Long before entering the rap game, Carlos "Shawty Lo" Walker was the man. With a real rap sheet that included 28 arrests, four convictions and time served by his mid-20s, the unofficial mayor of Bankhead had all the right credentials for street-credible success behind the mic.
Except Shawty Lo wasn't a rapper.
You know the story: Former dope boy seeks legitimate hustle. Forms record label. Recruits around-the-way rappers. And eats off the fat of the land.
But in Walker's case, something went awry around third base. After enjoying major, albeit short-lived, success with his group D4L, thanks to certified snap hits such as "Betcha Can't Do It Like Me" and "Laffy Taffy," Walker found himself in the hot seat. His only solo song on the group's Down for Life CD, "I'm da Man," became a runaway street hit. Suddenly, club bookers were requesting solo performances from Shawty Lo.
"I was kinda behind the scenes," he says, recalling how scared he was the first time he stepped on stage by himself. "I wasn't really like 'that guy.'"
On the streets, however, Walker's name rang bells. When he rapped, "I'm da man. Got no wife, but the white be my girlfriend," his cocaine references weren't chalked up as mere fodder by those who knew his reputation. Soon, they were pressing him for more.
"But in the back of my head, I was thinking, 'Damn, I don't think I can make any more songs. I stumbled up on this song.'" Two DJ Scream mixtapes later, Lo has convinced himself and the industry. While his current single, "Dey Know," tears up urban radio, he puts the final touches on a full-length debut, Units in the City, due to drop in January.
"I go in and talk what I know," he says. "Can't nobody tell my life story like me."