MEMPHIS — Moneybagg Yo — Bagg to his friends — doesn’t get back to his Memphis hometown as much as he’d like anymore, so when he returned one Friday in July, he was primed for the occasion. His top, shorts and sneakers: Louis Vuitton. His chains and earrings: weighty and bright. His nails: freshly buffed to a shine. His Cadillac Escalade: bulletproof.
He had arrived for an appearance at the eighth annual Birthday Bash, a concert organized by the Memphis rap stalwart Yo Gotti. “I feel like Michael Jackson at home,” Bagg said of the performance at FedExForum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies. “This is who created you.”
Over the past few years, Bagg — born DeMario DeWayne White Jr. — has been steadily reaching audiences well beyond his home city. His last album, “A Gangsta’s Pain” from 2021, opened at the top of the Billboard album chart, his first No. 1, following two debuts in the Top 5. He placed five consecutive singles in the Top 20 of the Billboard rap chart, two of which, “Said Sum” and “Wockesha,” became pop hits, reaching the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
He’s a sneakily lyrical rapper — bursting with pugnacious talk but also wry. His flow is syrupy, often swallowing syllables but not the vérité imagery and frisky, conversational tone that make some of his best lyrics sound like direct, mettle-testing addresses. “Wockesha,” a 2021 track that samples DeBarge’s “Stay With Me” (à la the Notorious B.I.G.’s “One More Chance”), showed that Bagg could record songs that leaned more melodic and tender, broadening his appeal.
“I’m glad ‘Wockesha’ took off and did what it did ’cause now people accept me in that melodic vibe,” he said. “Bagg can do that now, we don’t look at him crazy.”
This fall, he’ll release his fifth studio album. Even though he primarily lives in Atlanta now, the day’s itinerary encapsulated how deep his hometown roots still run. “I’m still most definitely connected around here,” he said. “When I’m not at home, I’m at home.” His first stop was the nail salon, the next an overgrown 28.8-acre plot of land bought for him last year as a 30th birthday gift by his girlfriend, Ari Fletcher, a social media influencer. Driving alongside the property, he laughed as he pointed out the property’s boundaries: “Still going. Still going. Still going! Still going!”
Eventually, he wants to host a community center, dirt bike paths, a paintball course and more there: “This for …….