Monday, March 25, 2013

Questionable Lyrics #2: Tough Actin' Like Tinactin

This is another long one, but I promise it's worth it. Not every Questionable Lyrics post is gonna be about biting, but...

Similar to surprise I got when I heard Monie Love repeat a Kane line from my last Questionable Lyrics entry, I had a similar feeling in the mid 90's when I heard Xzibit and Ras Kass each drop the same commercial reference on different songs... By his second album, Coolio had thoroughly crossed over. I mean, "Gangster's Paradise" was playing in the waiting room of my dentist's office.  But he had a posse cut on there, which featured Ras Kass amongst a host of others. This was early in Ras's career, too, so any appearance was exciting. Well, his verse contained the following line:

"For them niggas steppin' up with the funk, I'm packin' Tinactin."

That same year, 1995, Ras's fellow Golden State Warrior Xzibit was featured on the compilation album One Million Strong, with a song called "No Hand Outs." I made a video about it in 2007 if you want to know the story there. But the point now is that he kicked the following line:

"I ain't on the microphone actin' tough actin' like Tinactin."

Now, this wasn't so bad as the Monie/ Kane thing. While they were both making the same reference in a corny punchline, they weren't making the exact same pun like Kane and Monie (and Def IV!) did. It's one thing if different rappers both reference Keith Sweat in their songs... look at the comments of that blog post. Readers have found [nice work, guys, and thanks!] some great and fun Keith Sweat lines by other rappers. That Big L one is the best. But they're all different. They're not all specifically saying: hey, don't "Sweat" me because my name isn't Keith, nyuck nycuk! So... I noted it (I mean, these guys formed a group together, and these were early appearances for both of them, they had to have known they were both using Tinactin as a punchline), but I didn't think much of it.

Then I heard it on a Kris Kross record. It was still 1995; I was bothering to check for a Kris Kross 12" because it featured Redman. The European pressing was different than the US, with a different B-side.  And it's the European one that caught my attention. The song was a posse cut called "Live and Die For Hip Hop," which I believe later appeared on Kris Kross's Young, Rich and Dangerous album. Anyway, it was neither Kris nor Kross, but one of their guest MCs (Mr. Black?), who spoke the line:

"Smackin' those actin' tough as Tinactin."

It was back, and this time it was the same pun. If you can really call it a pun. See, "tough actin'" is the product's catchphrase.  Like McDonald's commercials always saying "I"m lovin' it," in their song, in the dialogue, printed on their bags and posters. Tinactin - which if you don't know, is an anti-fungal foot powder/ crotch ointment - uses the line "tough actin'." Look at the picture at the top of this blog and you'll see it printed right along the front of the box. It's kinda goofy to be throwing medicated foot powder references into your song lyrics (straight from the soul, no doubt). But at least Ras and X were using it differently. Xzibit was making a play on the product's tag-line, and Ras was saying he gets rid of rappers' bad funk just like Tinactin does to the funk you get on your foot. There the pun's really on "funk." Some additional creativity was involved. You could maybe say Xzibit's line was clever (though I'm not prepared to concede that); but this time it was a total bite! Fortunately, at least, this was the last time any rapper would mention it.



The Lady of Rage, 1997, on the title track of her debut album Necessary Roughness:

"Fast actin' like Tinactin, mo' deeper than the Kraken."

Defenders might say: well, at least she changed it. I don't know. Honestly, I think she just got it wrong. I think she stole the line and wasn't even familiar enough with the reference she was making to realize that it's supposed to be "tough actin'," not "fast actin'." I mean, look, I like Lady of Rage and generally respect her work. In fact, most of the lyrics to this song are pretty solid. But leaving this line in the mix is at best incredibly lazy. That's me being very generous because I'm a die-hard LA Posse fan.

Anyway, the same year, hardcore indie crew The Ruthless Bastards spit the line on their Flowmaster single, "Murder We Wrote:"

"Tough actin' like Tinactin, breakin' backs in fatigue gear."

There's something sort of charming, in a nostalgic time capsule-ish way about the line in those songs, though. It's like hearing all the MCs who bit Das EFX's "diggity diggity" gimmick; it has that ring of an innocent naivete. But now that The 90's are over, well... Ready for the rapid fire round?

In 2000, DJ Quik had a guest named Skaboobie (his career didn't seem to go very far) say it on "Did Y'all Feel That?" from his album Balance & Options on Arista:

"Tough actin' like Tinactin is how my game got you reactin'."

During the song "Talk big Shit," Dubee (no relation to Skaboobie) of Mac Dre's Cutthroat Committee says on their 2001 Thizz Entertainment album, Turf Bucanneers:

"Wicked with a fashion, tough as Tinactin."

And it's surprising what really credible MCs have used it. Take Phaorahe Monch, who dropped the following line. Lady of Rage-style, on The X-Ecutioners' 2001 single, "Y'all Know the Name" (later included on their Built From Scratch album) on LOUD:

"My beats get feet to steppin' like fast actin' Tinactin."

Foreign Exchange, "The Answer" from their 2004 album Connected on BBE:

"They tough actin' like Tinactin."

 Heiruspecs, "Dollar," from their 2004 album  A Tiger Dancing on Razor & Tie:

"Sayin' your spray is stayin' tough actin' like Tinactin."

Of course you know Chino XL had to get in on this! But actually, he doesn't say it, just a guest on his song: Crooked I on a track called "Tap Dancing" that got thrown out on mp3 and mixtapes around 2007, but never really had a proper release. Here's his line:

"Dancin' around the truth, you rappers are actin'; come out of the booth and need tough actin' Tinactin."

Grand Puba kept it going on Brand Nubian's Time's Runnin' Out album from 2007 on Sound of Dissent... He also says "fast:"

"Took your star, reactin' like fast actin' Tinactin."

MF Doom, "Ballskin" from 2009's Born Like This on Lex Records:

"And being tough actin' Tinactin, bluff jackin'."

And of course The Wu isn't above it. On "Weak Spot," from the Wu Tang Clan's last crew album in 2007, 8 Diagrams on Universal, Raekwon, the chef himself, spits:

"I'ma tap in harder than Tinactin."

Also in 2009, Lil Wayne said it on Rick Ross's Deeper Than Music Def Jam album, on the posse cut "Maybach Music 2." Though he uses the tagline, too; he at least changes up the pun a little, a la Ras Kass:

"I'm on my feet like Tough Actin' Tinactin."

As recently as 2011, Vakill thought it was a good idea to use it on the title cut of his Armor of God album with The Molemen:

"Insecure non-tough, tough actin' Tinactin types."

And in 2012, T-Pain made a video for a song called "Don't You Quit" which features the line:

"Me and my dogs go hard, and you just tough actin' Tinactinin' - Ha ha!"

For God's sake, how do you laugh at that line in 2012? I mean, even putting aside what a bad look it is to laugh at your own punchlines on your own record... does no one in your crew recognize this hacky, stolen line when you spit it in the booth? Do none of your producers pause and think, "gee, that sounds familiar..." There's no way you can think you're being witty or clever in your own head saying this line after such an incredibly long procession of other rappers saying the exact damn thing.

But it's about to get real. Because what really sparked me to write this post is that I recently stumbled upon an earlier occurrence of this line. All these years, I wasn't sure if Ras or Xzibit thought it up, but I thought one or the other started this terrible trend. But no, I just heard it in a song from 1994. Ice Cube's short lived pack of proteges, Anotha Level, had it on their sole album, On Anotha Level from Priority Records. The song is called "Level-N-Service" and Cube's on it himself, though he didn't actually kick the following line:

"I'm tough actin' like Tinactin for the feet."

This line is such a tired, worn out reference that even the originators bit it! It's a time paradox, like that episode where Dr. Who met himself!* I don't understand it. Are Merck & Co. writing these rappers checks? Or has everybody just lost their damn minds? Either way, we need to apply some serious anti-fungal juice to this Tinactin rap shit.

...And guys, if you can find more, please post 'em in the comments again. I already can't stop laughing at this list!

*I've never actually watched Dr. Who, but I think it's safe to assume that this happened at least once.


  1. hahaa, good postin Werner. Tinactin got used so much its crazy, i just heard it on an album that literally dropped yesterday, just happened to be listening to right now with this article still fresh on the mind.
    The song "Tetrahydrons on Mars" off the ALchemist produced group Durag Dynasty's album 360 Waves. Not exactly sure on the voice who it is rhyming but i don't think it's Planet Asia, and i know its not Chace Infinite(who's still killin it), maybe it's Al himself. The line is:
    "..I'm tough as tinactin, i'll blow a burner like its vietnam"

  2. I'd like to hear somebody rhyme O-2-naphthyl methyl(3-methylphenyl)thiocarbamate

    (chemical name for tinactin!)