Ed Note: Today, May 19, is Yo Gotti's 34th birthday. Born Mario Mims, Gotti began taking the rap game seriously around the age of 14, first going by Lil Yo and releasing a catalog of independent albums starting with From Da Dope Game 2 Da Rap Game in October of 2000. After years of gaining regional popularity, Gotti dropped his Epic Records debut I Am in November 2013. With a rap career spanning over a decade, Gotti has worked with everyone from Lil Wayne and Jeezy to T.I. and J. Cole.

To celebrate the life and career of the Memphis rapper, we here at XXL pulled out the MC's old Show & Prove from our October 2005 issue to see just how far he's come. Happy Birthday, Gotti!

Yo Gotti Show and Prove
XXL Magazine, October 2005 (Photo: Benjamin Krain)

Hustle & Flow
Words by DJ Rhude

Opportunity never had to knock on 23-year-old Yo Gotti’s door. The Memphis, Tenn., native always left it wide open. As a teenager in the late 1990s, the young’n formed his own company, Inevitable Entertainment, and released his first album, Youngster on the Come Up. The album’s success earned him a distribution deal from local independent distributor Select-O-Hits, the home of his 2000 sophomore LP, From the Dope Game to the Rap Game. “The demand [for my debut] got so high we ended up selling the rest to Select-O,” explains Gotti. “From there we went to work on Rap Game, which sold about 10,000 in Memphis alone.”

Born Mario Mims and reared in the crime-infested Ridgecrest Apartments of North Memphis, his childhood was typical for a ghetto youth. “Coming up, I tried a lot of different things like hustling and other things from the hood that come your way,” he says. “People are in the streets because they got to be there, not because they want to or it’s fun.”

Aware of his gift for wordplay and heavily influenced by hometown legends 8Ball & MJG, Gotti decided to focus on the booth instead of the strip. He dropped two more albums (2002’s Self Explanatory and 2003’s Block Burnin, Vol. 1) and seized the attention of Nakia Shine and Dre Day, CEO’s of Rap Hustlaz Entertainment. The partners, who owned a distribution deal with TVT Records, approached the entrepreneurial MC about a joint venture and a deal was struck. “I looked at it like I was putting out my own shit on Select-O anyway, but TVT was a bigger machine to get it out there,” reasons Gotti. That decision led to his first major release in 2003 on TVT called Life, which was fueled by the Lil Jon-featured first single “Dirty South Soldiers.”

With a second TVT album due this fall titled Back 2 the Basics, which will boast appearances from 8Ball and Bun B, and having acquired a venture with Cash Money/Universal that will allow him to release his own artists, Y.G. seems headed toward being, not a businessman, but a business man.