Yo Gotti’s “Down In The DM,” a story of smartphone-aided flirtation, recently hit Number One on Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop chart. The song’s ascent is remarkable considering that the Memphis rapper, age 34, has been a regional presence for nearly two decades — his biggest previous chart success, 2009’s “5 Star,” peaked at 79. In contrast, his latest single has become a ubiquitous hit, earning a stamp of approval even more coveted than its Number One slot: an official remix from Nicki Minaj.
“Down In The DM,” which originally appeared last September on Gotti’s The Return mixtape, presents the rapper as a noble suitor who can’t help but profess his love to Angela Simmons, the daughter of Run-D.M.C.’s Rev. Run (“They like, ‘Damn Gotti, you bold’/ Fuck it, I’ma let the world know”) — though there’s also no shortage of creepy internet stalking and sexually explicit social media messages. The recently released video for the track — Gotti put out another visual once the song became a hit — carefully dulls the edges, showing a wedding where all the guests are busy exchanging erotic photos via DM.
Throughout the track, Gotti uses social media jargon — “mood,” “goals” — with the ease of someone half his age, but he was actually figuring out how to use the DM function in Instagram and Snapchat as he was creating the song. “One of my partners was giving me the ins and outs of Snapchat while the producer Ben [Billion$] was making the music from scratch,” Gotti tells Rolling Stone. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” Gotti continues. “He only had the drums and the snare and the hi-hat. We were just sitting there in our own world, but you can hear the music still, and my homie’s telling me how to message and how you can’t screenshot people. Then he showed me the DMs. I really just not too long ago put [the app] on my phone, and I immediately had — I don’t even know how many, a lot of DMs! As I’m going through ’em, I’m seein’ a lot of, ‘Wow!'”
He took this feeling of “wow” with him as he started to rap to the unfinished beat. “I still had my phone in my hand,” he says, “looking at the DMs. It all just came from me messin’ with the phone in the booth.”
“I think he hit the pulse when he used social media as part of his song,” explains DJ Enuff, who is the Mix-show coordinator at New York’s Hot 97. “People are literally in their DMs doing all kinds of things!” Gotti’s southern origins mean that he’s still not guaranteed play on New York rap radio. But a true smash transcends location: “We’re playing it in the mix heavy,” Enuff says. “Especially in the nightclubs: When you go in for gigs, it’s a hit. You throw it on — instant gratification. People are right on top of it, moving, dancing around. They know all the lyrics, and they’re chanting them nice and loud.”
“This record has put him in a different space,” the DJ adds. “Now he’s playing alongside Rihanna, Beyonce and Drake — the big cats in the industry.”
Gotti’s track has also helped other people discover the possibilities of social media. “I was a little slow myself on the actual DM,” Enuff admits. “I use Instagram a lot, but I never really worked the DM aspect of it — I didn’t know how to actually access it. And then when I finally did, after listening to this guy’s song. I was like, ‘Wow, look at all these private messages I got!’ Everything from, ‘You are so fine and beautiful,’ to, ‘Can we go on a date?’ to, ‘Play my song.'”
Not everyone is so quick to convert: Cam’ron recently Instagrammed a photo and used a bawdy line from “Down In The DM” as a caption. “I don’t have Snap tho,” the MC wrote. “And no I’m not getting one lol.”
“Somebody like me that comes from a different era,” says Gotti, “we have to adapt. We still use [Instagram] — the way that best fits us.” He says he is on Instagram and Snapchat a lot, but he stresses the importance of “know[ing] the difference between feet-on-the-ground and social media.”
“Down In The DM” will appear again on Gotti’s The Art Of Hustle album, due February 19th. Several other songs on the album were actually recorded on the same night as Gotti’s hit — “it was a good night,” he says with a laugh — including “Bible,” which features Lil Wayne and “The General,” a high-energy collaboration with Future.
“I just make the songs and go to the next one,” he says. “I wake up every day and go to sleep every day thinking about the same thing: being bigger, being better.” Now and then, he also checks his phone.