Yo Gotti billboard for Shelby County Schools gets mixed reaction

This billboard stood on Bellevue briefly until it was taken down.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A billboard drawing attention to successful local high school graduates stirred opinions — some positive, some not — among thousands of people in Memphis this weekend.

A billboard at South Bellevue and Walker featured local rapper Yo Gotti, aka Mario Mims, with the message “Product of Public Schools” along with the Shelby County Schools logo. Yo Gotti attended Trezevant High School.

That raised questions for at least one parent of an SCS student. Ben Frazier wrote on his Facebook page:

“So dropping my son off at school this morning I’m a tad bit confused by this billboard Shelby County Schools has Up. Someone please help me understand the intentions of this message.”

The post was shared more than 2,500 times, generating thousands of comments. Some were supportive of Yo Gotti’s success and the image he portrayed for SCS graduates.

Others questioned why a rapper would be held up by the school district as a success story. Last year, Yo Gotti was named a person of interest after another rapper he’s been feuding with was shot.

By late Friday, the billboard was removed, apparently a short time after it went up.

Cequita McKennley, who lives nearby, say it looks like it took time to design such an intricate billboard campaign–so why not defend the decision to post the superstar in the first place.

“I don’t understand why they took it down seems like there was some backlash. But that’s an opportunity for dialogue,” she said.

She says while variety is needed, the controversial campaign does shine a light on what’s relevant and real in the neighborhoods where some students live —and she says using that as a tool to inspire is genius.

“They love Yo Gotti. Embrace that, recognize what is that we are attracted to,” she said. “He’s a product of SCS — he’s a product of the environment and he’s world renowned.”

Shelby County Schools responded by pointing out that Yo Gotti has supported Frayser and schools in the area in the past.

“The billboard isn’t an endorsement of Yo Gotti or his lyrics, but we wanted a figure in the community that kids could recognize and relate to. Gotti has done a lot of good in the Frayser community in the past and supported schools in the area.”

But Yo Gotti is only one SCS graduate featured in the campaign. DJ Devin Steel, a Central High grad, is also featured.

SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson responded on Twitter that the district is “Always searching for ways to reach ALL of our constituents and highlight people who have benefited from public education.”

One of those graduates is Hopson himself, who graduated from Whitehaven High.