Shawty Lo: Money In The Bank

The last time we spoke to the Atlanta rapper, he was preparing to release his solo debut, Units In The City, after the success of the smash hit “Laffy Taffy” by his group D4L. With a release in late February, the Units In The City album debuted with 31,000 copies sold in its first week on the strength of its single, “Dey Know.” Some might see that as unsuccessful attempt in comparison to the hype stemming from a worldwide hit like “Laffy Taffy” or some might see it as a resounding success for an independent release. Regardless, Shawty Lo also isn’t without controversy as he has publicly declared that there are rappers falsely claiming to be from the famed Atlanta neighborhood, Bankhead. Is that a shot at T.I.? We contacted Shawty Lo to see if we could get an answer to that question and to talk about his career to date. Word is you just started rapping a few years ago. Is that right?Shawty Lo: The first song I ever did was around October of 2005. So what made you decide to pick up the microphone and become an artist?Shawty Lo: The streets forced me to be a rapper. When I came home from prison in 2005 – I had done a year – people were telling me that my group D4L wasn’t sh*t without Fabo. I didn’t like hearing people say that, so one day I was in the studio and heard this beat that I liked – so I started writing to it. The song was called, “I’m The Man.” The streets ate it up. People kept telling me that this is the type of music that they want to hear from me. I hooked up with DJ Scream and kept recording. We then dropped the mix CD in ‘06 and the streets told me that I was the one – they wanted to hear me.

"I can’t say that I can freestyle or do this or that... It might take me a couple of hours to write a song

but when it comes out in the hood, it’s going to be right." Without having any real experience, was it hard for you to write and record?Shawty Lo: I can’t say it was hard. I can’t say that I can freestyle or do this or that. I take my time writing my rhymes. It might take me a couple of hours to write a song but when it comes out in the hood, it’s going to be right. [Shawty Lo "Dunn Dunn/Foolish"] Did you fall back on any influences to help you out with your writing?Shawty Lo: Oh yeah, my idol - the greatest of all time - Jay Z. When I was coming up, I felt like he was rapping about me – the life that I was living in the streets – dealing with the drugs and stuff. Everything that he was rapping about, I felt like he was talking about me. I like a lot of rappers but if I have to pick one it would be Jay Z. Your group D4L blew up quickly on the success of the “Laffy Taffy” song. What was going through your mind at that time?Shawty Lo: The success was unexpected. When I first started the group back in 2003, I didn’t think that success would come so quickly. I was arrested in 2004 before we jumped off and we had a good song called “A Betcha Can’t do it Like Me”. A few months before I was released, I was told that we had another hit song called “Laffy Taffy.” I asked to hear the song and they played it for me. I listened to that song and I thought that they were trippin’! I didn’t think that the song was it. You weren’t feeling the song?Shawty Lo: I didn’t like the song, period! When I came home, I saw how the streets and the clubs were in to it, so I had to roll with it. What was it about the song that you didn’t like? Shawty Lo: It wasn’t street. It wasn’t what we were representing from the gate. I guess the snap music had its own era. I was trying to be the man behind the scenes at the time, but it was crazy. I had to roll with the flow. Sh*t – it was the number one song in the country at the time. What’s easier for you? Being behind the scenes or in front of it with the microphone?Shawty Lo: I can manage both of them – it’s no problem. I’m laid back and cool. I don’t force anything. I live day by day and just let it all happen. What brings the bigger headaches though, the executive side or the artist side?Shawty Lo: The artist side. I had to be on the road and do so much stuff—things like going to radio stations and interviews. I never had to deal with any of that before because I was behind the scenes. Why step to the forefront as an artist then? Shawty Lo: Once again because of the streets. The streets heard a couple of the songs that I was doing and were begging for more. Some said that I saved Atlanta. You hear a lot of people from Atlanta talking about Bankhead – half of them are lying. I’ve lived here for real. I don’t just rap about it, I’ve really lived it.

“Nobody can mention Bankhead without acknowledging Shawty Lo – point blank!” Are you referring to T.I. at all?Shawty Lo: I’m referring to whoever. I’m saying that I am Bankhead - T.I. or whoever. I’m not just a rapper. I’ve really lived it. Nobody can mention Bankhead without acknowledging Shawty Lo – point blank! Are you cool with T.I. or is there tension between y’all?Shawty Lo: Ain’t no tension. So everything is cool with you two?Shawty Loc: I guess he’s cool. I guess I’m cool. Your solo album Units In The City came out in late February. Are you pleased with the number of albums that you have sold so far? Shawty Lo: I’m pleased. I am independent so I am very pleased. It’s going to do what it do. The world just has to get to know me. I’m like a new artist to the world. [Shawty Lo "Dey Know"] Is it what you expected or were you looking to do bigger numbers?Shawty Lo: One thing I do is think the worst and hope for the best. That’s what I live by.

“There might be a D4L one but it’s not going to include me though...I just don’t rep that style of rap anymore - I never really repped it anyway.” Will there be another D4L album? Or are you staying with the solo career?Shawty Lo: There might be a D4L one but it’s not going to include me though. Any reason why?Shawty Lo: I just don’t rep that style of rap anymore - I never really repped it anyway. I won’t say there won’t be another album but not rapping that kind of music anymore – not me. So what’s in your future? Do you have any new releases planned?Shawty Lo: I have my group Costa Nostra Chain Gang. They’ve got a song with me called “Cut A Check.” I have another artist named Phace Baity and he’s got one with me called “Ain’t Telling You.” They are on my album. If people want to hear them, they can check my album out. I have another new artist named Red Rage – he’s coming. There’s also a female R & B artist named Miss T. She’s on the label also. Is D4L still signed to your company?Shawty Lo: There’s a lot of mix-ups in that – and that’s the reason why I said what I said earlier about that. There’s a lot of mix-ups. I had a business partner, then I went to jail and before I got out a lot of sh*t happened. I mixed business with friendship which I shouldn’t have done. So you are still cool with all of the D4L guys?Shawty Lo: Oh yeah, we are good. The term ring-tone rapper has been applied to your group by some fans and critics – and to other rappers recently. What’s your take on that term? Shawty Lo: People are going to say whatever they want to say - It’s a free world. If there weren’t any haters then there wouldn’t be any players. I don’t know what a ringtone rapper is anyway. I don’t get involved in all of that. A one hit wonder might be a ringtone artist I guess. I rep the streets though. I am a street rapper. Any other business moves that you are making?Shawty Lo: I’ve got a movie deal and a book that is coming out in May. The book is about my life story: Shawty Lo – The Real Bankhead Story. The DVD is already out in the streets. It’s just about me and Bankhead. Like I said earlier, you’ve heard a lot about Bankhead from rappers who just rap like they from Bankhead. I bring you there with no security -standing in the hood and in the projects with no security.