Shawty Lo: rap star, generous, loyal friend, father (1976-2016)

ATLANTA - OCTOBER 18:  Recording artist Shawty Lo accepts an award during the 2008 BET Hip-Hop Awards at The Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center on October 18, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for BET)

ATLANTA – OCTOBER 18: Recording artist Shawty Lo accepts an award during the 2008 BET Hip-Hop Awards at The Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center on October 18, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for BET)

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Thursday, September 22, 2016

Carlos Walker, a 40-year-old Atlanta rapper who went by the professional name Shawty Lo, landed a No. 1 Billboard hit a decade ago with the group D4L, which was short for “Down for Life.”

Walker died in a car accident on Wednesday after his 2016 Audi crashed through a guardrail on a ramp to Cascade Road off I-285. He died of “blunt force injury to the head,” the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office said Thursday.

“He represented Bankhead,” said Dave Mays, co-CEO and publisher of Hip Hop Weekly. “That’s like the heart of hip-hop in the city. He was well loved in the streets. He was someone a lot of people in Bankhead and inner-city communities admired.”

Walker grew up in an Atlanta public housing project called Bowen Homes, which was demolished in 2009.

“I guess because there’s been so many murders and assaults and so much stuff went on in the apartments,” Walker said in an interview with MTV in 2009 right before Bowen’s demolition. “They decided they should tear it down. … It’s like a town of its own. It’s a baby Atlanta of its own.”

He told MTV that when he grew up, his mom was on drugs, his father was absent and his grandmother took care of him and his sister. He said he began selling drugs himself and fathered his first child at age 17.

In his 20s, he began to focus on his music and formed D4L. His group’s catchy 2006 hit “Laffy Taffy” hit the top of the Billboard pop charts. That song was the most downloaded single in history up to that point.

He also won a BET Hip Hop Awards “Rookie of the Year” in 2008 after his hit single “Dey Know” made an impact.

Greg Street, a veteran night jock at V-103, recalled Shawty Lo playing him a bit of “Dey Know” before it was even finished. “That track is incredible,” he said. He called Walker’s 2008 solo album “Units in the City” “timeless” with classic street cuts.

To him, Walker was a “great person, always the same guy. Success never changed him.”

Michael Render, who goes by Killer Mike, described him as a generous man who “helped who he could when he could. He is a treasure gone too soon.”

According to Rolling Stone magazine, since his solo album, the rapper released mixtapes and made featured appearances on tracks by the likes of Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, Rick Ross, Killer Mike and Ludacris. He also toured frequently.

In 2013, after fathering 11 children with 10 different women, Walker taped a special for the Oxygen Network called “All My Babies’ Mamas.” It featured the rap artist and several of the mothers. But critics savaged Oxygen, complaining that the concept perpetuated negative stereotypes. Oxygen backed off, never airing the special.

At a vigil for Walker on Wednesday night outside a recording studio off Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, one of his sons, Michael Robinson, told Channel 2 Action News that the family is “trying to (stay) strong but we can’t. You know, we can’t bring him back, but he’s in a better place, though.”

His daughter Tyteanna Chandler, 22, told Fox 5 she wants people to remember her father as a happy person: “He helped so many people. He loved his kids and really loved his family, loved Bankhead and he loved going home.”

Johnnie Cabbell, Walker’s manager, said funeral services, which are open to the public, are set for noon Oct. 1 at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church, 534 Fairburn Road N.W., Atlanta.

“He kept it 100,” Cabbell said. “He was a very loyal person. He didn’t switch up on you. That’s why people liked him so much.”

Walker is survived by his 11 children.

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