A Year of Lil Wayne: RIP Shawty Lo
In honor of the late Shawty Lo, let's look back at two of his collaborations with Lil Wayne.
Day 2: "I'm Da Man (Remix)" – Shawty Lo feat. Rick Ross and Lil Wayne, I'm Da Man, 2007/ "Dey Know (Dirty South Remix)" – Shawty Lo feat. Ludacris, Young Jeezy, Plies, and Lil Wayne, 2008
So Shawty Lo died today. I don't really know what to say about it, and I'm going to leave the bulk of that task to more knowledgeable parties. But one of the valuable facets of writing about Lil Wayne every day for a year is that his reach throughout the world of rap was so vast that, when news like this breaks, there is almost certainly going to be a Lil Wayne connection.
In the case of Shawty Lo, the two collaborated a number of times over the years, perhaps most officially (in the sense that they shot a video and there is a way to buy the song) on the 2010 track "WTF" but perhaps most notably on "I'm Da Man (Remix)," a cut from Shawty Lo's debut solo mixtape of the same name. It came right at the beginning of 2007, when both Wayne and Lo were coming into their respective peaks, and it's so cool, so much goddamn fun.
It's an interesting song in retrospect, too, because it falls at more or less an ideal midpoint of snap music, the elastic party rap subgenre that had ruled Atlanta and radio at large for the previous couple of years, and trap, the ascendant mafioso rap subgenre that continues to rule Atlanta and radio at large today. Shawty Lo, of course, was instrumental in both—his group D4L are the definitive snap artists, and his album Units in the City is widely seen as a trap classic. Among other credentials, there's an obvious stylistic tie between his slurry, goofily upbeat twist on street rap and that of his occasional collaborator Gucci Mane, who also appears on I'm Da Man. The song's booming hook of "Got no wife but the white be my girlfriend" is perfectly of 2007, but if anything it sounds more current today, when we can all acknowledge how prescient this sound was (at the time it was quite divisive!). And then there's Wayne, rapping in absolutely giddy circles: "Old money, new work / Lil coke on my gums like my tooth hurt / They from the red clay, I'm from that brown dirt."
As badass as "I'm Da Man" is, though, it's a little like batting practice for these guys, just a chance to hop in, demolish a beat, and then move onto the next thing. Which, in Shawty Lo's case, was his landmark hit "Dey Know," a song that absolutely crushed radio and (from what I gather, having been 18 at the time) clubs. Let's go ahead and acknowledge that beat, by Balist Beats and Born Immaculate, as one of the all time greats and point to Shawty Lo's declaration big upping all his haters as one of rap's most important messages. Like many major songs with a beat so good you want to hear everyone on it, "Dey Know" prompted not one but two all-star remixes (there's another with E-40). One of those was a Dirty South version that features Ludacris, Young Jeezy, Plies, and Lil Wayne. Oh my god! Everyone goes nuts on it! And Shawty Lo sounds amped that everyone showed up! He even makes a Trap or Die reference in honor of Jeezy, who repays the favor by reminding us that he doesn't give a fuck about his haters, either.
Wayne, meanwhile, does all the absurd shit that makes him such a legendary guest. Both Wikipedia and Noisey remix expert Al Shipley (writing for Complex) contend that this is one of Wayne's first Auto-Tune experiments, and, while I can't definitively verify that, the timeline checks out. In either case, it's certainly early in the Wayne Auto-Tune era, which is notable because that era would define the next phase of radio and mark one of Wayne's biggest stylistic contributions to music. And the verse has some legendary lines, from Wayne comparing himself to Mortal Kombat's Liu Kang to him dropping my favorite type of Weezy boast, where he mentions being the greatest rapper as an apparent afterthought of whatever else he's bragging about. Here, it goes, "I'm in my prime I feel like a new Wayne / how come there is two women but ain't no two Waynes." Having a threesome and being the greatest rapper at the same time? Classic.
So to recap: We have Shawty Lo to thank for many things, not least these two songs. Do yourself a favor and listen to them today in honor of the King of Bankhead. RIP.
Photo: Lil Wayne and Shawty Lo on the set of "WTF" by Thaddaeus McAdams / ExclusiveAccess.Net
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