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Shawty Lo: Bankhead Bounce

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D4L’s Shawty Lo is out to assert that his trap turned rap career will last longer than a snap of the fingers. Few could have anticipated that D4L, the group most famous for 2005’s often-mocked but inescapable “Laffy Taffy,” would spawn Atlanta’s next bona fide trapper-turned-rapper.  But Shawty Lo is winning over even the skeptics with the heavily remixed street anthem of the moment, “Dey Know,” where he self-assuredly gives a nod to his haters over producer Balis’ burly horn ensemble.  Admittedly not a lyricist after only two years of rapping, Shawty Lo has cultivated a style he dubs the ‘slow flow,’ narrating his trap tales in a quiet drawl tinged with menace.  The D4L founder has deftly disassociated himself from everything snap, except of course the team he remains loyal to and the money garnered from their hits. With a well publicized Raw Report DVD entitled Shawty Lo: The Real Bankhead Story, the former drug dealer once dubbed the “Colonel” brings viewers along as he visits the infamous Bowen Homes projects in Bankhead and vouches for his authenticity.  Claiming to be one of only a handful of Atlanta rappers to rightfully rep Bankhead, Shawty Lo has traded subliminal shots with fellow Atlanta native T.I. that some believe went beyond the music. On an up north trip to promote his D4L/Asylum records solo debut, Units In the City, which drops February 26, “L-0” spoke on his criminal past, the alleged beef with T.I., and the rumors that are sometimes a difficult symptom of fame.  AllHipHop.com: With your recent success, are you still feeling like the “underdog of the industry”?Shawty Lo: Yeah, in my time I always rooted for the underdog, and I feel like I still am the underdog. AllHipHop.com: You were surprised by the creative direction that D4L was going in when you were locked up, so what was your original vision for the group as their leader?Shawty Lo: Basically the music we were making is kind of like the music I’m making now, but it just happened. The snap movement happened like that, I got a producer named DJ Pooh, he came up with the beat for “Betcha Can’t Do It Like Me,” and we had another producer K-Rab, he did the “Laffy Taffy.” I was in jail seven months before I came home, and I think it was Stuntman, he was like, “We got another hit,” and I said “Let me hear it,” and in my head I was like “That ain’t it,” but when that came on it was it, that’s what we had to roll with.AllHipHop.com: Do you find yourself constantly having to live down the “Laffy Taffy” image now that you’ve launched your solo career? Shawty Lo: Nah, basically I wasn’t ever at the forefront, I was behind the scenes.  I did not consider myself a rapper then; I was like Baby is to Cash Money, Puffy to Bad Boy. I was the man behind the scenes, and I just added myself to the group to add more flavor.AllHipHop.com: What does the rest of the group think of the direction you’ve gone in?Shawty Lo: Basically they know, they proud of me. I was arrested in 2004 and I got out in July of 2005, but when I came home you saw people saying, “D4L, they nothing without Fabo,” they were just criticizing, saying different stuff. So when I came home I had did this song “I’m da Man” around the beginning of October [of 2005]. That was the first solo song that I ever did, and people around my neighborhood and the ATL area said, “That song’s a hit!” “That’s the kind of music we want to hear from you, we know you really lived it. We can’t vouch for these other rappers that say they from Bankhead and Atlanta,” but I thought it was true in my back of my head, I didn’t say nothing but I agreed with them so I started recording more songs. I hooked up with DJ Scream and did the mixtape [I’m Da Man] and everybody said, “Shawty Lo, we think you the one,” and that’s how I came from the crack smoke.AllHipHop.com: So you think people were encouraging you to go solo because they thought you were more real than other rappers?Shawty Lo: I guess the streets wanted to hear an album from me ‘cause they figured that was my style of rap. No snap music. But I ain’t finnin to stop my money, I’m a CEO that’s how I get my money. But the rap I’m rapping now, that’s my life. That’s why I did the Raw Report DVD Shawty Lo: The Real Bankhead Story, for folks to get a visual on me. ‘Cause what I’m talking about is what I lived, my adventures. The rap I do, I call it ‘slow flow,’ I ain’t rapped but two years and it’s a blessing.AllHipHop.com: What were the circumstances that drew you away from the trap game to the rap game?   Shawty Lo: I had to give it up, the trap, cause I was a big dude in the trap game and when I got arrested in 2004, either I stay with it or I was going to jail and was going to stay in jail.AllHipHop.com: So how did you get the reputation as the Colonel in the streets?Shawty Lo: When I was growing up I was really rough. I was a real tough fighter when I was coming up, and I had older dudes that used to come up to me like Lo, “when you round here fighting and doing your thing, they gonna follow you.” And it just showed I guess, I used to be so bad and people around my neighborhood used to follow me. I had a crew, we used to listen to No Limit all the time, and they started calling us “Lo Limit,” and when I started getting money illegally in the drug game, that made me real powerful in the city.AllHipHop.com: A lot of rappers from ATL claim to have been heavy in the trap game before getting into the rap game, so what makes you realer then the next guy?Shawty Lo: The difference with me, you can bring your camera crew, you can bring anybody, I’m still on Bankhead. No matter what I make, I still go to my neighborhood anyday, everyday like it’s normal. Like look at me [points to his D4L chains], it’s me, I could do what I want to do, they know I lived it. I bet you half the rappers who talk about what they done did ain’t take you to no place and say they really did it. But I’m willing to put my life on it that I can take you to my hood, I can take you to Bankhead and I could take you to Bowen Homes, I can take you to Bankhead Court and they know I am telling the truth.AllHipHop.com: Bowen Homes has a notorious rep in Bankhead, what about it has given it that rep?Shawty Lo: It’s a dangerous place man, I was born and raised there. I done seen plenty die, I done seen plenty go to jail and we were real poor and we had to get it how we live. We was unfortunate, we lived month-to-month rent, one check a month and all the utilities included into your rent. We didn’t have Christmas, me and my sister, it was crazy.AllHipHop.com: You had 28 arrests and 4 convictions but you only did a one year bid, how did you pull that off?Shawty Lo: It was God, I don’t know how I pulled it off myself. When they finally caught me around 2004 I was facing 20 to 40 years, but some kind of way it was a blessing.  I had 3 different cases and I got a year for each case, but my lawyers got it ran concurrent, so they made me do one year. AllHipHop.com: The single “Dey Know” is huge right now, what are the other singles that you have planned to come out next from Units in the City?Shawty Lo: The album is really crazy, I got “Done It All,” I didn’t know that would come to be a single right now, that got the streets of the south ablaze. If I was in Atlanta then the top song to come on would be “Dey Know.” I got singles like “Foolish,” “You Can Count on Me,” one called “Live My Life,” I got plenty singles on the album. AllHipHop.com: When you say the line “Say he from the Westside, Godamn, it must be two sides,” who are you talking about?Shawty Lo: A lot of them, all of ‘em claim Bankhead. All I can say is Shawty Lo from Bankhead, Parlae from Franchize from Bankhead, Shop Boyz from Bankhead, so that’s what I’m talking about.AllHipHop.com: On the “Umma Do Me” Remix, a lot of people thought T.I. was addressing both you and Luda, did you get that impression too when you heard it?Shawty Lo: I didn’t get that impression, he didn’t call my name.  If he call my name, I say his name.  AllHipHop.com: You also have the line “Got guns the same kind like T.I.’s,” was that a dig at him?Shawty Lo: That wasn’t no dig, I was just telling the truth.  ‘Cause I been that way since knee high.AllHipHop.com: The word on the streets of ATL was that you and T.I. were going to go to war, and that’s why he was strapping up…Shawty Lo: No, I don’t think we were going to go to war.  It ain’t that serious.AllHipHop.com: You’ve done songs with both Gucci Mane and Jeezy, do you ever run into problems being down with both of them?Shawty Lo: Both sides know I’m real, what they got between each other is what they got, I don’t interfere so I’m neutral.AllHipHop.com: And do you think part of the reason you and Luda have collaborated is because you have a common enemy in T.I.?Shawty Lo: I don’t have no enemies.AllHipHop.com: But you have haters, made famous with your line “Big up to all my haters”…Shawty Lo: My haters are my motivators. I love my haters, that’s why I say “Big Up” to them. If it wasn’t for my haters, I wouldn’t be in my shoes right now. They the ones who didn’t think I could do it and they made me go out and do it.AllHipHop.com: With the fame comes a lot of rumors, how do you deal with the rumors?Shawty Lo: I’ve been dealing with rumors all my life, so they don’t affect me. They talk about God and Jesus. There have been rumors on me since ’94, I’m still here.

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