It was silly. It was fun. It was undeniably catchy.
“Laffy Taffy” was a verifiable hit. The 2005 single from the previously unknown Atlanta group D4L topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart, dethroning Mariah Carey.
The song also turned into a sort of cultural phenomenon, breaking a Guinness World Record for most downloaded song and bringing “snap music” to the mainstream.
D4L was founded by Atlanta rappers Fabo, Mook-B, Stoney and Shawty Lo, who died Wednesday in a single-car crash on a highway near southwest Atlanta, according to authorities. He was 40.
Born Carlos Walker, the Atlanta rapper was driving a 2016 Audi that struck trees, overturned and burst into flames shortly before dawn, Cpl. Maureen Smith of the Fulton County police told the Associated Press. Two female passengers escaped and were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Smith said. Shawty Lo was ejected from the vehicle and died.
Before Shawty Lo co-founded D4L he acted as CEO of D4L records. After their hits, including “Betcha Can’t Do It Like Me,” Shawty Lo went on to release music as a solo artist. His debut single, “Dey Know,” was also a hit, and in 2008 he was crowned Rookie of the Year at the BET Hip-Hop Awards.
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Shawty Lo, who described his style as “slow flow,” also released mix tapes and made appearances on songs with Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, Ludacris and others. He even made a brief foray into reality television with the show “All My Babies’ Mamas,” which never did end up airing on Oxygen.
But before all that, Shawty Lo helped introduce America to snap music, a close relative of the dirty-South crunk sound.
Eschewing aggressive and overly complex production, snap music kept it relatively simple with a high-hat, 808 drum bass, often slower tempos and sometimes literal snapping sounds. The songs are party-oriented, meant for the club. Do not expect snap music to blow you away with lyric constructions. Expect to have a good time with it, though.
With its popularity came a lot of hate from critics and “hip-hop purists” who said snap music was, at its best, cheap and infectious ringtone rap and, at its worst, ruining hip-hop.
Ghostface Killah dissed snap and specifically “Laffy Taffy” during concerts and on records, calling it “bulls—.” The New York Times in 2006 described snap music as a genre that went from “Atlanta phenomenon to hip-hop laughingstock to mainstream juggernaut,” adding that “on the hip-hop prestige scale, goofy dance songs like ‘Laffy Taffy’ don’t rate very high.”
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Other artists, such as Dem Franchize Boyz and Soulja Boy, also put out snap music. The latter’s 2007 “Crank That” became a thing unto itself. You couldn’t go anywhere on the Internet with running into videos of schoolteachers performing the dance.
But “Laffy Taffy” was the hit that opened the floodgates. The song broke the one-week sales record for a digital single with 175,000 copies sold, more than twice than the previous record holder, Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.” By early 2006, “Laffy Taffy” had been legally downloaded — meaning people paid for the song — more than 700,000 times via iTunes, Yahoo Music and other services.
Members of D4L actually hated the song at first. “I could remember Shawty Lo calling home from jail [on drug charges] saying, ‘Don’t put that song out!’ ” group member Fabo told Complex in January.
But they did, and it became a hit. “I thought it was just a joke. I was like, ‘They’re just joking the kids from the South,’ ” Fabo recalled. “It wasn’t until I got to New York — the mecca — and we were number one there and I was like, ‘This ain’t no joke.’ ”
After Shawty Lo’s death, confirmed by a message posted on his Twitter account, #RipShawtyLo was trending on Twitter as users reminisced on his impact and the era of snap music that dominated the charts in the early 2000s:
“I am so so so devastated that words cannot describe how I feel right now,” the rapper’s longtime manager, Johnnie Cabbell, wrote on Instagram. “Shawty Lo was not just my artist he was my brother, he was my friend … He was loyal and he had my back when no one else did. I could count on him when I had no one else to turn to. We been [through] so much together.”
Cabbell asked for “prayers and support” for the rapper’s family.