Apache came out of the Flavor Unit-the New Jersey rap collective that introduced the world to Naughty by Nature and Queen Latifah. “Gangsta Bitch” was his sole hit (relative to what rap hits were at this time), and it’s a tribute to the type of chick Biggie would memorialize a year later with “Me & My Bitch”. Actually, the two songs follow similar lyrical trajectories. Both rappers are in love with a lady who matches their thugginess pound for pound. Apache’s lady “sticks up girls from around the fuckin’ way” (a nod to LL’s ode to hood chicks “Around The Way Girl”), smokes Newports and blunts, and Apache is so in love he buys her an AK for her 21st birthday. The main difference between the two songs is that BIG’s lady gets murdered (spoiler alert), while Apache’s gangsta bitch only gets sent upstate for a 5 year bid. Of course, the lyrics are exaggerated and played at least for chuckles if not outright laughs. The way Apache ends his second verse by wondering if his lady and his mom might not get along by sighing “parents just don’t understand” exhibits a wry humor foreign to a lot of hip hop to this day.
Perhaps the weirdest/coolest thing about “Gangsta Bitch” is the fact that it was produced by Q-Tip. The Tribe Called Quest frontman provides a smooth, jazzy soundscape for Apache’s conversational vocals (a soundscape that’s somewhat reminiscent of Tribe’s “Electric Relaxation”, which would come out later that same year). It seemed a bit odd at the time that the Tribe-man would lay down beats for a song that’s the lyrical anthesis of ATCQ’s whole ethos, but as Tip’s productions for Mobb Deep in ’95 confirmed, Afrocentrism and hardcore were not mutually exclusive.
Apache did a quick fade after “Gangsta Bitch”‘s moment in the sun. He ghost-wrote rhymes for Queen Latifah (listen to the Black Reign album; there are a few songs that clearly follow Apache’s unique intonation and cadence), and then seemingly fell off the map, only turning up in hip-hop headlines again in 2010 after passing away at the incredibly young age of 45 from heart failure. So I’m pouring out a little for one of hip-hop’s greatest one shots, and linking you to this very interesting oral history of the Flavor Unit courtesy of Red Bull Academy. Something to read while you’re nodding your head to this classic.