Memphis, Tenn’s Yo Gotti was colder on I Am, his last and fourth studio album, than he is on The Art of Hustle, his newest and fifth LP. This Epic Records/Collective Music Group collection has a heart and conscience that places it higher on the evolutionary rap food chain than its predecessor, and while Gotti still hasn’t shed his abberrant ghetto hood-ness, it is the moments of kindness, outreach, compassion and love that define and distinguish The Art of Hustle (out for sale today, February 19).
The higher thinking starts right at the beginning in “My City,” as Yo Gotti shakes his head and grieves ghetto-violence and its familiar fallen. The fascinating thing about The Art of Hustle is that songs that might have been filler, “My Bible” and “Law” for example, are made the opposite with either a strong guest spot or a unique, interest-provoking beat. In the aforementioned two examples, it’s Lil Wayne and E-40 that save the tracks. The quietly freaky “Down in the DM,” is strictly fun but has an intentionally alluring, tickling soundtrack.
We get more of those good little notes to study in the do-right-encouraging titular song, “The Art of Hustle,” in the female thief-bashing “Come Up,” and in “Momma,” where Gotti praises the women who raised him when times were hard, especially his mother obviously. “Smile” and “Pay The Price” are both made of typical gangsta music, but they also have strong beats, most particularly in the case of “Smile”’s Timbaland-produced accordion music with rickety stacked up drill drums.
“General,” another one of those fillers saved by a nice guest (Future in this case), is followed by “Imagine Dat.” Here, Yo Gotti arrives at the juncture where the coarse gritty nature of the hood collides with the shiny pretentious society of Hollywood. If there is one true throw-out on The Art of Hustle, it might as well be “Bank Teller” and its money-from-drugs inspirations. “Hunnid” and “Luv Deez Hoes” are likewise very street but find use in their employment of first Pusha T and then 2 Chainz.
Gotti is not very animated with his tone of voice or volume level, staying quite monotonous all the way through. His wisdom is of a familiar type, but at least it’s here, and in larger-than-usual doses too. With his rhymes, he has done well, like his guests, and the producers have surpassed expectations. In all accounts, this new album is truly better than some past Yo Gotti efforts, which is helpful considering that his previous album was average at best. He definitely has a lot of fun here, but he also casts a critical eye on where he comes from, viz. the poverty-stricken, violence-plagued ghetto. The Art of Hustle reviews, constructively and stylishly, the nuances of the art and science of hustle plus the reasons for it and the maturity that must come from it.