A young up-and-comer in the raw Southern variety of hip-hop known as crunk, Lil Scrappy found himself in an enviable position in 2006 as he prepared to release his debut solo album, Bred 2 Die Born 2 Live. Two of the titans of hip-hop, his Atlanta discoverer Lil Jon and New York star 50 Cent, seemed to be competing to see which could offer more support to his budding career, and the album itself was uniquely co-branded as a joint product of their two recording empires. Lil Scrappy's sound grew from southeast Atlanta's mean streets, and he built his reputation the old-fashioned way by stirring up crowds with appearances in small clubs and thus getting noticed by higher-ups in the music industry.
Lil Scrappy was born Darryl Kevin Richardson II on January 19, 1984, in Atlanta, Georgia. Some sources have given North Trenton, New Jersey, as his birthplace and Richards as his last name, but the information above corresponds with that given on the artist's own MySpace page. That page also contains descriptions of a hard childhood: "My mom was out there selling dope, pimping hoes and I was out there in the streets with her," Scrappy recalled. "A lot of people want to be like me, but they don't want to go through that grind and the pain I went through."
When he was nine Scrappy began writing lyrics, and he was entertaining neighborhood crowds with standout rapping skills by his early teens. From the start, his music was a true grassroots project. He sold homemade CDs and mixtapes on the streets and marketed them to flea markets and eventually to strip clubs. His laid back but sharp Southern drawl caught on, and soon he was drawing large crowds to clubs frequented by Atlanta teens. By 2002 Scrappy was performing his early signature hit "Head Bussa" (a head bussa, or head buster, is Southern slang meaning a violence-prone individual). Rapper Lil Jon, by that time known as the King of Crunk, and BME Recordings executive Vince Phillips saw a crowd of kids shouting the lyrics with Scrappy at an appearance at Atlanta's Club Legacy that year, and they thought they had spotted a star in the making.
For Lil Jon the deal was sealed when brawls erupted after Scrappy's performance. "That was the first time he'd had a fight at an after-party," Scrappy recalled to Josh Niva of Alaska's Anchorage Daily News. "I told him, I need to get on the road with you. And he said, ‘Hell yeah.’" In 2003, with crunk on the rise in popularity, Scrappy released a remixed version of "Head Bussa." The recording cracked the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart in Billboard magazine and got further exposure when the Atlanta Braves baseball team used it as theme music during their 2004 season.
Early in 2004 Scrappy was teamed with the Atlanta crunk trio Trillville in a unique split CD release: it was marketed in two versions, King of Crunk & BME Re- cordings Present: Lil Scrappy and King of Crunk & BME Recordings Present: Trillville, but both releases contained the same tracks, divided between the two acts and reordered according to the artist featured. "Head Bussa" was included among Scrappy's selections, and David Jeffries of All Music Guide also praised "Bootleg," remarking that it "has some great observations on the shady world of CDs that sell out of inner-city gas stations," and concluding that "Lil Scrappy can't lose when he combines Twista's rapid style with dancehall's right-on-the-beat stutters."
The album got Scrappy's national career off to a strong start, spawning a top ten R&B/hip-hop and top 30 pop hit in "No Problem." Violence continued to plague Lil Scrappy's shows, however, and one episode almost sidelined his growing career. In December of 2004, in Palatka, Florida, police attempted to calm a crowd by seizing a microphone from Scrappy onstage. A melee ensued, in which the performer was hit in the face with a beer bottle, allegedly by police. He lost two front teeth and had to undergo reconstructive facial surgery.
Taken out of the spotlight at a crucial time, Scrappy contemplated legal action. But in the end he realized that the episode represented a positive turning point. "God blessed me with that [incident] … it gave me a new way of thinking about my art and craft," he told Niva. "It took a lot of stepping away (to realize) you've got to love your music to put it out." And his hospitalization also brought an important new fan out of the woodwork: 50 Cent called Scrappy to offer good wishes.
Linguistic difficulties impeded the conversation at first, as the Atlantan Scrappy was confused by the speech of the New York rapper. "So, out the blue he just called me like ‘Yo what up,’ cuz you know I'm from the A and we don't say ‘Yo what up,’" Scrappy told interviewer Kevin Wilder of the website illhill.com. "So I was like, ‘Yo what's happenin' shawty, what's poppin, who this is?’ He was like, ‘This 50.’ I was like ‘who?’" But soon 50 Cent was offering musical help. "I've got love for the kid," he told Hillary Crosley of Billboard. "I only stand next to people that I'm a fan of."
Scrappy ended up sharing stages with 50 Cent and Lil Jon on the 2005 Anger Management tour, and rumors flew that 50 Cent wanted to sign Scrappy to his G-Unit label, with the success of the independently released single "Money in the Bank" (it reached Billboard 's rap top five) fueling a bidding war. Scrappy has insisted, however, that the three decided during that tour to work together. The end result was that Scrappy's real debut CD, 2006's Bred 2 Die Born 2 Live, was released jointly by BME and G-Unit, and featured an array of high-powered talent. Eminem contributed as producer of "Lord Have Mercy," while Three 6 Mafia were represented by "Posted in the Club" and Jazze Pha helmed "Touching Everything." Raps from 50 Cent himself were heard on "Nigga, What's Up," and Young Buck and Olivia appeared on a remix of "Money in the Bank."
More important than any of these star contributions, however, were Scrappy's own street instincts. He conducted his own market research for "Money in the Bank," blasting its cash register sounds out of the windows of his car. "Everyone came running out of the office complex … they loved it!" Scrappy told Niva. "I knew it was a hit!." Scrappy had some detractors; Ryan Dombal of Entertainment Weekly contended that on Bred 2 Die Born 2 Live "the stock synths and blood-thirsty chants found on tracks like ‘Gangsta, Gangsta’ and ‘Police’ are … likely to remind listeners why crunk had such a short shelf life in the first place." By 2007, however, Lil Scrappy was known as the Prince of Crunk and was reportedly considering several movie scripts. He is the father of a daughter, Emani.
For the Record …
Born Darryl Kevin Richardson II on January 19, 1984, in Atlanta, GA; children: a daughter, Emani.
Began performing in Atlanta clubs, early 2000s; released several mixtapes; signed to BME label, released single "Head Bussa" (later used as Atlanta Braves theme song), 2003; with group Trillville, released The King of Crunk & BME Recordings Present: Lil Scrappy and Trillville, 2004; released solo album Bred 2 Die Born 2 Live, 2006.
Addresses: Record company—BME Recordings, 2144 Hills Ave. NW, #D2, Atlanta, GA 30318. Website—Lil Scrappy Official Website: http://www.lilscrappy.com.
"Head Bussa" (single), 2003.
(With Trillville) The King of Crunk & BME Recordings Present: Lil Scrappy, BME, 2004.
Bred 2 Die Born 2 Live, BME/G-Unit, 2006.
Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, AK), March 30, 2007.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 23, 2004, p. D1.
Billboard, March 13, 2004, p. 55; December 2, 2006, p. 44.
Entertainment Weekly, December 8, 2006, p. 95.
Morning Call (Allentown, PA), January 2, 2007.
"Exclusive ILLHILL.com Lil Scrappy Interview," illhill, http://www.illhill.com/article.asp?TOPIC_ID=776 (September 27, 2007).
"Lil Scrappy," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (September 27, 2007).
Lil Scrappy Official MySpace Page, http://www.myspace.com/lilscrappy (September 27, 2007).
—James M. Manheim
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