Sold out! A packed house – 18,000-plus – filled with fans and others who just wanted to be part of the mix that turned out in support of rap star Yo Gotti and the fifth installment of his annual birthday bash.
Backstage at the FedExForum, where the bash was held for the first time, Yo Gotti was ecstatic and humble.
“You just don’t know what this means to me,” he said, talking to The New Tri-State Defender. “It just let me know the city got my back.”
On stage, Gotti (aka Mario Mims) gave the Thursday night (June 29) crowd the perfect visual of his childhood home – the Ridgecrest Apartments in North Memphis. The backdrop setting was so life-like that many were audibly blown away.
“My life started from Ridgecrest. The things you hear me speak about came from my surroundings,” he said. “I had to give fans a picture of my life. Everything was completely detailed all the way to the steps.”
In a reflective frame of mind, Gotti detailed his journey, sharing thoughts about the success of his CMG entertainment label to linking with his protégé and Roc Nation founder JAY-Z.
“It was amazing you know. I worked hard and kept myself busy,” he said. “I was hungry and I made sure who ever came my way that we both were on the same page. JAY-Z and I have the same mindset and it worked out great.”
The merits of hard work were on display big time during the show that brought out major artists, many of them collaborators with Gotti.
Stars such as YRN Lucci and Tee Grizzley came out in support, as well as fellow Roc Nation label mate Fabolous. The crowd went into frenzy when CMG artists and fellow Memphians Blac Youngsta and Moneybagg Yo came out to perform their chart topping hits.
The TSD interview stretched out to Gotti’s recent signing of Moneybagg Yo, giving him a chance to address underground Memphis fans’ curiosity about how the pair got together.
“Moneybagg Yo was basically doing the right things to get me involved,” Gotti said. “He worked really hard to get to where he is, especially coming out of Memphis. Many don’t make it. I support him all the way.”
Gotti surprised the FedExForum crowd with a performance alongside hip-hop recording artist Young Jeezy. Also headlining, was YMCMB founder and former Cash Money label mate Lil Wayne, who Gotti considers a good friend. Other celebs on hand included homegrown basketball legend Penny Hardaway and now former Memphis Grizzlies star Zach Randolph.
Four hours after the show began and with confetti streaming down, Gotti thanked Memphis for being his support system. Surrounded by family in his dressing room, he talked about his family’s influence.
“A lot of my grind came from them, especially my Mom,” Gotti said. “With the crime and the way things were going, I had to make a way for us.”
Then came a pronouncement that took me aback.
“Any day, it could be over for me. So I have to make sure that whatever I do, I’m putting in one-hundred percent effort.”
Gotti’s contributions to the Greater Memphis community earned him the key to the city this past Saturday.
“Helping my city is a priority, but it requires me to keep busy. People wonder how I made it out of Memphis; it was basically just staying focused and consistent and not getting caught up in things that didn’t have my best interest,” Gotti said.
“If I could suggest anything to the youth (it) is to stop getting into things that’s not progressing you. Catching charges and going to court isn’t worth it; stay focused.”
As for next year’s birthday bash, Gotti said the more that he grows, the better the show will be.
“As an artist, I’m definitely trying to grow and expand myself. So yeah, you can definitely expect each year to get better and better.”
He even had some encouraging words for his interviewer.
“Never give up on what you want to do,” he said, “and never lose sight of your goals.”