R.I.P. Shawty Lo: A legendary hip-hop journalist personally remembers the rapper
The blingy character with a calm demeanor who loved to laugh wasn’t a lyrical wizard, but he defied the odds.
by Shaheem Reid
One of my best friends in the world, Rahman Dukes (SVP of REVOLT TV), hit me with another one of those phone calls this morning. We usually don’t speak until the afternoon and the last random call I got from him early in the morning was when Chinx was killed last year. Today, I got the unfortunate news from him that Shawty Lo had been killed in a car accident last night in Atlanta.
What? These deaths all seem so random. Just like I was so befuddled about who would want to kill such a cool like Chinx, I was equally as confused as to how this could happen to L.O. And while we took several moments to solemnly reflect on the passing of Shawty Lo, the conversation between me and Rahman soon delivered laughs as we began reminiscing on all the time we spent with Lo over the years covering him for MTV News.
Lo, born Carlos Walker, was a rapper who defied the odds. He started rapping late in life, his late 20s to be exact. He wasn’t a lyrical wizard, he didn’t come from a well-established rap crew or a major label. But none of that mattered.
In 2005, Lo took the motley crew of D4L to super stardom heights. What some critics and hip-hop purists wrote off as a novelty act literally struck gold with their debut LP Down For Life and their mega hit “Laffy Taffy” went number one on the Billboard 100 charts and broke the record for most downloaded song at its time. In 2007, he came out of nowhere to deliver what has turned out to be a classic LP, Units In The City, and went toe-to-toe with the King of the South T.I. in a war of words that was later squashed. Hits “Dey Know,” “Dunn Dunn,” and “Foolish” not only made Lo a fan favorite, but he was beloved in the hip-hop community by his peers such as Yo Gotti, Busta Rhymes, Lil Kim, Young Jeezy, Jadakiss, Pitbull, 50 Cent, Ludacris, Plies, Rick Ross, T-Pain, Bun B, Gucci Mane, and Jim Jones.
Lo instantly became one of my favorites the first time I had a chance to interview him. It had to be somewhere in ATL, around 2007. I was riding around Atlanta earlier that year with one of my homies Carlos a.k.a. “Dark Gable” — ironic because Shawty Lo’s real name is Carlos, as well — and he kept playing “Dey Know” and telling me how it was the hottest song in streets. The record hadn’t hit New York yet and I knew I had to be the first one to break the story. A short time later, I was in Bankhead at the D4L studios meeting Lo and his manager Johnnie Cabell. Lo was such a character; didn’t look like anybody else in music. His beard was always pristine; the black dye on it had it looking practically painted on, as did his razor sharp hairline, courtesy of his $100 haircuts by his barber Bobby who used gold clippers. If he wasn’t wearing his jewelry, Lo always had a ritual of pulling thousands of dollars worth of shines out of bookbag that was in a ziplock bag. All platinum, all diamonds. When it was camera time you would never see Lo without his glasses. Always a calm demeanor, always spoke softly in his this downbottom accent, and he loved to laugh. For someone so subtle and cool, Lo had jokes. But you could tell that from his famous running-in-place dance popularized in “Dey Know” and all his quotable punchlines: “Big ups to all my haters,” “Well, gotdamn, there must be two sides,” and “Laughing at you niggas like ha, ha, ha!”
I remember when me and Rahman were covering the 2008 Birthday Bash concert in ATL. Lo was hotter than fish grease at the time and was headlining the bill. He set it up to make a grand entrance of him propelling from the sky via a zipline to the stage (which he carried off flawlessly) all while holding up the black power fist with his left arm.
During rehearsal for the show, me and Rahman saw Lo connected to the harness standing on the stage before he was being lifted up. “I’m just hanging baby,” Lo said to us with a grin. “I told you I was the flyest nigga out here.”
Several months later, Lo took me and Rah to his Bowen Homes apartments neighborhood before they tore them down. We kicked it right in front of Apt. 479. (“My grandma died right there,” he told us). When I asked him if he could still balance himself on the the same steel barrier he did as a child, Lo, Ballys on and all, got up there and started walking the barrier like a circus performer would a tight rope. After a few seconds, he jumped off before he fell.
“It done got smaller,” Lo laughed. “I can’t do it no more.” Lo had just nine kids at the time; he leaves behind 11 children. And just two days ago, Lo began promoting a new video “Letter To My Father.” which was an ode to his recently deceased dad.
Despite not having a project as big as Units in the City again, Lo never fell off. He remained extremely active in touring right up until his death. Three years ago, he was on the road with one of my artists, O.T. Genasis. Johnnie Cabell had started booking shows for O.T. and he and Lo shared a few concert bills. Lo made it his business show O.T. and his brother Choc love, taking them to hang out in ATL.
The “King of Bankhead” will forever go down as a legendary figure who not only had a keen business acumen in and out of music, but as a hustler whose swag, hooks, ear for beats, and lovable characteristics took him all the way to multi-platinum status.
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