'International Players Anthem': Atlanta's hot, hot heat 

Summer wouldn't be the same without plenty of hip-pop novelty

Every spring, a handful of Atlanta songs set out to become that novelty hit that breaks out into a nationwide smash. It's a tradition that at least dates back to Lil Jon's "Get Low," which dominated Southern nightclubs in early 2003, went on to take over the world and turned the dreadlocked producer into a superstar.

This year's candidates included the Alliance's "Tattoo." But with a bizarre cameo from Fabo, the stunna-shade-wearing visionary from D4L, it may have been too weird for widespread consumption. Then there was Gucci Mane's "Freaky Girl," which perverted Rick James' "Super Freak" (if that's even possible) into the following: "She's a very freaky girl/Don't bring her to momma/First you get her name/Then you get her number/Then you get some brain in the front seat of the Hummer." With its Too Short-like beat, "Freaky Girl" got some radio spins, but was too dark for the pop charts.

In ATL, you can always judge the size of a hit by the number of times a DJ repeats it in a row. In March there was a birthday party for Michael Knight, the local contestant from the reality TV hit "Project Runway," at Opium Lounge. The crowd was full of fashionable buppies dressed to the nines. But when the DJ threw on Shop Boyz' "Party Like a Rock Star," everyone jumped up and down and pretended like they were in a mosh pit, fine clothes be damned.

"Party Like a Rock Star" conquered the country, reaching No. 2 on the national pop charts and selling millions of ringtones. But by midsummer local folks were sick of hearing it. They had moved on to other delights.

Visit a nightclub this weekend, and you'll find grown men, tipsy and swaying side-to-side in their own reverie, singing the lyrics to Playaz Circle's "Duffle Bag Boy": "If I don't do nothing I'm a ball/I'm counting all day like a clock on the wall/Now go and get your money little duffle bag boy."

Were these men drug dealers or working-class guys playing out a horrific stereotype – a young black d-boy on the make? In reality, "Duffle Bag Boy" is just a fiction as violently romantic as The Bourne Ultimatum. Lil Wayne, who sing-raps the chorus, has been a recording star since his early teens, so he's probably not a real street hustler. He and his audience create this macho fantasy for its underlying message: striving for the top, and not allowing anyone to stop you.

Less controversial was Soulja Boy, who stopped, rock and rolled like a trap star from Bankhead on "Crank That." (He's actually a Mississippi teenager who relocated to Atlanta.) Who mourns for D4L? In 2005, the group was the shame of the hip-hop nation for its iconic hit "Laffy Taffy." A little more than a year later, you've got Soulja Boy, just one of many who have completely lifted Fabo's style – from the wraparound sunglasses to the crazy mismatched clothes – and the stop-start snap beat. No wonder Vibe magazine put Fabo on its annual "Juice" list.

Other songs floated around, including Rasheeda's "My Bubble Gum," Keyshia Cole's "Let It Go," Lloyd's "Get It Shorty" and Fabolous' and Ne-Yo's "Make It Better." But the best song of the summer was undoubtedly UGK's and OutKast's "International Players Anthem (I Choose You)."

Much like Fabo, OutKast's Andre 3000 was the goat in 2006, widely ridiculed for his Prince-like acting skills in Idlewild. But like Muhammad Ali on the comeback trail, Andre Three Stacks recaptured hearts with several potent guest appearances. His opening verse sets the tone for the epic "International Players Anthem," and its lushly pimped-out Willie Hutch sample. Andre talks about giving up the player's life for marriage, but Pimp C and Bun B of UGK and Big Boi have colder intentions. Near the end of the song, Big Boi raps, "Slipping is something I don't do/Tipping for life." Ka-ching!

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