Dolph (real name, Adolph Thornton Jr.) was shot in Los Angeles outside the Lowes Hollywood hotel on Tuesday.
Kyleah Dunn, USA Today Network – Tennessee
MEMPHIS — The relationship between Memphis rappers Yo Gotti and Young Dolph, and the tensions between the two artists, have been a major story line in Memphis hip-hop for the better part of the last three years.
Dolph (real name, Adolph Thornton Jr.) was shot in Los Angeles outside the Lowes Hollywood hotel on Tuesday. Subsequent media reports suggested the incident was somehow the result of a long running musical and personal feud with another Memphis MC, Yo Gotti (real name, Mario Mims).
The Los Angeles Police Department has twice denied to The Commercial Appeal that Gotti — who was staying at the same hotel as Dolph — is a person of interest in the investigation. On Wednesday, Corey McClendon of Memphis was arrested and charged with attempted murder.
Police said they do not know if McClendon and Gotti are associates. However, McClendon and Gotti were both arrested in 2010 after five people were shot in the parking lot of Level II nightclub in Memphis.
The charges against Gotti were dropped in the 2010 brawl due to a lack of witnesses. McClendon was shot during the brawl.
In Tuesday’s shooting, Dolph was critically injured, but is expected to survive. It’s the second time he’s been shot this year. In February, he was fired at in Charlotte, N.C. Gotti associate, Blac Youngsta (real name, Sammie Benson), was among the men charged in that incident.
Though it’s never been confirmed — by both parties, anyway — the roots of the feud likely began in 2014, when Dolph — then just emerging as a mixtape artist — began saying publicly that he’d turned down an offer to join Gotti’s CMG record label.
Still, the Dolph-Gotti beef remained a background issue as Gotti’s star began to rise. Gotti, who got his start in the mid-’90s as one of the city’s quintessential street rappers, released the breakout LP The Art of Hustle in 2016. It debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard album charts, hit No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, and quickly proved a breakthrough for the veteran MC. The album would go on to spawn a top five rap and top 20 pop single in Down in the DM that has been certified platinum. The record also earned the support of his peers, from Lil Wayne to Pusha T, who guest on the project, to Kanye West, who performed with Gotti during a release party in Los Angeles.
In the winter of 2016, Dolph again alluded to Gotti and his decision not to sign to his CMG label on Twitter. He subsequently released his full-length debut The King of Memphis, which peaked at number 49 on the Billboard chart. The title alone was incendiary, seen as a direct challenge to Gotti’s claim on that position.
Through 2016, the bickering was largely between Dolph and members of Gotti’s camp, namely CMG-signed artist Blac Youngsta, who threw a Dolph diss into one of his tracks and filmed a video of himself prowling Dolph’s South Memphis neighborhood heavily armed. Gotti mostly stayed on the sidelines and in September of that year, in a video, downplayed any animosity between himself and Dolph.
At the start of 2017, it seemed possible that the whole affair might have been a winking feud manufactured by both men for publicity. Though more likely it was Dolph’s attempt to generate his own publicity by going after the better known and more established artist.
In February 2017, Dolph reignited the “feud” with a diss track that took dead aim on Gotti (derisively characterizing him as “Ho Gotti”). The song Play Wit Yo’ B*** suggested he’d been intimate with the mother of Gotti’s child.
Gotti took a high-handed approach to the track, logging on to Twitter and noting that he wouldn’t stoop to his provocations. “I’m business partners with LA Reid N Jay Z” he wrote, noting CMG’s association with the L.A. Reid-run Epic records and Jay-Z’s entertainment management company Roc Nation.
Eventually, after more Dolph entreaties, Gotti fired back in song with Don’t Beef Wit Me — while still refusing to acknowledge his rival by name. Dolph then replied with a video for Play Wit Yo’ Bitch which featured a Gotti look-alike being mocked.
Soon after, on Feb. 25, while on tour in Charlotte, a vehicle Dolph was riding in was shot at. Allegedly more than 100 rounds were fired into the car, which was bulletproof, and Dolph was unharmed, performing a concert that night.
In April, following the shooting, Dolph released his second LP, the fittingly titled Bulletproof which debuted at number 36 on the Billboard chart.
In May, Gotti associate Blac Youngsta was one of three men who surrendered to authorities in Charlotte for their alleged involvement in the shooting. According to the Charlotte Observer, “Charlotte-Mecklenburg police charged Blac Youngsta, Frederick Black and Antavius Gardner with six counts each of discharging a weapon into occupied property and felony conspiracy.” Youngsta was released on bail and further court proceedings are still awaiting.
Follow Bob Mehr on Twitter: @BobMehr
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