sp1.jpgIf hip-hop is dying, rock ’n’ roll is giving it CPR. Thanks to the Shop Boyz, inner-city clubs across the country are turning into mosh pits every time the Atlanta trio’s “Party Like a Rockstar” blares through the speakers. Chairs and elbows often start flying, a reaction that shocks even the song’s creators, Richard “Fat” Stephens, Rasheed “Sheed” Hightower and Demetrius “Meany” Hardin. “It literally makes people go crazy,” says Sheed, 20, of the track that has already been banned from some Atlanta nightclubs. “The song actually scares me when it comes on sometimes.”

Growing up in Atlanta’s crime-riddled Bowen Homes community, the Boyz usually require quite a bit to get rattled. Veterans of the open-mic scene, the group signed with local indie OnDeck Records in 2005. Together, they regularly performed at the Poole Palace—the same spot that helped launch the careers of fellow Bankhead groups D4L and Dem Franchize Boyz. Straying away from the snap formula, the Shop Boyz first garnered marginal hood fame with their street single “I Get Money,” before hooking up with guitar-wielding producer Pit to create their genre-bending hit “Party Like a Rockstar” last December. “If you come to our show, don’t be surprised who you see in there,” says Fat, 21. “I’ve seen people of all races trying to get in. You’re liable to see someone with a bow and arrow trying to get in.”

With their debut album, Rockstar Mentality, set to be released this summer on Universal Republic, the Shop Boyz are ready to prove they can stretch beyond their rambunctious single. “We still got some hoodness to our music. We ain’t just rocked out like that,” says Meany, 21. “We’re making hood rock. Yeah, we can wear the skulls and chains, but we’ll rock it with a white tee and a fresh pair of [Air Force] Ones.”

Imitation has proven to be the Boyz’ best form of flattery. Since they first unveiled “Party Like a Rockstar” in January, songs with similar titles have been popping up all over the country. “We expected that to happen,” says Sheed. “We feel honored that people are doing that, as long as people remember where it comes from.” Totally, dude!

------- Read the rest of our Show & Prove picks in XXL’s July 2007 issue (#93)