Throughout his career, Yo Gotti has embodied the timeless adage “patience is a virtue.” With a résumé including “5 Star Chick,” “Act Right” and “Down in the DM,” Gotti’s penchant for club bangers and boss moves — he heads up the CMG imprint (Collective Music Group) — landed him a deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation last December.
This year, Gotti has quickly proved his worth. The Memphis star recently released his collaborative EP with Mike Will Made-It titled Gotti Made-It, dropped his “Rake It Up” single with Nicki Minaj and will co-headline the Against All Odds Tour with Meek Mill this summer. He’ll also be performing at the Fed-Ex Forum arena in Memphis for his annual Birthday Bash later this month.
Billboard recently spoke to Yo Gotti about his new project with Mill Will, why he loves working with Nicki Minaj, advice he has received from Jay Z and Diddy, and if T.I. really created trap music.
You just released your collaborative EP Gotti Made-It with Mike Will Made-It. What makes the chemistry between you and Mike Will different from any other producer that you’ve worked with in the past?
I’ve worked with a lot of producers before [but] I’ve never worked on an isolated project with one producer. This was a first. I think that was unique because I normally work with different producers throughout my albums or ‘tapes that I put out. So we wanted to do something different.
Me and Mike Will knew each other a long, long time ago and we haven’t done a lot of work since he blew up and did his thang and I did my thang. We decided that we needed to do something together like it had to be bigger than a record. It had to be bigger than one song or two songs on an album. Let’s go in and do a whole project where we both put our creativity together and go make something special.
You recently released a song titled “Letter to the Trap” where you spoke on how grateful you were for the trap, despite losing your homies in the process. How have you managed to stay appreciative of the trap knowing the toll it took on you emotionally?
That’s what these streets give you. “Letter to the Trap” is a real approach on how I really feel. It’s like when you’re in that culture and you’re living that life, there’s always obstacles when trying to get out. You get out and then you realize how intense the sh-t really was. Not that it was fun, but it was your life. It’s almost like you can’t even replace it. Just as well as that same hustle moved my mama out the hood or helped me pay for my sister to get through school, it put my homeboys in prison for a very long time. It took some of my homies’ lives. It’s a bittersweet situation. It’s like you appreciate everything that came from it, but at the same time, you wish you can rewind a lot of things that came with it.
Trap music, to me, is a person talking about their encounters and life of being in the streets really trapping. Trap music to me isn’t just a sound. If we’re talking about what I think trap music is, I couldn’t say that I created it or no one created it, because if you were living the same life that I was living and you’re speaking about it, we just speaking about our endeavors in that world.
You’ve been rocking with Nicki Minaj since 2009’s “5 Star Chick” remix. You featured her on your new song, “Rake It Up.” What separates Nicki from artists that you’ve worked with in the past?
I got a lot of respect for Nicki on many different levels. As an artist, I think she’s super dope and she always kills the verses every time. I got a lot of respect for her as a business woman. She a boss. Whenever I’ve dealt with Nicki on a record whether it was “5 Star Chick” to “Down in the DM” to “Rake It Up,” she’ll be very hands-on with her business. She’s very in tune with everything that she’s a part of, even if it’s a feature. Whether it’s something small like the mix and master, she’s involved, and I have a lot of respect for her because of that. A lot of artists don’t give a f-ck. They’ll do their verse and not give a f-ck how the artwork is. Many things that are little to some people, like the tedious things, she be on her sh-t and that’s how I am. I be on my sh-t so from one boss to another, I really respect her business.
You have the Against All Odds Tour coming up with Meek Mill this July. Can you backtrack to the first song or mixtape of Meek’s that instantly made you a fan?
Meek like my bro. Meek like a brother. The first record I’ve ever did with Meek was “Don’t Panic.” If I can recall, I met up with him over the phone for the first time. I think he hit me up about doing the feature for “Don’t Panic.” I think we talked on the phone and he sent the record. I sent it back. This was all before we met each other. Then, I think the first time we met each other was for the “Don’t Panic” video down in Atlanta. I pulled up and shot the video. I think that was the first time that we actually met in person. Ever since then, we just linked up and started rocking. We’ve been a hunnid ever since. For the tour, we’ll be taking YFN Lucci and Moneybagg Yo out. These are some of the hottest, young cats coming up in these streets right now in the game.
Before you head on tour with Meek, you have the Birthday Bash down in your hometown of Memphis. What does it mean for you and the city of Memphis knowing that you’ll be performing at the FedExForum, where the Grizzles play?
For a young kid from the projects of Ridgecrest Apartments in lower Memphis, this is everything. It’s big for us to go to the games and [be] sitting on the floor seats, It’s another [thing to be] performing in an arena from where we come from. These types of accomplishments don’t represent or symbolize money, they symbolize growth. That’s how I look at it going from one venue to the next one. The biggest one that’s in town is the FedExForum arena. We’re not even thinking about the money that’s involved in it. We’re thinking about [how] we came from a hole-in-the-wall club in the hood from our side of town to doing the FedExForum arena. That symbolizes growth, success, and all the work that we’ve put in.
You’ve aligned yourself with power players like Jay Z and Diddy. What’s the best advice each of them has given you from a business perspective.?
You know what’s dope? Now that I’m business partners with Jay Z [at Roc Nation], Jay gives me a lot of game and he motivates me. Just being able to pick up the phone and call Jay and just the working relationship that I have with him, that alone motivates me.
The Jay Zs and Puffs motivated me before they even knew they motivated me. Before I even had a business partner relationship with Jay or a cool relationship with Puff where I can hit him on the phone or he hit me, I studied them. They motivated me indirectly before they even knew it because these are the guys that I studied in the game. I didn’t study no rappers when I was coming up. I was studying moguls. I was studying Jay Z. I was studying Puff. I was studying Master P. I was studying Birdman and Slim. I was studying J Prince. These were the people I watched when I was coming up. I wasn’t really looking at rappers.
Do you feel that your CMG brand will only get stronger with Blac Youngsta and Snootie Wild on your team?
Of course. I think CMG is gonna grow and only get bigger and bigger. We’re gonna continue to find the right talent and do everything that’s necessary because I got an “I will not lose” mentality. It don’t matter how we’re putting the music out, or how we’re partnering up with to put it out with. If you’re under CMG, you have an “I will not lose” mentality. We’re gonna do everything and beyond to make sure our artists win. The independent mindset, no matter who we’re gonna go to business with, will forever be in our heads. We’re not afraid to spend our own money. We’re not afraid to take our own chances. We’re not afraid to own our work with our artists.