Review: Yo Gotti’s album, ‘I Am’

Despite the arduous process of switching from a shut-down label to a new one, Memphis Tennessee rapper Yo Gotti made quite the splash back in 2009 with his “5 Star” single. His first album, “Live from the Kitchen,” also proved to be impressive, featuring some of the big names in hip-hop at the time while also providing some insight to who the rapper — otherwise known as Mario Mims — really is.

The only downside to that album was that it didn’t feel as authentic as it should have. He showcased his versatility in flow, and although some may write him off as a Young Jeezy sound-alike, Yo Gotti had the package of a prominent trap-rap artist who could easily go pound-for-pound against the likes of Wocka Flocka Flame or French Montana. “Live from the Kitchen” didn’t help him in that regard. The tracks felt too commercial and watered-down despite him holding his own.

However, Gotti’s new 13-track album, “I Am,” holds nothing back. The album is a darker, more subtle version of his previous effort without very big features and without very much label interference that could potentially ruin the tracks.

The subject matter of “I Am” is just what you expect from Yo Gotti — his attention to drugs and the women he’s spending his leisure time with. This album has instances in which he alternates between his fame and his work in the drug game, as evident in the first track — the album title — in which he asserts how he can “show you how to cook right” and “what a millionaire is like.”

As for the rest of the album, the beats are gorgeously produced in a gritty, dark style that seems to seamlessly stream well with Yo Gotti’s mean, unforgiving lyricism. “I Know” is one of the better tracks on the album, featuring up-and-coming rapper Rich Homie Quan. The production of the track sells the song, which includes a clever club-like rendition of Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It.”

Gotti also shines pretty nicely in “Pride to the Side.” Reinforced with a soul-sample production by The Youngstars, Gotti dips into his storytelling rhymes about a friend he had grown up and sold drugs with and then finding out years later that he started using his own product.

“Cold Blood” branches off from “Pride to the Side” a little bit deeper, providing even more of an inside look into real-life struggles that can happen when one gets caught up with the business of producing and releasing drugs on the streets. As the third single of the album, this track also features rappers J. Cole and Canei Finch. While Gotti did contribute a decent 16 bars, J. Cole overpowers the song with his usual style of flow and attention to detail, talking on how ‘fast money’ can be detrimental to one’s way of life.

The rest of the album is pretty straightforward as far as themes go. “Respect What You Earn” is a very sexy, sultry track for the ladies, and it contains a vocally infectious hook from Ne-Yo, while “F-U” is a hard-hitting, no-nonsense record featuring a very surprising verse from Meek Mill. Tracks like these seem to rotate often throughout the hour-long album. Non-fans may find Yo Gotti to be repetitive and without much profoundness in his words. “I Am” does lack ‘wow’ factor. The beats may be spot-on, and Gotti does sound confident and comfortable as he approaches every verse on the album. However, with mediocre tracks like “Sorry” and “LeBron James,” this second full-length effort can sound like a low-par mixtape.

This is, however, what Yo Gotti fans have been looking for in terms of his style and how directly hands-on he is when it comes to his creative inputs. “I Am” is still a huge step up from “Live from the Kitchen.” It may have some shortfalls in terms of the quality of some songs, but the streetwise feel of his album comes through almost feasibly throughout.

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