It was November 2007. I had just turned nineteen. This would usually be where I tell you about my feelings going into my second year of college, but instead I’ll explain the emotionless state I was in as I entered my first year in the prison system.
I was dressed with extra underwear and beaters, confident that I’d be sentenced to do some sort of jail time. My mother, my best friends, and my girlfriend of that time were all in attendance. They were sitting behind me as I stared at the judge, silently asking him to spare my freedom. I had no emotion as he spoke. A police officer came over to put me in handcuffs. I looked over to my family, bowed my head to say goodbye, and was escorted away. I had just been convicted of my first felony: cocaine distribution.
After going through booking and being assigned a cell block, I was informed it was commissary day. Commissary is basically the jail version of a food truck but with a lot more options. I did not want any Cheez-Its and I was allergic to Irish Spring bar soap, so I respectfully declined the opportunity. Later in my cell, I noticed someone from the bottom tier wearing headphones as I stared through the tiny window, hoping to get a glimpse of the television. I missed music. I needed to find out how he got these headphones.
When the cell doors opened for all of the inmates on the top tier to head to the chow hall (excuse my jail-language, that means lunch area), I stopped by the man’s cell who had the headphones. I slid a letter under his door that asked him how much he wants for his radio. By the time I was done eating, I seen him slide his reply underneath the door as I stopped it with my orange flip flop. He asked for $30 in commissary and I agreed.
Shawty Lo was taking over the radio with “Dey Know,” but I honestly wasn’t the biggest fan of his. I supported T.I. and since they were beefing, I couldn’t side with no opp. I’m sorry, I just had to say it that way. Anyways, Jay Z had just made an appearance on “Put On for My City” in effort to help promote Young Jeezy’s newest project, Inspiration. Jeezy was my all-time idol. He was like the Malcom X of Martin Luther King Avenue. Anything he did, I supported, because I related to it, especially from inside of this cell.
“I’m in my cool whip, inside’s jello. Hop up out that pretty mothafucka like ‘hello!’” Young Jeezy would rap over Shawty Lo’s remix to “Dey Know” as my admiration for the song grew. Accompanied by Ludacris and Lil Wayne, whose name was arguably the biggest of all that year, the remix turned out to be a major hit, in the streets and in the prison yard. For those that don’t know, my most popular nickname is Mello. When I meet people and introduce myself, they’ll jokingly say “Like Anthony?” or call me Mellow Yellow. Interesting enough, even in jail they were able to make a play off of my name. Every time I’d enter the block or go outside, guys would chant “Mello, Mello, dey know, dey know!”
It was something about the simplicity of this song that helped me stay positive throughout one of the toughest times in my life. I remember having the entire block yell “Big up! To all my haterrrrrrs” every time a C.O. would do their walk throughs to make sure we were in our cell, as if we were able to break through the brick walls like Incredible Hulk on Molly and Hennessy. The D4L rapper’s song would soon serve as everyone’s go-to theme music for parlaying and chilling, or for inmates such as myself, it was used for creating thoughts of the day I get released.
I can’t sit here and tell you I know much about Shawty Lo other than “Dey Know,” “Dunn Dunn,” and his issues with T.I. What I will say that when an artist creates music that represents a certain period in your life, you learn how to appreciate them. I believe “Dey Know” assists all of us in remembering a specific time in our respective lives. Some of us were in high school or newly graduated. Whether you were heading to college, work, or something totally out of the plan, such as myself, Shawty Lo was there. For that, he should be celebrated.
Rest in Peace Carlos Walker aka Shawty Lo.
Dope boys, let’s get, get, get it!!!
Carmelo “Mellzy” Sanchez is born again, and has dedicated his life to raising the bar one wave at a time. Stay jiggy. Ask him about his younger creative self, and you might hear some stories you’ll never forget.