Reppin': Atlanta, GA

When D4L introduced what critics called snap music two years ago, some hip-hop heads called them corny because of their lack of hard-hitting beats and rhymes. Though their legacy will always lie in the bubblegum hit “Laffy Taffy,” a closer listen to the group’s 2005 disc, Down for Life, makes it clear the foursome know just as much about trappin’ as they do about snappin’.

“I got arrested right after we recorded ‘Betcha Can’t Do It Like Me,’” says Shawty Lo, the group’s founding member, who spent a year behind bars on drug charges just as D4L’s indie debut started to gain momentum in 2004. “They made ‘Laffy Taffy’ when I was in jail. That was never supposed to be our image.”

When Shawty Lo’s solo song “I’m Da Man” became a club hit in 2006, he capitalized on the d-boy anthem by hooking up with underground trendsetter DJ Scream to release his I’m Da Man mixtape. Lo and Scream dropped a Part Two this past summer and claim to have sold 60,000 copies between both installments. “It’s hard to believe, because I never thought I’d be in these shoes,” says the 27-year-old rapper, who entered the game as a studio owner and producer. “People come up telling me I’m one of the top three rappers in Atlanta. Niggas downtown telling me that I saved Atlanta.”

Born Carlos Walker and raised in Bankhead’s crime-ridden Bowen Homes housing community, Lo’s whispery “slow flow” is a sharp contrast to the Bankhead Bounce, snap music and “rock star” fads that have brought notoriety to his impoverished neighborhood. This is evident on his street-skewered Asylum release, Units in the City. Powered by the horn-sputtering single “Dey Know,” the album is a far cry from ringtone rap. It’s laced by in-house producers Born Immaculate and Bliss and DJ Montay and has features from Gucci Mane and D4L.

“Snap music was hot,” says Lo. “You gotta get money, so we got money. But everybody knows Shawty Lo is the man in Bankhead. I be here every day.” That’s nothing to laff at.—MAURICE G. GARLAND