In his Nashville, Tennessee hideout, far away from the hustle and bustle of New York City’s vibrant, but perhaps overwhelming music scene, John Gotty presides over his kingdom of hip-hop opinionating: The Smoking Section. Started about six years ago, TSS has exploded into one of the foremost website’s for hip-hop updates and information.
Let us dig in to the mind of a man who chooses to go by the same name as a wildly infamous mobster and is bold enough to give “Otis” a 3.5 out of 5, but has the patience and acceptance of a former high school English teacher.
Is John Gotty your real name?
For all intensive purposes, yes— It’s my pen name. It’s actually a nickname that I picked up along the way. My best friend gave it to me in my early 20s and when I first got on the internet it just stuck with me. It’s actually a combination of my first and middle name.
Do you mind being associated with the infamous John Gotti?
No. It kind of started out where people assumed that I was a white guy for a long time because I always had that picture of him as my avatar, my profile picture, everywhere. So people kind of assumed that I was a white guy for the longest time, but I think now everyone is starting to understand that I’m a black guy. So, it’s like I carved my own little niche.
I can tell you this much, the only people that don’t know that I am not Gotti, would be Google. Google will not approve of my Google + profile because they say I’m impersonating somebody. Please print that because I’m trying to raise enough awareness that I’m not John Gotti. Everybody else is being cool and on Google +, but I can’t get on there because they won’t approve my profile!
When do you first remember falling in love with hip-hop?
2nd grade. I used to trade tapes with the school janitor. I can specifically remember trading him the Fat Boys first tapes. So I traded him for MC Shan and then I remember him giving back Whodini’s first tape. So that would probably be my earliest memory with rap.
What did you do before The Smoking Section?
Teaching high school. I taught English and literature.
So what’s your favorite book?
To teach it would definitely be the play Julius Caesar. I love Caesar because it’s just got a lot of hip-hop undertones through it. I always tried to bridge that gap from what feels like old style literature to kids to stuff that’s relevant to them—the idea that every kid in High School or even in Middle School is going to have a close friend that’s eventually going to betray them. And you know, Brutus betrayed Caesar, so that’s one of the ways that you can relate it to them and they pick up on it. I always enjoyed it personally. It’s got the greatest quotes ever. You don’t want me to sit here and quote the whole fucking play because I can. I absolutely love it.
And to read?
I read a lot of books; I couldn’t even narrow it down. I probably read like maybe three to four books a month. I can’t go to sleep without reading, so I couldn’t even tell you like the best way to narrow it down to one book. It’d probably say anything by Hunter S. Thompson. He’s like my stock answer when anybody asks me what to read.
I tell everybody he’s almost like the godfather of blogging because the gonzo style was very personal. He immersed himself into what he was writing about. At the end of the day, that’s what a lot of people do with blogging. They take some piece of content and they add their spin to it. They stick themselves in the story and boom there you go. I’m like, he’s almost the godfather of this shit.
Why is your blog called the smoking section?
Because I have a real weird imagination. I chose the name because I was real heavy into jazz at the time and I always think that those 50s and 60s clubs when you have Miles Davis and Trane just doing consecutive club nights in New York and people would be in the crowd and the room would be smoky and hazy and they’re hearing some of the greatest music they ever heard. They may have not known it at the time, but it ended up being some of the best music around. It’s just some people cooling out in a smoky little club hearing the best music they ever heard. It was a real weird idea, but I guess it stuck all these years.
And since “Otis” seems to be all everyone can talk about the past few days–What do you think of the new single?
Ohhhh. I gave it a 3.5 out of 5. I mean it’s a good song, but at the end of the day you have to see where it fits in the context of the album to see if it’s really a good song. It’s definitely better than “H.A.M,” more along the lines of what we were expecting to hear or hoping to hear. The only thing that I didn’t like about it was that I think they kind of overused the sample, especially towards the end with all the scatting, yelling and shit that’s going on. That may get a little repetitive. The way I look at it is when I toss it in the album and I’m listening to it on the album, I’ll probably listen to it, but I’d definitely fast forward before I let that scatting shit go down.
I think ‘Ye brought it, Jay did ok. You’re always gonna get those inevitable comparisons when you have those two guys or any two guys rapping together on a track. I’ll just go ahead and toss that out there- ‘Ye got him that time around, in my opinion.
We expect so much from Jay….
The bar’s set high for both of them. You know if Kanye fucks up lyrically nobody’s going to lose any sleep or if he half asses it nobody’s going lose any sleep. But Jay is like Lebron. You can’t come out and do twelve points and get three rebounds and think everybody’s going to still applaud your efforts. You have to score 20 plus fucking points a night and damn near score a double-double or triple-double before anybody’s going to recognize you. Jay always has to bring it. There is no off game for him.
And I know you love sneakers so tell me, if you designed your own sneaker what would it look like?
It would probably end up being navy blue or black 9 times out of 10. And it would probably have like a cross trainer strap on the forefront. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the old Bo Jacksons or anything like that, but it would have that strap across the first lace on right there. That’s definitely something my shoe would have to incorporate. Definitely low top, a mid cut. I’m probably more into sneakers than I am music, truth be told.
Why no sneaker blog?
You couldn’t talk about sneakers every fucking day and expect that people are gonna go out and buy it. Usually if I post something, it’s something that I would actually invest my money in. And that’s across the board like if I say why this mp3 it’s probably something that I would buy. Or if I say I really like this sneaker, yeah I would buy that shoe.
So how many sneakers do you own?
Today? Maybe 80 to 100. That’s bad, but its not bad. It depends on what you do, like, that’s what I buy. I don’t buy anything else. Everybody has their thing that they do. Some people are really into gadgets, some people like fixing up their cars and investing a lot of time and money in their cars. I buy shoes. That’s my bad habit. That’s my kick, that’s what gets me through the day sometimes.
Where do you buy your shoes?
Ebay…nah (laughs). Wherever I run across them 9 times out of 10. I’ll go all the way up and spend the expensive price periodically or I’ll go to the fucking Nike factory store and find some shoe that everybody else overlooked. I buy online or if I travel, when I leave the house on a trip I try to make sure that I have enough room available, free space, because I know I’m coming back with at least one pair of shoes. And if I don’t have enough space usually I will buy and then ship it back to my house. I pick up shoes anywhere. Bad habit, very bad habit.
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