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Yo Gotti

There is no denying that Yo Gotti is one of the hottest rappers in the streets, with some of the highest quality music. His street albums make serious noise without a major push, he stays on the road performing paid shows and his fan base has boomed in the past few years. He currently boasts nearly 1.3 million fans on his Facebook page alone.

All of this momentum sets the stage Yo Gotti’s Live From The Kitchen, slated for release in January 2012 via Polo Grounds Music/RCA. This highly anticipated album expands upon the sound made famous with his popular Cocaine Muzik mixtape series. In 2011, Gotti also realized the formal launch of his own Cocaine Muzik Group label, and debuted Zed Zilla‘s Rent’s Due mixtape as the first official release.

Live From the Kitchen has a lot to do with where Yo Gotti came from (a hustler from Memphis’ rugged Ridge Crest Apartments) and where he’s trying to go with his music (to a worldwide audience). “It’s a street term, because the kitchen is where you cook it up and where it starts from before you take it to the streets,” explains Yo Gotti. “We’re relating that to the music and the whole movement of cocaine music. I’ve got the mixtape series Cocaine Muzik, which means that once you put the CD in your music player, you’ll get addicted to it just as you would be with cocaine.”

And Yo Gotti’s sonic product is Grade A. His uncanny ability to translate real life situations and experience into memorable songs makes Yo Gotti so potent. It’s something he developed while listening to the great story raps of Memphis pioneers 8 Ball & MJG. “When I listen to music, I don’t like it if I can’t see it, if I can’t imagine it happening,” he says. “If it’s like that, I can’t mess with it.”

Growing up in Memphis, Yo Gotti quickly learned about recognizing reality. When he was in the third grade, Federal agents raided his family’s residence. His mother and his aunts were indicted and sent to serve 10 to 15 years because they refused to snitch. No wonder he feels as though he was virtually born into street life. “That’s the bloodline I come from,” he boasts. “I’ve got women that are realer than the dudes out here.”

Yo Gotti soon started running with kids five or six years older than him. They called him Yo (short for his given name, Mario) and added the Gotti surname later because of his affinity for doing things kids his age typically didn’t do — shoot dice, watch out for the police and recruit his own crew of kids that followed him. Funny thing is, Yo Gotti had no idea about the Gotti crime family at the time. He was just that thorough.

Rather than feel as though his opportunities were limited, Yo Gotti chose to focus on becoming successful. “Coming from Memphis, it makes you strong and it makes you grind more,” he says. “Out here, nothing is given to you. Nobody helps you do anything. So if you’re going to get it, you’ve got to go get it. Literally. I think that’s why you don’t hear about that many rappers from Memphis like you do from other cities. But it helped me because I’m not the type of guy that complains. From where I come from, you could be dead or in jail. So I wasn’t expecting anyone to do anything for me.”

Thus, Yo Gotti would take advantage of any and every opportunity. Through his brother, Yo Gotti got to interact with and study the business savvy (and lack thereof) of several prominent Memphis rappers. He then used the work of N.W.A, 8 Ball & MJG and Cash Money as a blueprint for his own reality-based raps. As he refined his own music, Yo Gotti took different things from Memphis’ two most successful rap outfits. His goal was to rap about real subject matter like 8Ball & MJG with the energy and intensity of Three 6 Mafia.

Yo Gotti’s self-created buzz in Memphis lead to a deal with TVT Records, home then to Lil Jon, Ying Yang Twins, Pitbull and others. But when the imprint went bankrupt in 2008, he was given three days to come up with $500,000 to buy his contract and gain his independence. Ever the businessman, Yo Gotti paid for his contract himself – only to quickly sign a lucrative deal for himself and his Inevitable Entertainment with Polo Grounds Music/J Records (now RCA).

Despite other offers with more up-front money, Yo Gotti chose to sign with Polo Grounds Music because of the relationship he had with the company’s owner, Bryan Leach, who had initially signed Yo Gotti to TVT.

“I saw the work Yo Gotti was putting in in the streets of Memphis when I worked with TVT,” Leach says. “I knew that his grind and the high quality of his music made him someone I wanted to continue to do business with. He’s a street artist with the potential for massive mainstream success, and he’s relentless. That’s why I signed him twice.”

With a string of hugely successful major classic mixtapes and street albums — from 2000’s From Da Dope Game 2 Da Rap Game to 2009’s CM2 – Yo Gotti has been able to thrive during a period when many artists are seeing their popularity wane.

“I think what we’ve done in the last few years is living proof that if you hustle, you can survive regardless,” he says. “I’ve only been putting out mixtapes the last few years and now I’m the hottest I’ve ever been and have grossed the most money without putting a studio album out. If you’ve got good music and you’ve got a grind, you make a demand for yourself.”

The proof is Live From The Kitchen.