Over the past ten years, Yo Gotti’s steady hustle and distinct flow has made him one of the South’s most consistent on the underground circuit. He’s racked up cosigns from industry heavyweights like Lil’ Wayne and Young Jeezy. Rick Ross called on Gotti for the all-star remix to God Forgives, I Don’t’s “Hold Me Back,” Funkmaster Flex used Gotti’s “Gansta of the Year” for his latest project Who You Mad At? Me or Yourself?, B.o.B. got the assist from Gotti for the banging remix to “We Still In This Bitch” and now rumor has it the King of the South, T.I. is looking to add Gotti to the Hustle Gang family. He attributes all of the support he’s garnered simply to an appreciation for good music. “It ain’t like they losing by rocking with me,” he says. Now with a new deal through Epic Records, the CMG general is planning to take his independent grind to the masses. Life + Times chopped it up with Memphis’s other most known unknown about what it’s like to finally have an effective major label backing him, rappers swagga-jacking the Memphis sound, and earning the respect of his peers.
Life + Times: You’ve been in the game for over ten years. How have you been able to maintained relevance over such a long period?
Yo Gotti: Consistency and good music. What most don’t understand is that it don’t matter what building you in. At the end of the day, it matters if you got good music, good product and can get it to them. They ain’t gonna not like you because you ain’t with these labels, and they ain’t gonna like you because you’re with these labels. The music gotta be consistent, right?
L+T: You recently signed a deal with Epic Records. How did it come together?
YG: I been on this independent movement for years. I did a couple deals with a couple labels, they ain’t work. I was in a situation where I was able to buy myself out of the deal. Once I got free, I was going to stay 100 percent independent and not rock with another major, because I wasn’t feelin’ the way they moved versus the way I moved. You know what I mean? And it went from that point to a bunch of labels tryna sign me, putting a lot of money on the table, but I wasn’t tryna move. Once I met with LA Reid and Epic I felt they could take my brand CMG to the top. It was just the perfect partnership. It’s a label deal. We just trying to build an empire. We’re gonna come with a few artists and just try to build it up. We’re just trying to be like what Roc-A-Fella was with Def Jam, what Murda Inc was with Def Jam. That’s what we’re trying to build.
L+T: Was that always your vision? To be able to build a brand and watch it grow?
YG: Yeah it’s always been the goal for me. I looked up to the Babys & the Slims [of Cash Money], the Master Ps, the J Princes. You know what I’m saying? I studied them from young. I always wanted to build a brand. It was always bigger than me.
L+T: Your major label debut Live From the Kitchen was released on RCA Records. How will your Epic debut differ from that?
YG: I mean it’s already different. My album may come out in October and I’m setting up now. We planning, we strategizing now. You know what I’m saying? The layout began in ten days and we ain’t even know it was coming. We been working with the different departments and working on different plans.
L+T: And Epic’s fully behind you.
YG: Most definitely. It’s a perfect partnership. It’s a balanced partnership. That’s how everybody win. I’m not just sitting back waiting for things to happen. I’m use to doing things myself. It’s a partnership. I gotta do my part also.
L+T: You’ve spent the majority of your career as an independent artist, but now you’re on a major label. Has that in any way affected the music?
YG: Nah, the music’s the same. It’s the same content. The only thing is it gets bigger. We may get bigger production, but the content is always the same, because I can only speak about what I don’ lived.
L+T: Have you started recording the next album?
YG: Most definitely. It’s about 80% done, but I’m just a workaholic. I keep recording. I keep going in and coming up with better material. We in a good position already though. I did a record with Sean Kingston. I think that’s gon’ be a big record. I did a record with Lil’ Wayne that I think it’s gon’ be a big record. I did some stuff with Jeezy. I got a few records that’s gon’ be crazy.
L+T: How have you been able to build and maintain such great relationships with some of hip-hop’s elite?
YG: It’s respect, you know? And again, consistency with the music. These artists that’s big know what Yo Gotti mean to the culture. They know who I am in the streets, so it ain’t like they losing by rocking with me. It’s just that respect. And they actually my homeboys.
L+T: You have the Cocaine Musik Varsity jackets. A few years ago, Young Jeezy received a lot of backlash over his Snowman campaign. Have you received any backlash for the jackets?
YG: Nah, but just to bring you up to speed with that – the whole concept is a marketing tool. The music is addictive. You know what I mean? Once you play the music you gon’ be stuck on it. That’s the reference. We don’t mean we’re selling cocaine or nothing like that. It’s addictive music. It’s music you gon’ fiend to. That’s the whole marketing strategy behind it. And music is weak nowadays. They need some cocaine music.
L+T: Being from Memphis, how do you feel about the current state of Memphis Rap right now? Do you feel like outsiders are borrowing elements of Memphis and not giving the city its proper credit?
YG: Right now, I am Memphis. Outside of me, you got Zed Zilla, you got Don Trip – he making noise out there. And then Juicy J just revamped his whole situation. Nobody else really holding it up like that. I ain’t complaining. I don’t complain about people taking pieces of the sound and running with it and making money off it. I feel like if somebody take it, it deserve to be took. I gotta focus on what I gotta do. I ain’t got time to focus on that stuff.