- Hip-hop artist and entrepreneur Yo Gotti spoke to Insider at Roc Nation’s Manhattan office in an interview tied to the release of his new album, “CM10: Free Game.”
- Gotti discussed the making of the album, his business partnerships with Jay-Z, Roc Nation, and Interscope, and his co-ownership in the Major League Soccer team DC United.
In January 2020, weeks before the pandemic hit, I spoke to Yo Gotti about his album “Untrapped” at Insider’s Financial District office. The interview went down in a cramped conference room, the only space I was able to reserve in what was then a densely crowded workplace.
In November of last year, we ran it back at a less claustrophobic location.
Ahead of the projected release of his new album, “CM10: Free Game,” Gotti and I spoke in the executive boardroom at Roc Nation’s Manhattan office about the making of the album; his business partnerships with Jay-Z, Roc Nation, and Interscope; his connections to the billionaires Michael Rubin and Robert Kraft; and his co-ownership in the Major League Soccer team DC United.
We also got into the success of Gotti’s record label, CMG Records, and its roster of signed artists, including his fellow Memphis natives Moneybagg Yo, Blac Youngsta, and BlocBoy JB, along with Detroit’s 42 Dugg and Louisville’s EST Gee.
Following the interview in November, Gotti pushed the album back several months. The double-sided project dropped last Friday, accompanied by an opportunity for fans to record, upload to
services, and make money off their own versions of his album track “Dolla Fo’ Dolla.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How often do you come through to Roc Nation? For press shit primarily?
For what now?
For press shit primarily?
Nah, nah, nah. This my office. I work out of here, you know what I’m saying? I work out of the Roc Nation office whenever I’m in town. I love this energy that’s in the building. The history, you know.. to be able to work close with Dez, and I mean just the whole vibe of the office, man. You see just what they built here. This shit just energy, you know what I’m saying? Inspiration.
I gotta ask off top about this “For The Record” video, man. The salt flats to the city in a chopper is an elite flex. That was a dope video.
Yeah. “For The Record.” Yeah. Yeah, that was a dope video.
What was the approach to putting that out first, as a lead single?
Well, uh.. It was just a record to me. I don’t think I thought that deep about it as like, “This gonna be the lead single.” It was more of a message, you know what I’m saying? If you listen to what I’m saying in the record, it’s a lot of things I wanted to say. It’s a lot of things I wanted to put out. So I think of it like a good warm up record.
What about conceptually.. you dropped “Untrapped.” Moving on from that, how did you approach this new body of work?
Honestly it changed a couple different times. Like I started recording during the pandemic and I was gonna put out one thing. And then it opened back up, I started going back outside and I changed what it was gonna be. And then we went back on lockdown, and then it changed again, you know what I’m saying? So it kinda like went from one thing to another one, but I’m glad it did over time because it ended up scoping into being “CM10: Free Game,” which is my overall message that I always say anyway. You know, I’m an advocate on sharing information, giving out game. So it end up going down that path.
You said on the last record, you spent millions on your artists, and you did it consistently.
That investment paid off in the pandemic, I’d imagine.
That investment been paying off, you know what I’m saying? But it’s also a revolving investment. These ain’t no things where like you invest millions and then you get a payday. Right? We spend millions every month, probably every week. We spending more millions back into the same artists to keep developing they career to the next level, and the next level. And so it’s a never ending hustle, right? It’s always resources that have to be spent. And you gotta imagine, the greater level anyone get on the greater expense come with it as well.
You’re 25 years into the game..
It been that long?
It’s been that long, I think.
What type of keys do you impart to your artists, with that type of experience?
Say that again?
What are the keys you impart to like your younger artists, to Bagg, to Dugg?
Uh, stay focused, be consistent. And one of the things I’ve been on lately, big thing I’ve been on, is
. You know, we see a lot of money. We make a lot of money. It’s easy to spend the money. It’s harder to keep it and save it, you know? So I’m on some wealth shit right now, with my guys that I’m working with. Like, let’s save the money, let’s invest the money. Let’s put it in the right places. Let’s not just buy every chain and watch we see. Let’s make sure at the end of this run, we all on top of the hill somewhere tripping off this shit.
[Laugh]. You know what I’m saying?
Do you see.. with the age gap between you and your artists, the wisdom you’ve acquired.. do they look up to you in that way?
I think because we likewise people from likewise places that we relate to each other.
I was gonna ask, the geography of it..
Yeah. I don’t know if the age itself play a part in it, more so than the fact that we can relate and understand each other and respect each other. You know, because.. we have an open table policy, meaning like, just ‘cuz you younger don’t necessarily mean I have all the right answers. Like you could give me some information that I don’t have, that I could use. So that’s how we try to have an open table policy.
And you got EST Gee from Louisville, Dugg from Detroit. Artists from Memphis. Is that regional.. are there differences there that are fruitful to ideation, or is there common background and that allows for creativity?
Nah, I think dope music is dope music. When you talk about from a creative standpoint, I think you talking about from a real life standpoint. Going back to what I said, having similar backgrounds, all them guys you just named, we all come from the street, where we all face the same struggle at one point or another. So no matter what city you in, we still face the same thing. We still was trying to get out of the same thing, you know.
On the album, you got a track related to the “All-White Party” that Michael Rubin threw in the Hamptons. How do you put that into a song? [Laugh].
How do you encapsulate that?
Uh, the party was so dope. Shoutout to Michael Rubin for the invite. But, uh.. I was just inspired, you know what I’m saying? By the house itself, the party itself. The company that he invited. You know, all that energy. At the end of the day, man, I’m a respected entrepreneur now. A growing business man. And I already accomplished a lot of things. But, you know, first and foremost, I’m a project kid, right? That I never imagined being in these type of rooms at some point in my life. Right? So that shit like.. sometimes it be moments like that. They the surreal moments, but real moments. ‘Cuz it’s like, in one sense, “I feel like I supposed to be here.” Right? But then in another moment you feel like, “Damn, I’m hurr.”
You get what I’m saying? [Laugh]. So, it’s just dope.
You chop it up with Robert Kraft at all?
Yeah, I like Robert Kraft, man. I got a lot of respect for Robert Kraft and Michael Rubin. Not even just from my time around those guys, but even just the outside looking in, you know.. The time they’ve been around Meek and other artists I think is dope. You know what I’m saying? I think in generations before now, I don’t know if we ever seent that before. I don’t know if we ever seent guys like them, in positions like them, with the power them guys have, that bump shoulder to shoulder and hand to hand in the same rooms and tables with guys from upbringing like us, you know what I’m saying? So I got a lot of respect for them for that. ‘Cause they motivate us too. I don’t know if they know it or not, but they motivate us, you know what I’m saying? Like me and Meek talk about shit like that.
That was out in the Hamptons. Do you like the Hamptons?
Yeah. That was my first time going to it, and what a way to go.
You know what I’m saying? I actually had planned on going on some just chill shit. And that was my first time going. So my first time in the Hamptons was super dope.
You ever take a chopper with Michael Rubin? I know that’s how he tends to get around.
Nah, I don’t rock with the choppers, man.
You know, I don’t really like flying. Period. Airplanes, helicopters. I never ever been on a helicopter actually. Ever.
Since Kobe’s death, I don’t know how anybody does it.
Yeah, but way before that. Like I never.. it’s just never been my thing. I don’t like planes. None of that. I really don’t like to fly, but I have to.
Wanted to get into the DC United. What drew you to MLS ownership? What made that the move?
The opportunity presented itself. Being a businessman, I took the opportunity. But uh, leading up into that, my son played soccer for a while. That’s the only sport he ever played. So I got familiar with the sport through him. When I met Jason and the guys over there at DC United, I started to go to games. I went to a few games, a couple home games, a couple away games. And we had a lot of different conversations on probably what I could bring to the organization, and vice versa. I think it was a dope opportunity to be a part of. And I think we gonna bring some dope activations to the organization.
You ever play soccer? I was horrendous at it.
I kicked a few balls in the Audi Field. And I scored, actually.
Kicking it around with your son too, I’d imagine.
Yeah, my son though.. He too good, man. He’ll fuck around and hurt you. Meaning like, you be in field and he’ll twist your ankle or something.
[Laugh]. Cross you up?
Yeah, he got that feet work. [Laugh].
Since we last spoke, you partnered CMG with Interscope.
What made that the move in.. I think it was June that happened.
I think Interscope, in my opinion, is the best label. In my opinion, they forward thinking. They open to new ideas. They not running the company how record labels were running it 20 years ago, like a lot of other record labels still are, you know? They true partners in a sense of, they not getting in our way. They never got in our way. So to me, it seemed like the best fit for what I’m doing and what I’m building.
I’d be remiss to not ask, since we’re here at Roc Nation.. what has Jay-Z’s experience as a label head meant to you? What has he imparted to you on that front?
Yeah. I always get Jay opinion or advice on a lot of the bigger things I do. You know, different business inquiries, I’m always sending through Roc Nation to vet it and make sure I ain’t going down the wrong roads, per se. You know what I’m saying, like, I’m a team player and I believe in strategic partnerships, even my partnership with Roc Nation. So, when it come to certain things, I’m gonna make sure that I’m sending it down the right channels to make sure it’s the correct moves that I’m thinking of or making. So, Jay, Roc Nation, the whole family, big part in a lot of the moves you see me making, a lot of the vetting behind the scene and making sure I ain’t doing the wrong things, I ain’t making mistakes doing it.
Like I ain’t at the point in life where I’m trying to incur mistakes. You get what I’m saying? So I gotta double check and triple check these things, and having a partner like Jay and Roc Nation, they already been through these ropes before. They already inquired different things and experienced these things years ago that I’m experiencing now. So I would be a fool not to ax your big homie, you know what I’m saying, “Yo, what you think about this, or how you feel about this, or how this go?” Some people too prideful to ax for help or ax for answers. That never been me.
What do you hope to see from the reaction to the coming album?
Reaction to the coming album? I just wanna cause impact. It’s a double CD. Side A, Side B. Which is different. I don’t think nobody done that yet in this new digital world. Used to happen back when physical CDs was coming out, but even then, I don’t know if anybody ever approached it like two albums on the same day type thing. So it’s a different approach. So I think at where I’m at in my career, everything is about impact and legacy, and showing the younger hustlers to be open, to create shit, not just follow shit, you know? So I think it’s gonna be fun. I think it’s gonna be unique, and I think it’s gonna have a culture impact.