November 27, 2007 @ 11:13 am

Shawty Lo: I'm Your Idol

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On January 15, the rapper formerly known as Carlos will drop one of the most anticipated albums in down south history, Units in the City. But for now, he wants to talk about being an underdog, entrepreneur, drug dealer, and, eventually, one of the most revered men on the block.

Not many years ago, a timid guy name Carlos Walker tried to show people he could rap, so for about two weeks he worked on a song.

In it he rapped over a sample of an old western sounding ditty, he puffed up his chest, and gave it the title: "I'm Da Man."

"I'm the man/ Yeah, bitch I'm the man/ Catch me in the club poppin' rubberbands 'cause I can/ I like to stunt a lot/ see me in the parkin' lot/ 645 roof gone yeah I drop the top."

Before the song blew up, he was just the man in his project labyrinth in Bankhead Georgia. But eventually, the single convinced people who paid him no attention, that he probably was the man.

"When I got [the track] together it was wack," he admits. "But people in the streets, were like, 'It's a hit.'" The title of the second breakthrough single that soon followed became a no-brainer: "Dey Know."

"I ain't been rapping two years yet," he explains. "This was not what I was trying to do."

After a long night of merrily partying and performing, the gentle, newly-minted rap star, who now goes by the revered name Shawty Lo, cuddles up in bed and talks about how he went from a neighborhood dealer peddling Aunt Nora to rap's up-and-coming rock star.

At this point, Lo is a southern hip hop savior to the little guy who thinks he can't win. He's somewhat the antithesis of fame. His success is as refreshing as his comical lyrics. And unlike rap's current bull-faced, heavyweights, Lo's around 5'6, with a lovable appearance- proving that the American Dream can swivel its way to the most beat-up ghettos.

Lo managed to do it all with the cheeky humor of a class clown.

"I'm shy," he says, when I suggest otherwise. "You wouldn't even believe it. I was real popular for the life I lived in the streets as a dealer or whatever." 

Eventually he took the money he earned and "invested into dudes who knew how to rap."

These dudes, a couple of his friends, became known as D4L in 2003. In 2005, D4L released perhaps the catchiest rap record in history, "Laffy Taffy," off their debut album Down For Life, a sort of sing-along nicely packaged with it's own snap dance.

"Taffy" birthed what became known as "snap music," which spread throughout Atlanta and the world like the plague and went on to go multi-platinum off ring tones. The star of "Taffy" was D4L's front man Fabo, a pole of a man who wore different color shades, and snap danced with the nimbleness of an acrobat.

At first, Lo hated the song. "I couldn't believe they made a song like that," he says.

But there was nothing he could do about it. While "Laffy Taffy" was becoming a hip hop jingle, Lo was locked up in prison for trafficking cocaine.

A year later, on July 27, 2005, he was released right after D4L was signed to Asylum and Atlantic Records.

Upon his release, he dedicated his life at the alter of the studio, and fully converted himself to hip hop.

"I remember when I was in prison, my brother in law was like, 'Boy you gotta step it up,'" he says. "People around my neighborhood, they use to laugh [when they heard] me trying to rap. Like the rest of the group use to see me trying to rap myself and they'd just be laughing behind my back. But now, they look up to me like, 'You got it.' "

"Got it" to the point of people wanting to see less of skittle-shades Fabo, and more of Shawty Lo.

"[People were telling me] 'We know your story is real Lo. We wanna hear you.' And people started calling me wanting me to do a show. I was like, 'What the hell am I gonna do onstage; I ain't never been onstage by myself! What am I gonna do? I ain't got no other songs!'" he remembers.

"But then I got my swagger up."

The swagger made him transparent to the fuzzy image he got as a shadow snap dancing in the background of his own group.

"[Some people] got [D4L's] image mixed up, like we're just dancing," he says. "I'm that dude from Atlanta. The city talk for me. You can bring camera crews or whoever to Bankhead and that's where I'm at everyday. I'm in the hood everyday. It ain't like I'm leaving the group, but the streets demanded me to do an album. If you were to know my background in the streets," he continues, his drawl seeming to thicken by the second, "I had money, I'm the one who started D4L.

"People be like, 'Why you always in the hood?' 'Because that's where I'm comfortable at, that's where I grew up at.'"

Do you feel protected in your hood still?

I feel safer there… that's where I feel safe at.

But there's jealous people in the neighborhood.

This is the difference between me and regular rappers: I was that guy. I'm that guy. If you ask these folks, they will tell you. I ain't saying I'm God…[but] I'm like their idol. They look up to me. If you knew what type of dude I was in the hood, I had a movement before the music. I've been that dude from '96 on up.

And when you say movement, are you talking about something illegal?

It was illegal.

Today, in a project labyrinth somewhere in Bankhead Georgia, Shawty Lo, no longer the "little" guy trying to prove he can rap, is sitting as a king, feeling like the ultimate people's champ.

"It's ridiculous," he says with hints of awe in his voice. "My people are crazy about me."

Article tags: Shawty LoD4L 

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