Yo Gotti is among the many hardcore rappers who came out of hip-hop's Dirty South school in the late '90s. He is also one of the hip-hoppers who derive part of their stage names from the late New York Mafioso John Gotti; others have included Big Gotti, Don Gotti, and Juan Gotti. Not all Dirty South recordings are gangsta rap, but Yo Gotti has favored this thugged-out gangsta style, and he gets his inspiration from both Southern and non-Southern rappers. Master P and his New Orleans-based No Limit posse are an influence; so are N.W.A, Dr. Dre, and the late Tupac Shakur. Gotti's more sexually explicit lyrics also owe something to Oakland native Too $hort, who was never a gangsta rapper but did a lot to popularize X-rated rap lyrics.
Yo Gotti, however, isn't from the West Coast any more than he is from New Orleans; his stomping ground is Memphis, the city that gave us the Three 6 Mafia, Gangsta Blac, Eightball & MJG, Kingpin Skinny Pimp, and quite a few other Dirty South artists. When Gotti boasts that he is "straight from the North," he doesn't mean the northern part of the United States; he means the northern part of Memphis, where he lived in the infamous, crime-ridden Ridge Crest housing projects. And Memphis' more dangerous neighborhoods have inspired many of Gotti's lyrics, which often describe the dangers of life in the hood. Gotti, however, doesn't always rap about crime and inner-city thug life; he also raps about sex quite a bit.
After performing around Memphis in the '90s, Gotti started building a catalog in the early 2000s. His first album, From da Dope Game 2 da Rap Game, came out on the Inevitable label in 2000; his subsequent Inevitable releases included 2001's Self Explanatory and 2002's Block Burnin', Vol. 1. After that, Gotti signed with TVT and recorded Life, which came out in 2003. TVT released "Dirty South Soldiers" (a duet with Atlanta crunk star Lil Jon) as Life's first single. After having his track "Full Time" featured in the film Hustle & Flow, he released Back 2 da Basics in 2006. A series of Cocaine Muzik mixtapes carried the rapper into 2012 when his first major-label release, Live from the Kitchen, landed on RCA. The album I Am followed in 2013 and featured the singles "Act Right" with YG and Jeezy, plus "King Shit" featuring T.I. In 2015, he returned with the single "Errrbody" plus the mixtape Chapter One, both of them promotional tools for his fifth studio effort and 2016 release, The Art of the Hustle. 2 Federal, a collaborative mixtape with emerging Memphis rapper MoneyBagg Yo, was released around Halloween of 2016. White Friday (CM9), Gotti's first commercially available mixtape, appeared at the end of the year. ~ Alex Henderson