As one of the six epicenters of Southern hip hop, Memphis has always had a thriving underground capable of producing major platinum superstars such as Eightball & MJG, 3-6 Mafia and Project Pat,Skip a.k.a Gianni Booker. All of the above-mentioned artists at one point in time literally dominated the city’s underground rap scene before going on to become national superstars. Next up to bat is Yo Gotti, M-Town’s current underground rap kingpin. Like his namesake John Gotti, the Memphis based rapper has been running the Southern underground scene with an iron fist for the past. Known and respected throughout the South for his skill and finesse on the microphone, Yo Gotti is one the South’s most respected young rappers.
Born Mario Mims, Yo Gotti grew up in the infamous Ridge Crest Apartments in a North Memphis neighborhood called Frazier. His childhood was typical for a poor ghetto youth in the Deep South. Raised in a family of hustlers and exposed to hard times 24 hours a day the Tennessee rap titan soon turned to the only thing that he knew could get him paid, hustling. “Being from the hood things like hustling will come your way,” says Yo Gotti. “Everybody in my family hustled in some kinda way.” Ironically, hustling is what ultimately led Yo Gotti to rapping.
Taking his cue from Memphis rap legends such as Eightball & MJG, Al Kapone, Gangsta Black, Triple 6 Mafia and Kingpin Skinny Pimp, all of whom he lists as influences, Yo Gotti released his own underground tape entitled, Youngster on the Come Up and placed it on consignment at local mom & pop record stores as well as hustling it out the trunk. The tape sold like hotcakes on the street and made Yo Gotti the hottest rapper on the streets of Memphis. From the Dope Game to the Rap Game, Yo Gotti’s sophomore effort sold so well that Select-O-Hits, a local based independent distributor offered him a small deal and the Memphis rapper more than doubled his fan base with absolutely no marketing or promotions. Soon he found himself ranked among the city’s top rappers. In addition to being featured on the cover of Murderdog Magazine along side his idols Kingpin Skinny Pimp and Al Kapone his record From the Dope Game to the Rap Game made the list for the magazine’s top independent record for the year 2000.
Two years later he inked a distribution deal with TVT Records and released the critically acclaimed album Life, which did respectable numbers for an independent label. “It sold about 40 or 50,000, with no promotions or video,” says Yo Gotti. “That record did what it did on its own.” But as the old saying goes when one door is closed another opened. Gotti’s reputation as the king of Memphis continued to spread and that eventually led him to a production deal with Cash Money/Universal records for his group the Block Burnaz. With his TVT sophomore album entitled Back 2 Da Basics, Yo Gotti returns with the same hardcore street flavor that his die-hard fans have come to know and love, only this time around the true king of Memphis has elevated his game a bit. Given the fact that his last record didn’t do the type of big number he’d hope for you’d think that Yo Gotti would switch up his style to reach a larger audience. Right? Wrong! According to Gotti his street credibility with his underground fans means more to him than gold or platinum status.
“The one thing that you have to understand is that when you create a fan base off of street product the last thing you wanna do is disrespect them by changing because of the record companies and stuff like that. When you do that you change what created you. To me it is very important that I keep in tune with the people that helped to sell 40,000 records independently. That’s why I call my record Back 2 Da Basics.”
Produced by DJ Thoomp, Mannie Fresh, Carlos Brody and newcomers Street Tunes, Back 2 Da Basics offers fans a gritty, insider’s view into the real streets of Memphis as seen through the eyes of Yo Gotti. Nowhere is this viewpoint more intense than on “Full Time,” the amped up lead single –and featured in the MTV Films’ Hustle & Flow movie - with a thunderous bass and intoxicating beat that espouses Gotti’s formula to success –hustle full time.
“A lotta cats wanna be a rapper or a street hustler but they don’t wanna put in the time that it takes,” says Yo Gotti. “They want the money and the cars and the girls, but they don’t wanna work hard for it. But to be successful at anything you gotta grind for it.” On the song “Mama We Gone Be Alright,” he waxes introspective by reflecting on all of the hard times that he and his family have suffered through the years and offers her hope-filled words encouragement. “Mama We Gone Be Alright” along with the gripping tune “My Story” emerges as two of the most interesting songs on Back 2 Da Basics. These three titles along with club banging songs like “Shorty” featuring Baby make Back 2 Da Basics one of the best albums of the year.
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