Brooklyn Zoo.”
In case you haven’t heard, Tastykake is in dire financial straits. The company moved to the Navy Yard at large expense last year, just as they were bitten badly in the ass by the down economy and repeatedly punched in the face by the hard knuckles of superior competitors Hostess and Entenmann’s. Add to that some dunderheaded money moves on behalf of company higher-ups and the fact that no one really actually eats this crap and, yeah, well, cue the emptying of public coffers to help rescue another lumbering large business: we’ve already given the company $31 million in taxpayer-funded aid to help right its ship, another bailout in a sea of them.
But here’s the thing: “Brooklyn Zoo” is, on its own, cause for another $31 mill to be thrown at Tasty. And another after that. Whatever it fucking takes. Not because Tastykake is worth it. It’s not. But for a reason much, much more vital: We can’t have a generation of kids growing up listening to “Brooklyn Zoo” thinking “Tastykake” is a typo on the lyric sheet. Or, worse, not knowing what the hell it even means. As it stands, with Tastykake’s imminent demise, there’s a chance ODB’s line about them could be hip-hop’s version of the Dire Straits declaring “I want my MTV.” We can’t let this happen.
This shit is important, people.
“Brooklyn Zoo,” you’ll recall, was a cannon fired into your worthless ear 16 years ago this week—March 28, 1995—as the fourth track on ODB’s wildly unique, impossibly ambitious and just plain odd Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version.
On the blistering track, ODB sounds angrier and more insane than any human ever has. “Brooklyn Zoo” is all Chris Brown-level freak-out rage—unhinged, dangerous, palpable. Just through Dirty’s vocal delivery—snarls, drawn out words, gulping and gasping for air—you get the sense that this man will bite you if given the chance. Or worse. Dirty wants to give you “the type of pain you couldn’t even kill with Midol.” “Fuck around,” he warns, “and get sprayed with Lysol.” In your face. Like a can of mace, bay-bay. Is it burnin’? Well, fuckin’ now you’re learnin’ !
And before that, the line: “Enough to make you break and shake ya ass/ ‘cos I create/ Rhymes good as a Tastykake.”
That Tastykakes aren’t good is the point here, perhaps. It’s ODB’s sly way of saying. “I’m no Notorious BIG, for sure, but goddamn I’m authentik.”
On the Wu Tang Clan’s stunning debut Enter the Wu Tang: 36 Chambers, Method Man explains the origin of ODB’s name in what remains the most succinct way to date: “There’s no father to his style.”
He was the most enigmatic member of a nine-person group full of them, and remains, as Rolling Stone put it when Dirty Version was released, “the most original vocalist in hip-hop history.”
Dude pooed Butterscotch Krimpets.
No one since his death in November ’04 has come close to matching his ribald, bombastic delivery. No one can hope (or attempt) to recreate his style. (It would be like covering the Shaggs. Can’t be done.) No one has ever expressed, with such verve, a fondness for all things rawwwwwwwwwwwwww. No one in hip-hop has been quite as unpredictable or possibly insane since. (Save for, of course, Gucci Mane, who, upon his release from a mental institution not long ago, got a giant electric ice cream cone tattoo ... on his face).
So, yes, let’s save Tastykake. But not because your mother packed Kream Filled Koffee Kunts in your elementary school lunches. We shouldn’t throw public money at it because you split a Krimpet with your best girl down the shore in the summer of who gives a shit.
Save Tastykake for ODB. And the children.
PW's Music Issue 2014