It's one thing to make a song, but to tell a story is quite another. For the film "Gotti," a biopic based on John Gotti's rise to power, the task of storytelling was bestowed on rapper Dax Mpire (of the Narcotechs) and singer-songwriter Chetti by the one and only John A. Gotti. Using "Shadow Of My Father" as source material, the pair went to work on telling the story of Gotti Jr.'s relationship with his father, who died in 2002. Hoping to capture the essence of the relationship between father and son, they wound up striking a chord with Gotti, who used the record to soundtrack film. Since its release, the record has spawned positive response, including a co-sign by LL Cool J. Here, Dax and Chetti speak on how the track "Shadow of My Father" all came together.
How does it feel knowing that the film is out, as well as this this process?
Dax Mpire: It was a surreal feeling, you know, we created the song a couple of years ago and you never really know how everything is going to pan out and lo and behold, Mr. John Gotti took a liking to the record that we created and he fought for it to really be in this movie. So for me, I honestly was like, until I see it in the credits and I hear it, I really wasn't going to believe that it was real. So when it did happen, it definitely was one of the greatest feelings that I've had in my life. It was an accomplishment and for whatever it's worth, it was one of those bucket list things that you'll never forget.
Chetti: Especially getting to create a record that's so close to him, his life, and his father's story. We got to read the book "Shadow of My Father" and I know a little about his family — I'm Sicilian — so, it's a really tight knit family so for me to read that book and speak that truth and bring art to that life, so that experience was so special. I kept my mouth so shut, until I knew and got to the theater and took a deep breath and heard us, I let out a sigh of relief [Laughs].
Mpire: Part of that legacy, the Gotti legacy, especially if you're from New York, is huge. He was the last real godfather, his son was the last of that connection and the story is just so unique and so real, you can't help but be drawn to it and just feel amazed to be a part of it.
How did all of this come together?
Mpire: Well, a friend of mine was dating a friend of their's and just from small talk, he was like yeah they're working on some music for the movie and she was like "Oh my brother does… and you should hear his stuff. The guy was like, "Alright, well introduce me." Randomly introduced me to this guy, shoutout to James, and he was like, "Yo you should really try creating something for this movie." They really want to work with independents, they don't really want to work with anyone too big at the time and so, I was like, I read the book like [Chetti] did and 60 Minutes interviews and I wrote a song, had one of my mans make the beat, and we sent it to them. Lo and behold, a few weeks later, they hit me back and said he really liked the song and he wants to meet. He connected me with Chetti and we built upon that and she added her flavor to the record and it became bigger because it wasn't rap anymore, now we had vocals and rap and it wasn't a trap sound, it was more classical feel and that's really how it happened. We struck a chord with his heart and that's what kept us in the movie.
Chetti: It's so sick because we came from two separate ends on this. John reached out and he knew because his lawyer Charlie is like my uncle. So Charlie actually, who actually plays himself in the movie as his legal counsel, told him about my music and he had been following my music career and he was like, "here read the book." I'll never forget, I went to his office and he told me a little bit about the book and I remember sitting there at the desk and him handing me the book, and I went home — I had such an impression of him, going about the way we know his father to be the dapper don that charismatic, very stoic yet warm and intriguing and inviting man. I sat there and I'll never forget like feeling such a responsibility to make this thing so true and real and, like Dax said, strike a chord in his heart. So I went home, sat the piano and started writing. My original version of this was just keys and a horn section, and a little bit of tambourine and my vocals. So he was like, I want to bring some flavor to it and we need to [add to it]. So he connected me with Dax and we went into the studio were able to blend both of our concepts together. It was great because he created this connection.
Mpire: It was cool, because he really understood that, in his talks with me, that hip-hop and that urban side was important, especially if you grew up in New York. Everything is really intertwined. He didn't want to make this a completely Italian thing, where you lose sight of everything else that goes on in New York City. And I respected him for that. He wanted it to be more real, which is why he bridged the gap between her and us and we were able to come up with, what I believe, is a beautiful record.
So he really played maestro.
Mpire It's been going on back and forth for years, so you really just never know what's going to happen and for it to come into fruition is amazing.
What were the studio sessions like?
Mpire: He's definitely imposing [Laughs]. You know his story and his legacy so you definitely don't want to let him down. It's a [very personal] story. When I read the book, there were certain parts that really stuck out to me and I tried to incorporate them in the song. I remember him giving me the nod, the first time he heard the vocals and I was like, alright cool I'm good. And we left it at that. He really allows you to be creative in your own right, and then he'll add in his suggestions. He definitely respects the artistic process that people go through. "I don't know nothing about this Dax, but I'm telling you I like what I hear."
Chetti: But it was nice to have him there. When we were in the studio, it was so dope because we had him there listening to words and the story about his father and his life. So having him be there, like Dax said, he was like, "I really don't know anything about music, but I like this." So it was nice, it was really great.
Mpire: His side of the story really needed to be told. His father done a lot of things, he was looked at a certain way by some people and a different way by others, but John Jr. definitely took a stand as a man and chose to walk his own path and to create his own life for himself, despite how his father felt about things and that's the whole beauty of the movie itself and "Shadow of My Father," the record and the book. It's that there's a duality to human beings. There's always more than one side. This side needed to be told, and we helped to express that as well.