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Stat Quo: Persona non grata 

Atlanta rapper dangles in limbo while awaiting release

You may never get to hear what Stat Quo sounds like. For the past two years, the Atlanta rapper's debut album Statlanta has suffered a series of delays. As of this writing, it was pushed back again from its scheduled Tues., Aug. 28, premiere to sometime in October.

The reason for the delay is that Stat Quo is signed to Aftermath, the storied imprint of hip-hop icon Dr. Dre, and Shady Records, superstar rapper Eminem's label. (The two companies are housed under Interscope.) Despite having so much industry muscle behind him, Stat has to wait for the proper "setup," a quixotic mix of underground buzz singles and street promotion that will create the right conditions for a successful release. Right now the label hopes that "G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised in the South)," a piano-driven "love" joint, will set things off.

Stat Quo made the press rounds in May in anticipation of the now-passed Aug. 28 release date. When he walked into the Varsity, one of the tellers immediately recognized him. Soon other tellers came from behind the counter and swarmed Stat, asking to take their picture with him. Stat Quo may never get a chance to put out an album and show the world what he can do, but he's already got plenty of hometown love.

"I never had a song that had 3,000 spins on the radio," he said, referring to the amount of weekly "plays" a hit song will garner nationally on radio stations. "I never had a video consistently going on BET. But still, when I go places, people know who I am. And that's because of mixtapes. Shit kept me relevant in the streets."

Among rap fans, Stat Quo is known for mixtapes such as the Underground Atlanta series; Grown Man Music, which he made for DJ Drama's Gangsta Grillz series; and Big Business, a two-CD bonanza with Chamillionaire that Stat estimates sold "damn near 100,000 copies." These mixtapes – freestyles and legitimate tracks that he burnished with his confident, nasal voice – stoked the anticipation generated by his 2004 signing with Shady/Aftermath.

But when Stat Quo finished the first version of Statlanta and played it for Dr. Dre and Eminem, he said, "They said it wasn't ready. And you can't do nothing but respect that. Because when I look at the process that the other artists went through in my position ... Everybody else waited three years: the Game, Busta Rhymes, Eminem. So I'm in good company."

Stat Quo's math is slightly off. Eminem, for example, signed to Aftermath in late 1997, and released The Slim Shady LP in 1999. As Stat Quo refined his Statlanta debut, however, he stopped issuing mixtapes, making fans wonder if he had somehow disappeared within the industry system.

Though he raps with a bullish, violent swagger, Stat Quo isn't a hardscrabble thug. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2000, earning a double major in business and economics. At one point in the conversation, he mentioned that he just finished The Jungle, Upton Sinclair's 1906 semifictional expose of American poverty in the Industrial Age. "It's a great book," he says.

"I think the misconception in American society is that most motherfuckers that derive from the streets and the 'hood end up being rappers, ballplayers and entertainers. But there are a number of professional men and women that are from the projects," he said. "What I represent is a motherfucker that came from, saw, experienced and lived that, but at the same time understands [the value of] going out there and getting a college education, and interacting with these businesses and corporations and making that money. That's what a true hustler does."

Stat Quo promises Statlanta will combine that deeper societal analysis with deft, hardcore lyricism. But will his audience ever get to hear it? "The Aug. 28 date, that's real talk," he said in May.

It may have been the most unreal thing he said all day.

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