Yo Gotti is your favorite hustler’s favorite rapper, your favorite rapper’s favorite hustler, and one of rap music’s most respected musicians. But that doesn’t mean the running back of rap hasn’t taken a few hits in life before landing where he is now, in the end zone. Having made multi-millions off of a rap career that runs a decade, the Emmitt Smith of Hip Hop has a ground game like none other.
The crowned King of Memphis, dedicated Grizzly fan, successful entrepreneur and proud family man took a stop in Atlanta between shows to link with editor Tone Swep for this in-depth interview and DOPE MAG exclusive cover shoot.
Read an Excerpt from the Full Length Interview
(Tone Swep: TS) You performed at the historic Orpheum yesterday, a theatre made famous by Elvis. You are the first rapper to ever perform there, and you brought Jeezy, Ca$h Out, and Nelly out as surprise guests. What was the energy like? Had to be a special moment.
(Yo Gotti: GOTTI) It was special with me being from Memphis and knowing the history of the venue, knowing all of the artists who performed there before me. Even having the idea to approach it was ambitious on my part, but I thought they would turn me down at first. But I knew we would sell it out if I got to do it because the city love me. So once it got past that phase, I made some calls and got Jeezy on; Nelly on. Man it was a crazy show, definitely one of the biggest nights of my career.
(TS) Any crazy groupie stories after the show? I know the chicks were chasing you down man?
(GOTTI) (Laughs!) Man, I been doing this for a minute so that sh!t don’t excite me no more. We focus on money, getting money and winning. We let the rest of them chase the women. We focus on winning cuz getting women is slight work (Laughs!). That’s all the time with us.
(TS) Talk a little about your ground game as a teen. That ground hustle. How was life coming up on the north side of Memphis before your early projects like “From the Dope Game 2 Da Rap Game” in 2000 and “Self-Explanatory” in 2001, before you delved full-time into your rap career?
(GOTTI) I was just out there in them streets hustling trying to get it how I live, a teenager trying to take care of his family; take care of his mother and sister while his brother in the penitentiary. That first CD said exactly what it was. I was just in the streets hustling. I come from a family of hustlers.
(TS) Was there a particular life event, or tragic circumstance, that forced you into the streets?
(GOTTI) Just the responsibility of wanting to see my mother have a better life; making sure my sister had a better life. I went ahead and accepted that responsibility when I was young and it paid off. That was really the only goal. Everything that came with it was more of a surprise to me, because initially it was just about getting my mama and my sister, really my whole family because I come from a big one, out of how we were living. It was about getting them to a better place and making sure they had a better life. And we was all blessed to have made that happen.
(TS) Dudes choose rap for different reasons. What was yours?
(GOTTI) I was blessed with the talent. God gave me the gift to put words together and make popular songs. But once I realized that you could actually make money off of it… Because before that, I felt like I had bigger responsibilities than making songs. Rap was slowly becoming one of my hustles, but it wasn’t my main hustle. But I come from a family of hustlers, so once I figured the hustle out and mastered it, I took it to my brothers like… “we can flip this just like we flip anything else”… and they were with it but also sort of slow to come all the way on board. Because they were in the streets too. A lot of my people still are.
(TS) Talk a little about Cocaine Muzik Group, namely Zed Zilla and Sylver Karatz. Is CMG the next movement in rap?
(GOTTI) To me, CMG is primed to be for Epic what Roc A Fella was for Def Jam. What No Limit was for Priority. What Cash Money is for Universal. Different talented artists, not just Gangsta rap or whatever, but different genres of music from rap to R&B, even some rock and country music. And good music with a sound business arrangement with their major label partner.
(TS) As a business, rap has gone from selling records to selling out shows. Platinum sales were the standard, now its performing in stadiums and theatres like Orpheum. Are rappers in a better place now, or before? Has the game changed for the better?
(GOTTI) I look at it like this, I believe your success is based off what your goals are. Are you trying to feed your family or have plaques on the wall and be broke? In that case, I think the game is in a better place. We have all heard of famous artists who are broke. Then we know of artists who may have had only a song or two on radio, but have a million or two dollars off that quick come up. Speaking for myself, my first priority is to take care of my family. That’s first and foremost. Mama living how she wants to live now. Sister living how she wants to live now. Keeping my family out of prison best I can. That is success to me. I created that without selling records. Making Yo Gotti a brand. But as a competitive artist, of course I want to compete. But I already got the money, so now its about the rest. I’m a hustler. Long as I can walk and talk and see, I’m going to get money regarldless. No matter what I do. True hustler. But like LeBron James, we already know how good the man is. We know he can play. He’s rich. But he still want a ring. N!ggas know my music hot. That’s proven. Now its time to get the ring.
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