Trap Revival: Moneybagg Yo & the Second Coming of CMG


  • Travis Whiteside
  • Moneybagg Yo

There wasn’t a group prayer, but the anticipatory energy, the pop and rumble from the crowd, and the obligatory smoke (fog and otherwise), called for one. Someone in the hallway backstage at Minglewood Hall Friday night obliged. “You done turnt up on the city, mane,” the voice said. “The city f*ck with you.” Shouts of affirmation went up in succession and crescendo, rolling through the hallway. Then the crowd of some four dozen folks, more church family than rap posse or crew, climbed the steps up to the stage to bask in that fact and prophecy. Before the sold-out crowd and with Moneybagg Yo at the front, Yo Gotti’s Collective Music Group continued its award tour on the home court.

The three dollar pop-up show, announced the same week, quickly sold out, a testament to Moneybagg Yo’s particular appeal, CMG’s enduring and broadening popularity, and the evolution of live music consumption in the city. Ostensibly, the show was a celebration of the release of Moneybagg Yo’s Federal 3x, the debut album follow-up to mixtapes Heartless (2017) and 2 Federal (2016). The release of February’s Heartless was accompanied by a show at The New Daisy, now familiar (if contentious) turf for hip-hop artists of all varieties. But Minglewood has become a marker of a rising hip-hop star’s ascent and a corollary to FedEx Forum. The call and response between Yo and Gotti, first deployed on the collaborative mixtape 2 Federal, was manifested here: If Yo Gotti’s birthday bash at FedEx Forum in June was an apex, Moneybagg Yo’s Minglewood show was a signal of what is to come from CMG. Friday's show kicked off a run for the artist that includes stops in Atlanta, New Orleans, and Philadelphia.

  • Travis Whiteside
  • Moneybagg Yo
Moneybagg Yo, like CMG compatriot Blac Youngsta, is part of a second generation of the label’s trap artists, men chronicling loss, trauma, gun violence, and intimacy live from the underground drug economy. Yo, however, pushes the mechanics and intricacies of the trap to the background, marshaling a heavy but nimble flow to ruminate on relationships, friends lost to incarceration and murder, and the specific perils of success and fortune. Across 2 Federal favorites, including “Doin’ Too Much,” “Pull Up,” “Lil Baby,” and “Reflection,” and adding new tracks from Federal 3x like “Doin’ It” and “Insecure,” the performance barreled forward with the undeniable rhythms of trap and Moneybagg Yo’s deft cadences.

There were no flourishes or live show transitions. Show openers, including M-Squad Entertainment’s Heroin Young and BlocBoy JB, were community favorites, and there wasn’t a set list per se. But the crowds, on the stage and on the ground, were there for a collective celebration of trap Memphis, trap music, and the ascension of yet another CMG artist to the global stage. The crowd all but expected Yo Gotti, such that when he arrived towards the end of the set and performed “Rake It Up,” the celebration reached a simultaneous fever pitch and relief.

Trap music is a kind of hip-hop blues structure, of which Memphis artists have long been inheritors and architects. Though Moneybagg Yo has not yet found a consistent footing in that trap-as-blues space, the path there is evident. Blues tropes of women, trouble, and heartbreak now find themselves in discussions of infidelities outed on blogs and Twitter timelines; more importantly, the crowds, a diversity of black Memphians not unlike that on the I-40 bridge last July, know. All kinds of church services happen across the city every day of the week, but Friday night was a kind of revival, a recommitment to the next generation of trap in Memphis.

As whispers and shouts about the “new” Memphis music scene reverberate throughout the city’s arts administration elite, Friday's pop up show served as a notice that the city will only continue to discount black music, black artists, and black consumers at its own peril. Moneybagg Yo, signed to CMG last year with much fanfare, has a distribution deal with Interscope records for Federal 3x via his independent label, N-Less Entertainment, a coup for an artist working in any genre. He has thus far easily topped the iTunes charts, and next week’s sales will likely indicate similar successes across industry metrics.

CMG, like Hypnotize Minds before it, has created its own pocket in Memphis music and in the global music industry, with little support from a city that sells music like FedEx moves packages. The pop-up show alone reflected a robust wrap-around industry of jookers, photographers, videographers, deejays, and journalists, many of whom appeared to be the age of those “disconnected youth” about which there has been much handwringing over the past two years. The artists, performers, and crowds on Friday were about survival and revival, and Moneybagg Yo proved himself to be amongst trap’s preachers. A good portion of Memphis’s 65% black population already knew that. The rest of the city, like the rest of the world, would do well to take notice.

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