From the Cocaine Muzik mixtape series to now having a label as strong and stacked as the United States Army, Yo Gotti is essentially Memphis Birdman. We saw the rise of Cash Money Records from its earlier Gangsta Bounce stages with UNLV to The Hot Boys & Big Tymers. From solo Lil Wayne to Drake and Nicki Minaj, just watching that talent being built like an NBA dynasty, we are seeing before our very eyes the business acumen and eye for talent that General Yo Gotti and his Collective Music Group army wield.

The foundation began with Major Blac Youngsta, whose single “Booty” you still might find being played at Southern clubs in New Orleans. Captain Bagg, who has shown consistency since Doin 2 Much, which hit the internet like a comet. He followed up with other great hits like “Time Today,” “Said Sumn,” and now “Wockesha,” another hit that whipped social media into a frenzy. The timeline was full of women feeling sweet like candy and tasting like fruit.

I wrote about EST Gee being the latest, and arguably greatest, thing to happen to the CMG label since Captain Moneybagg Yo. Sergeant EST Gee is a breath of fresh air to the street music scene, putting on for the gangstas of Louisville, Kentucky. Mozzy, one of the hardest street rappers from Northern California (Sacramento, if we’re being specific) shares that same edginess as an EST Gee type, later enlisted in the CMG army. Some Mozzy fans may have seen it as him going backward. I would argue it is a means of expanding his sound to a broader audience. Especially in the Southern region where Gotti has made his presence clear from the underground to the mainstream, since at least 2008, through the Cocaine Muzik mixtapes.

“F-R-E-E Fuck nigga FREE!” Memphis-based artist GloRilla crashed the internet with the speed of a damn Ferrari—and the impact of a Gorilla fist—with the ratchet anthem of the summer with “FNF (Let’s Go).” GloRilla continued to make crazy internet waves with Hitkidd and her extra ass friends Gloss Up, K Carbon, Aleza, and Slimeroni with songs like “Set the Tone” and “Hot Potato,” looking like a Memphis female version of the Hot Boys, featuring Hitkidd as their Mannie Fresh. “FNF” was the solo breakout song for Big Glo to get discovered by General Gotti, who enlisted her as another soldier in the CMG army.

I am excited to see where Big Glo’s career may head, especially after she was able to create such a killer remix of a fan favorite Moneybagg Yo song like “Don’t Kno.” While not leaning on bars about her private area (not knocking the femcees that choose to take that route) she is bringing back what it means to be a witty, catchy, and just an overall enjoyable artist that both women and men can connect to. Hell, I caught myself repeating the lyrics to “FNF” as a guy, the song is just hot like that. The great Jay-Z once said, “You can’t stop it, when it’s hot, it’s hot.” Hov ain’t never lied.

For me, finding GloRilla really shows Yo Gotti’s ear to the streets. On top of that, she is from North Memphis like Yo Gotti, so the man is further showing off that he undoubtedly got the key to the city. Of course, the internet helped blow GloRilla up, but I believe she is in great hands with Yo Gotti. And after being seen on a private jet with Gotti signing her recording contract, the excitement from her and her friends, receiving her CMG chain, all show that the stars are aligned. Only thing we as fans can do is sit back and wait.

Who exactly, besides Glo, is enlisted in this vast army that I keep making sound like the US in WWII or the British Empire in the 1700s? So far we have Blac Youngsta, Moneybagg Yo, 42 Dugg, EST Gee, Lil Poppa, Mozzy, GloRilla, BlocBoy JB, First Lady Lehla Samia, Tripstar, 10Percent who won the “Dolla Fo Dolla” challenge this year, and strip club/twerk anthem-maker Big Boogie.

42 Dugg & EST Gee fired off the year with the Last Ones Left duo project that is immaculate from front to back, displaying an in sync chemistry that tells dark tales of street life and reaping the rewards from it. Or as we say in urban-American, ballin’. Not far behind was Lil Poppa’s Under Investigation 3, released weeks away from Last Ones Left and arguably Jacksonville Florida’s best out in the rap market. UI3 hit the scene with songs like “H Spot,” featuring The General, that solidified his experience in the streets all while dodging the feds. Blac Youngsta followed up with 4Life last May.

However, the album that really brought the label into the spotlight, the moment giving everybody that elusive and well-deserved attention, is the July release of the CMG compilation album Gangsta Art. This album gave breathing room for the entire label to showcase what they are best at. Murder talk, money talk, trickin’ on a lil’ shawty because you got it like that (“Hood Rich” featuring Lehla Samia and EST Gee). My personal top three favorite song is “Tomorrow” by GloRilla. Gotti allowed her to have her own solo track, and if you are not familiar with Glo beyond her breakthrough single, you can see that she is a star in the making with “Tomorrow.”

“I can’t love you baby like yo bitch do, so don’t leave her/ He gon choose her every time ‘cause it’s cheaper to keep her.” Bruh! GloRilla’s got those lines that just hit you, lines that do not take knowing the world’s most hidden knowledge to come up with, but still give you that raw, authentic appeal of a Southern femcee who makes you appreciate more of the direct approach to lyricism. Beyond Glo’s track, there are so many others that give shine to the rest of the team on the album. Even Yo Gotti himself showing he can hang with the younger guys like he did earlier this year with his 10th installment of the Cocaine Muzik series, CM 10: Free Game. 

Mozzy is next, dropping his first release under the label—Survivor’s Guilt. Mozzy takes this album a step further into the PTSD that comes with street life, doing his best to get past the weight of having all of these stories to tell that many of his comrades no longer can. The pain in songs like “Real Ones” and “Ain’t Really Real,” balanced with the raunchy fun of “In My Face” show Mozzy can definitely have that mainstream appeal and that he fits right at home with the CMG camp. A solid start for Mozzy as a CMG draftee.

Seeing what Birdman and Slim done with Cash Money Records for almost 30 years, what Master P done with No Limit Records, what James Prince done with Rap-A-Lot, you have to ask, is Yo Gotti the next southern rap CEO—along with P & Coach K of Quality Control—to take the rap game by storm? I certainly believe that to be a no-brainer. Gotti is restoring the Memphis rap scene to the glory of the Hypnotize Minds/Three 6 Mafia era of the late ‘90s. A time when Three 6 and Project Pat introduced hop hop, and the world, to a style and sound unforeseen yet so well received. Gotti has even expanded across the South, influencing through Lil Poppa and EST Gee of Jacksonville and Louisville. He picked up one of Detroit’s finest with 42 Dugg, and got the West Coast behind him with Sacramento’s very own Mozzy, a well-seasoned underground artist whom Gotti can take to new heights.

Yo Gotti has raised his army, planting his flag for Collective Music Group. He is taking that good ole Southern-based gangsta rap we all love and bringing it to new heights for the 2020s. Who is to say what is next for Yo Gotti and CMG? They have defied expectations so far, so I am ready to see what else they can conquer.