Shawty Lo's Memory Lives on With 'R.I.C.O.' Album
On Sept. 21, 2016, Atlanta rapper Shawty Lo passed away as a result of a fatal car accident, casting a dark cloud over the city he had once represented with fervor and reverence. Most known for his hit singles “Dey Know” and “Foolish,” as well as being a founding member of D4L, Shawty Lo only released one studio album during his career, but the rapper’s posthumous release, R.I.C.O., attempts to close the musical chapter of his life on a high note.
R.I.C.O.‘s opening cut, “Congratulations,” mirrors that sentiment, with Shawty Lo celebrating his history as a dope boy while spitefully thanking his detractors and naysayers. “Congratulations, thank y’all for hating/Congratulations, thank y’all for faking,” he delivers in his signature drawl. Shawty Lo gives listeners a glimpse of his resume in the street, boasting, “Let me take you back to 96/If you know what I mean/Real life story, I don’t sell no dreams/I had seven hundred but a deuce costs eighteen” while sauntering over booming 808 drums and synths.
Ralo joins Shawty Lo on “Drugz,” and pays homage to the Bankhead legend and touts his legacy as an artist and hustler, as well as the role he played in the life of his children. “You had them shaking that laffy taffy/You used to make all them niggas happy/You was the man before you started rapping/You made all of your kids proud of their daddy,” the rising Atlanta rapper yelps with passion, a testament to Shawty Lo’s influence in his Bowen Homes stomping grounds and on Ralo himself.
“Arm & Hammer, left you with a clean number/Know that, you ain’t never bought the banker something,” Shawty raps as he talks numbers on “Thirty,” an OT Genesis-assisted heater from R.I.C.O. that is among its more exhilarating tuns. The proceedings continue with pleas on “Mud,” which pairs Shawty Lo with rapper Front Street and singer Lynn Tate.”
One of the premier selections on the project is “B.I.G.” featuring Boosie BadAzz and vocalist Alexis Branch. “B.I.G.” is one of the heavy tracks on the album, with the two street kings getting personal, a departure from the trap-centric musings that dominate Shawty Lo’s sophomore set.
“My mama died of cancer when I was seventeen/Hell happened to the American dream?” Shawty Lo ponders, while reminiscing on his come up and past struggles endured. Boosie, who remains on of the more unsung orators to rise from below the Mason-Dixon line over the past decade, turns in a stellar verse, honoring his fallen comrade in admirable fashion. “The college girl, the crazy ho, the times when the money low/The pain Bankhead feel the day they lost Shawty Lo,” Boosie rhymes, speaking to the impact the D4L founder’s death had on his community.
More known for his hard-boiled and braggadocios moments, Shawty Lo takes time to show love to the opposite sex on R.I.C.O. as well, with selections like “Trap House Love” and “My Love” both covering that territory. The latter, which features a guest spot from Lyfe Jennings and is the first single released from the album, is also worthy of the most replay value. Produced by C.A.M. and Gamble, “My Love” is an upbeat ditty, with Lyfe crooning in between Shawty Lo’s affectionate lyrics, like “And when I went to prison/You ain’t have to wait, yeah you made your own decisions/Can’t explain how I’m feeling/Before I had a mil you was one in a million.”
Touching on the controversy surrounding his shelved Oxygen reality TV show, All My Baby Mamas, on “Do It” (“Thought it wasn’t no competition/But my show, they wanna sign petitions”), Shawty Lo brings pockets of reality rap to R.I.C.O, but the album’s finer moments occur when he and his costars are vulnerable, particularly on the project’s final two tracks, “Letter to My Father” and the heart-wrenching closer “Why You Leave.”
“Letter to My Father,” which finds Shawty Lo referencing the death of his father, serves as the rhymer’s most poignant moment on R.I.C.O., which is only bested by his own offspring. His son Quandon and daughter Keke appear on “Why You Leave.” Containing a sample and interpolation of “Tell Me If You Still Care” by The S.O.S. Band, “Why You Leave” ends R.I.C.O. on an emotionally touching note, as his children both turn in flawless performances in memory of their father.
Shawty Lo may not be here physically, but R.I.C.O. is one of many ways that the Bowen Homes legend’s name will continue to live on. A mix of hearty bangers revolving around the trap, tales of triumph and moments of reflection and heartache, R.I.C.O. speaks to the heart and soul of who Shawty Lo was and what he meant as a rapper, an entrepreneur, a street figure and most important of all, a person.
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