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What is Yo Gotti’s Net Worth?

Over the last few years, Yo Gotti has morphed from a regional cult hero in Memphis into a full-on titan of industry. Thanks to the explosive growth of his record label Collective Music Group—formerly known as Cocaine Muzik Group—Gotti has amassed a net worth of $16 million in the 22 years since his breakout 2000 mixtape From Da Dope Game 2 Da Rap Game. Here is how Yo Gotti mastered the art of the hustle.

Childhood Struggles:

Before Yo Gotti started rapping, he was Mario Mims. Born in 1981, Yo Gotti was raised in the Ridgecrest Apartments on the north side of Memphis, Tennessee. While Yo Gotti now has a net worth of $16 million, he didn’t have that same material comfort as a child. In his 2016 mini documentary “Born Hustler,” Gotti recalls that his mother and aunt sold drugs and that his father and brother were in and out of prison while he was growing up. When Gotti was in third grade, federal agents raided his house and arrested his mom and aunt, ultimately resulting in the two of them receiving 10-15 year sentences for refusing to cooperate with the police.

Early Buzz:

But rather than perpetuate the cycle of poverty, Gotti turned towards music. Inspired by Memphis hip hop pioneers such as Three Six Mafia, 8 Ball & MJG, Kingpin Skinny Pimp, Al Kapone and Gangsta Goo, Gotti became affiliated with DJ Sound (a pioneering Memphis-based producer) and began rapping when he was 14 under the pseudonym Lil Yo. His talent was evident from the beginning, as his very first tape “Youngsta on the Come Up” spread throughout the city; since Gotti’s career predates streaming or social media, he ginned up word of mouth buzz by distributing the cassette tapes to local record stores and also giving it to people while he sold weed. 

Career Breakthrough:

Building on the momentum generated by his early projects, Gotti became more and more prolific over time. To kick off the new millennium, Gotti dropped From Da Dope Game 2 Da Rap Game (2000) and Self Explanatory (2001), which elevated his profile beyond just Memphis. As a result, Gotti signed with TVT, a predominantly indie rock record label that was branching into hip hop in the 2000s. With TVT, Gotti continued to elevate his profile; his studio debut  Life (2003) boasted features from fellow Memphis icon Lil Jon. In 2006, Gotti’s career reached a new apex with the release of Back 2 Da Basics, which boosted him to new levels of renown. Notably, Gotti’s song “Full Time” was featured on the soundtrack of Hustle & Flow, a Terrence Howard movie about an up and coming rapper from Memphis. 

Stagnation:

After TVT went bankrupt and closed its doors for good in 2008, Gotti signed with RCA Records and Polo Grounds Music. Whereas TVT was a boutique label, RCA was—and still is—a powerhouse, signaling that the music industry at large had recognized Gotti’s talent. The Gotti-RCA marriage quickly soured though. With his RCA debut in perpetual limbo, Gotti released the first seven installments of his Cocaine Muzik mixtape series, which remain some of his best work to this day.

At long last, Gotti put out his major label debut Live From the Kitchen in 2012, ending a six year hiatus between studio albums. Although the album debuted at number 12 on the Billboard charts and was Gotti’s biggest commercial success to that point, it sold only 16,000 copies in its first week and 36,000 in its first month. The disappointing sales numbers opened a rift between Gotti and RCA as Gotti felt that the label didn’t do enough to promote and support his album. 

Birth of a Mogul:
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Following his falling out with RCA, Gotti inked a new deal with Epic Records and its legendary CEO L.A. Reid in 2013. And so the Collective Music Group was born. This partnership proved to be immediately successful—Gotti’s Epic/CMG debut I Am (2013) sold 48,000 copies during its first week, giving Gotti his first album to chart in the Billboard top 10. Since its initial release, I Am has sold over 500,000 copies and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2018. Similarly, Gotti’s next two albums The Art of the Hustle (2016) and I Still Am (2017) also went gold and debuted in the top ten. 

Emergence as a Pop Star:

During this torrid stretch, Gotti became a regular presence on mainstream radio for the first time in his career thanks to his collaborations with Nicki Minaj. “Down in the DMs,” the lead single for The Art of the Hustle, peaked at 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has since been certified triple platinum on account of selling more than 3,000,000 copies. On “Rake It In” in 2017, Gotti and Minaj built on the success of their first collaboration, giving Gotti the first top ten hit song of his career. 

Business Successes:

While Gotti’s hit songs and albums and non-stop touring have certainly been lucrative, his biggest windfall has been the broader success of CMG. As the CEO of CMG, Gotti has a keen eye for talent and has put together an incredibly deep and talented roster of artists. Accordingly, Gotti has played a major role in the careers of 42 Dugg, EST Gee and Moneybagg Yo, all of whom exploded after signing with CMG. 

Outside of music, Gotti has followed in the footsteps of other rappers-turned-tycoons like Jay Z and Drake by buying a stake in a professional sports team. In September 2021, Gotti became the first rapper to ever join a Major League Soccer ownership group, acquiring 1% of the DC United at a valuation of $730 million. 

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Music

Bops That Just Dropped: New Cardi B, City Girls and More

Every week a bunch of new projects, songs and snippets hit the airwaves and streaming platforms and it can be a tall task sorting through all of the noise. Luckily, ONE37pm is here to help keep you in tune with what should be on your radar. Summertime vibes have officially arrived. And some of our favorite artists have delivered some heat to help set the mood. This week we’ve been gifted with some new Cardi B, new City Girls and much more. Tap in with our weekly roundup below.

“Hot Shit” — Cardi B featuring Lil Durk and Ye

Bardi is back! The lead single to Cardi B’s hotly anticipated sophomore album has finally arrived. On it, she pulls up with a couple of Chicago legends by her side. “Hot Shit” features Lil Durk and Ye (aka Kanye West). The trio exercises their right to stunt on haters and slide on opps throughout the hard-hitting track produced by superproducer Tay Keith.

“Good Love” — City Girls featuring Usher

The City Girls from the 305 take it to the A-Town for their latest single. Titled, “Good Love,” the song is a collab with Usher, who is trending off of his stellar Tiny Desk performance. The Confessions singer opens the record with his silky smooth vocals, while Yung Miami and JT follow up with their signature NSFW bars. The uptempo record samples a mid 90s cult classic bass anthem by the name of “Freak It.” Now let’s get this party started and check out the Daps-directed video above.

‘Public Displays of Affection Too’ — Muni Long

Muni Long has written hits for herself and others. The singer-songwriter first made a name for herself by penning songs for a long list of hit-makers, including Rihanna, Chris Brown, Ariana Grande, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Kelly Clarkson and Selena Gomez. She now receives critical acclaim for the hit records she crafts for herself. This year, her breakthrough single, “Hrs And Hrs,” peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. Following the success of her first platinum song, the Def Jam artist releases her Public Displays of Affection Too EP. The 5-track project features the singles “Pain” and “Another,” as well as the Saweetie-assisted “Baby Boo.”

Gucci Mane shouts out YSL on his latest. It’s a collaboration with Lil Baby, called “All Dz Chainz.” Joey Bada$$ also drops off some new music with “Where I Belong.” Check out our weekly playlist below and don’t forget to come back every Friday for a roundup of what’s new in music.

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Music

The Best Music Merch for Fashionable Fans

Music and other forms of art mesh at many intersections. One of the most notable crossovers is music merch: this is where recording artists and fashion designers connect to make memorable pieces of clothes for fans.

One of the most intriguing aspects of music merchandise is the fact that it’s a useful form of marketing that artists get paid for. In addition to that, it’s a great way for fans to directly connect with their favorite artists, beyond just listening to their music.

Without further ado, here’s a look at some of our favorite examples of music merch (in no particular order):

1. Spider Worldwide (Young Thug)

Spider Worldwide made a huge entrance in the past year. It’s become pretty likely to come across someone rocking Young Thug‘s clothing brand, especially its signature matching sweatsuit in various colors. Though that sweatsuit has become their staple, Spider Worldwide has a variety of other innovative and stylish pieces.

2. Griselda Records (Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine)
Griselda Records / Grailed

As seen in the Westside Gunn piece featured above (which translates to “Almighty”), Griselda Records has become renowned for their merchandise. The cryptic nature of their merch (and any type of external art for that matter – like cover art) is akin to some of the most impactful artists that came before them. Not only is the clothing fire, but so is the quality of the records and other miscellaneous products they put out.

3. Rap Tees (DJ Ross One)

In addition to the traditional idea of artists selling their own merch, the thrift/re-sale model is also thriving. One perfect example of this is DJ Ross One and his Rap Tees online store. It’s a blend of vintage tees from some of rap’s most notable acts, curated by a world class DJ who’s well-versed on the music side of things as well. Ross One is signed to Roc Nation, and is touring the globe playing some of the best curated sets of any DJ.

4. Yeezy (Kanye West)

Kanye West can do it all; everybody knows by now. He emerged from Chicago as one of the city’s top producers, signed to Roc-A-Fella Records, became one of the most prolific artists of all time, and all the while, dipped his toe into fashion and tech in pure Kanye fashion.

When it comes to merchandise, not only are his clothes and Yeezy shoes iconic (every edition thus far), but so is his approach with the STEMPLAYER and his Donda 2 release. Every affiliation with his name when it comes to merch is backed up with quality, and his designs feel like a glance into the future.

5. Travis Scott

Just as impressive as his ability to pack out stadiums on his latest tour is Travis Scott‘s ability to sell merchandise. It sells for good reason, too. Trav’s merchandise tends to coincide with his memorable albums and live performances, and he stays close to some of the best designers in the game.

As a result, he grossed over $250k in merch sales in just one week after dropping ASTROWORLD. As if that’s not business savvy enough, he bundled merch with copies of his album, which ended up contributing to his album sales in a big way. Behind every merch drop from Travis Scott is quality, and that’s a large reason why fans come flocking back for more each time he drops.

6. A$AP Rocky

It’d be a crime to not mention A$AP Rocky in an article about the crossover of music and fashion. He’s been a maverick in this particular space, and has stamped style as a permanent aspect of his brand.

Not only has Rocky fathered the implementation of unique pieces like the babushka (as made evident in his record “Babushka Boi“), he’s introduced some of the East Coast’s most memorable Hip-Hop fashion brands, like Vlone (A$AP Bari), LYBB (A$AP Twelvyy), Marino Infantry (A$AP Ant), and more. In addition, he’s done some crazy collabs with PacSun, Mercedes-Benz, and other notable brands in the clothing space. This has made the A$AP Mob‘s journey become all the more memorable over time, and has largely contributed to the evolution of streetwear fashion in Hip-Hop and beyond.

7. Pi’erre Bourne

Next up on our list is New York-based producer and recording virtuoso, Pi’erre Bourne.

Not only is his “Yo! Pi’erre” merch tasteful, so is the merch for his label, Soss House (which he sports on the cover of his latest project, The Life of Pi’erre Vol. 5). Pi’erre is a jack-of-all-trades, and merchandise is no exception. Some of his most notable pieces include a “Yo! Pi’erre” pillow and vinyl copies of his TLOP5 album.

8. BrainFace (Hass Irv)

Recently mentioned on volume 7 of our ‘Curiously Curated’ series, Hass Irv is a NY rapper who’s proving to be more than just that.

One of the most interesting aspects of his career is his involvement in the fashion world with his brand BrainFace. As the balaclava or “shiesty” (as the internet loves to call it) has grown drastically in popularity this year, Hass Irv’s BrainFace brand found itself in the right place at the right time. Their take on this ever-relevant piece is refreshing; you never know what the next edition is going to look like.

Conclusion

Though we introduced plenty of examples of top-notch music merch and the artists who’ve brought it into existence, there’s plenty of ground we haven’t covered.

As music is evolving, it’s becoming more entrepreneurial than ever. As a result, even up-and-comers are bringing some serious heat to the table when it comes to merch.

Take a deeper look at these 8 artists who are innovating in the realm of merchandise, and keep an eye out for more artists who are bringing a fresh approach to music fashion.

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Music

The Best Wu-Tang Clan Albums, Ranked

Next year will mark three decades since Wu-Tang Clan first kicked down our doors with their debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Since then, excluding their incredible array of solo releases and vast amount of compilation albums, the group has released a total of seven albums since 1993.

At least a couple of these are heralded as classics by fans and critics alike, with their positioning up for debate. We decided to take a crack at ranking the Wu’s albums from best to worst. Check it out below and let us know what you think. Perhaps you’ll notice a pattern that emerges in the order.

7. Once Upon A Time In Shaolin (2015)
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Once Upon A Time In Shaolin takes the lowest spot on this list by default. If you’re familiar with the name but are wondering why you’ve never heard it or seen a review about it, this is the LP that the Wu sold the sole copy of to Martin Shkreli for a whopping $2 million, making it the most expensive body of musical work ever sold. The process was a statement against the digital era of music, which Wu felt was devaluing art. The current owner is PleasrDAO who bought it for $4 million. Some of the album has found its way online, but judging it off of those low-quality rips isn’t fair at all. If you’re reading this, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get to hear it officially too, because it’s only allowed to be played at listening parties until the year 2103, when it can be ‘commercially exploited’.

6. A Better Tomorrow (2014)
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In general, A Better Tomorrow isn’t really an outright bad album. There are still standout performances on it and in places, it feels enough like Wu-Tang Clan to give you some nostalgia as a celebration of two decades since their inception. The problem is that some of the lows are really low, and consist of the group trying to reach outside what they do best. Some of the group’s members weren’t on the same page for this album’s creation and it actually comes across a little in the music. Overall, it falls short of why we love the New York crew in the first place.

5. 8 Diagrams (2007)
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This is the infamous album that came after a long hiatus, largely due to the tragic, untimely death of Ol’ Dirty Bastard. This was the first Wu-Tang album since their debut to feature RZA’s production on every single song, even though he had credits on the vast majority of all of the albums in between. His style of production on 8 Diagrams was a point of contention for Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, who didn’t like that the album wasn’t true to the cold, gritty sound that they considered the group’s signature. It was what birthed Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang, which intentionally didn’t include any input from RZA. Despite Rae and Ghostface’s frustrations with the sound, most people enjoyed the fact that the group stepped outside of their comfort zone.

4. Iron Flag (2001)
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Iron Flag was put out a year after the group’s last album, The W. It was a quick turnaround that had some skepticism about the group’s status and how much longer they’d be together, but those rumors were dispelled on the LP. The sound of Hip-Hop was changing around this time. Jay-Z had just dropped The Blueprint and the turn of the new millennium meant new things were on the horizon. Iron Flag was a great combination of Wu-Tang Clan adjusting to that, but keeping their raw feel too.

3. The W (2000)
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For many, The W is the best album of the year 2000. It was the last Wu-Tang album to feature ODB and saw them mostly stick to their stripped-down, dirty sound, with some songs that tried to step into other genres in a way that the aforementioned Iron Flag and 8 Diagrams did in a bigger way. It felt only right that after a classic debut album and a classic sophomore follow-up, they should step out of their bounds a little bit. While the album falls slightly short of those kinds of honors, it’s a solid project that’s only a step below their best work.

2. Wu-Tang Forever (1997)
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After their classic debut album in 1993, some of the group’s members had great solo success. In 1995, GZA put out Liquid Swords and Raekwon put out Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, two of the better albums to grace the genre. Due to that though, the pressure was on when the group came back together for their second album, Wu-Tang Forever. Could the magic be there a second time around? The answer was a resounding yes. For many, this album could easily top the list of the best Wu-Tang Clan album, but coming second place is nothing to turn your nose up at. Its lead single ‘Triumph’ was ambitious, coming in at 6 minutes and conforming for no one. It got airplay regardless. The Wu really couldn’t miss on this one. It turned 25 earlier this month and hasn’t lost its edge at all.

1. Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
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To complete our list of ranked Wu-Tang albums, which coincidentally is every Wu-Tang album in reverse chronological order, here’s our #1 pick, 36 Chambers. It isn’t so much a debut album as an introduction to the entire world of the Wu-Tang Clan, which is why its title is so fitting. The samples were unlike anything anyone had ever heard before. The beats were grimy and took you straight to the streets of New York. The bars from every member were mesmerizing and came together with a chemistry that most artists could only dream of. To top it all off, it could have easily been an underground classic, but it received a lot of commercial success too. The album truly hits all marks and is easily one of the best Hip-Hop albums of all time.

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Music

The D.O.C. Discusses “NFTs With Attitude” Project and Rap’s Generational Gap

Among the many quotes and beliefs that have existed in hip-hop, only fewer lived longer than “it’s a young man’s game.” And while it may be accurate due to the youth being the culture’s most active participants, a veteran and legend such as The D.O.C. often serve as a reminder of how the past can impact the present and future.

Alongside prolific videographer Matthew McDaniel, the proud West Coast duo has partnered with Hip Hop Archive and NFT Genius to release NFTs With Attitude. Consisting of 200+ hours of never been seen footage of legendary hip-hop group N.W.A. and South Los Angeles, the NFT collection offers fans a chance to get a greater glimpse at the times and environment that influenced their music and lives.

“Way before the music became popular, McDaniel had the vision to document what was happening around us,” D.O.C. said. “So he’s finally letting some of that footage go and the people who loved those guys [N.W.A] will see cool stuff.” Even in 2022, hip-hop is still adjusting to letting its legends and environments be seen more intimately. But given the success of various documentaries, podcasts, and biopics, NFTs offer another step in encouraging the culture to advance.

“It’s beautiful,” The D.O.C. said as he briefly overlooked the gloomy view of the Hudson River. “People don’t always see the behind-the-scenes stuff which ultimately brings us together.” A perspective like this is not only at hand when it comes to integrating NFTs in hip-hop but in another prominent area: Age.

While hip-hop sees its most active participants on the younger side of things, primarily because of the influence and power of the dollar, it doesn’t mean a generational gap should exist. NFT projects such as this D.O.C. and McDaniel-led endeavor provide all millennial and Generation Z rap fans the opportunity to initially learn or gain greater context about those before them and why their impact still exists.

“Our connection between this generation and my generation isn’t what it should be,” D.O.C. said. “But with all of these opportunities, numbers, etc., we should be to come together and win since there’s enough for everybody.”

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Music

Who Are Musicians Who Started Their Own Record Labels?

More than any other art form, music is preoccupied with the ideas of ownership and authenticity. As such, it’s become common for musicians who started their own record labels to reach new heights beyond their solo career. From Bad Boy Records and Death Row in the 1990s to GOOD Music and Cactus Jack nowadays, music history is studded with artist-led labels that have driven the industry and the popular zeitgeist. So, here are 16 of the biggest musicians who started their own record labels.

1. Kanye West – GOOD Music
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  • Founded: 2004
  • Notable Artists: Kanye West, Pusha T , John Legend (2004-2016), Big Sean (2007-2021), Kid Cudi (2008-2013)

Since its inception, the Kanye West-led GOOD Music has been one of the most prominent labels to be started by a rapper. Originally an imprint of Def Jam, GOOD Music has become a powerhouse in its own right. Over the years, GOOD Music has been home to considerable talent, releasing 11 platinum albums such as Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon (2009) and Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise (2015). In 2015, Pusha T was named the label’s president and has overseen operations alongside COO Steve Victor.

2. J Cole – Dreamville
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  • Founded: 2007
  • Notable Artists: J Cole , JID , Earthgang , Bas 

More than perhaps any other active label, Dreamville is a cohesive unit. Led by J Cole, the Interscope imprint has built up a deep reserve of talented acts such as JID and Earthgang. In summer 2019 and again in March 2022, Dreamville released compilation albums featuring contributions from their roster and other acclaimed artists in their orbit. By doing so, they proved their talent as a collective and as individuals.

3. Young Thug – YSL Records
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  • Founded: 2016
  • Notable Artists: Young Thug, Gunna, Lil Keed, Strick, Yung Kayo

Before becoming the subject of a sprawling criminal investigation, YSL was simply known as one of the most innovative and exciting record labels in hip hop. Since 2019, YSL’s solo acts have released four chart-topping albums  (Gunna’s Wunna in 2020 and DS4Ever in 2022; Young Thug’s So Much Fun in 2019 and Punk in 2021) and their 2021 compilation album Slime Language 2 went platinum as well. 

4. Kendrick Lamar – pgLang
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  • Founded: 2020
  • Notable Artists: Kendrick Lamar, Baby Keem

One of the newest entries on this list, pgLang is the brainchild of Kendrick Lamar and his manager Dave Free. So far, the label has been home to two major releases in Baby Keem’s The Melodic Blue in 2021 and Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers in 2022. Beyond music, pgLang has designs to break into film, fashion and other forms of media, but those plans are still murkier. 

5. Yo Gotti – Collective Music Group
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  • Founded: 2014
  • Notable Artists: Moneybagg Yo, 42 Dugg, EST Gee, Mozzy

One of the buzziest record labels in all of rap, Collective Music Group has put out major albums in 2021 and 2022 such as Moneybagg Yo’s A Gangster’s Pain, 42 Dugg’s Free Dem Boyz, and 42 Dugg and EST Gee’s collaborative project Last Ones Left

6. Drake – OVO Sound
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  • Founded: 2012
  • Notable Artists: Drake, Majid Jordan, PartyNextDoor

Although OVO Sound has yet to produce a star as big as Drake, Drake’s continued cultural dominance has kept the label incredibly relevant on its own. Since launching the label in 2012, Drake has released iconic albums such as Take Care, Nothing Was the Same, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Views, More Life, Scorpion, Certified Lover Boy and Honestly, Nevermind

7. Rick Ross – Maybach Music Group
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  • Founded: 2008
  • Notable Artists: Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Wale 

Headed by Rick Ross, Maybach Music Group is among hip hop’s preeminent labels; their signature “Maybach Music” tag is instantly recognizable and has adorned some massive hits over the years. Since their inception in 2008, Maybach Music Group has released 19 solo albums and three more collaborative mixtapes. Of the 22 projects, five albums have gone gold while three more (Rick Ross’s Teflon Don, Meek Mill’s Dreams Worth More Than Money and Championships) have gone platinum.

8. Lil Durk – Only the Family
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  • Founded: 2010
  • Notable Artists: Lil Durk, King Von (deceased)

With Lil Durk’s recent re-rise to stardom, his Only The Family label is in the limelight as well. Originally part of French Montana’s Coke Boys label, OTF seceded and became part of Empire in time for their 2018 compilation album Only The Family Involved, Vol. 1. But despite the label’s recent success with their most recent album Loyal Bros going platinum in 2021, OTF hasn’t created a star outside of Lil Durk after King Von was tragically murdered in November 2020.   

9. Playboi Carti – Opium
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  • Founded: 2021
  • Notable Artists: Playboi Carti, Ken Car$on

As the newest entry on this list, Playboi Carti’s Opium is understandably also the least established. Whereas the likes of GOOD Music and Dreamville have produced several prominent artists and projects, Opium is still in its relative infancy. Still, Ken Car$on has emerged as Carti’s truest protege and other signees such as Destroy Lonely and Capo Ree. With these signees, Opium will continue the mosh-able sound that Carti pioneered with Whole Lotta Red. 

10. Travis Scott – Cactus Jack
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  • Founded: 2017
  • Notable Artists: Travis Scott, Don Toliver, Sheck Wes, SoFayGo

At this point, it would be easier to list the businesses that Travis Scott hasn’t put his Travis Scott imprimatur on. Following in his mentor Kanye West’s footsteps by launching his own record label, Scott has steadily built up Cactus Jack’s roster since the its inception in 2017. Namely, crooner Don Toliver released Heaven or Hell and Life of a DON on Cactus Jack while viral sensation Sheck Wes joined the fold after his hit single “Mo Bamba.” In 2019, label put out JACKBOYS, a collaborative EP showcasing their talents.

11. Gucci Mane – 1017 Records
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  • Founded: 2007
  • Notable Artists: Gucci Mane, Pooh Shiesty, Big Scarr, Foogiano, Waka Flocka Flame (former)

Gucci Mane’s 1017 Records has undergone several iterations over the last few years. First, it was the home of the nascent trap scene in Atlanta and around the country with artists such as Chief Keef, Waka Flocka Flame, Young Thug and OJ Da Juiceman paired with Gucci’s own prolific output in the early 2010s. Whereas 1017 once looked towards Atlanta, Gucci has identified a whole new wave of talent, embracing young Memphis rappers. Accordingly, 1017 scored major wins by signing Pooh Shiest and Big Scarr. Appropriately, Shiesty Season, Pooh Shiesty’s breakout 2021 album and 1017 debut, was certified gold and peaked at 3 on the Billboard album charts.

12. Lil Wayne – Young Money
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  • Founded: 2005
  • Notable Artists: Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake (former), DJ Khaled (former), Currensy (former), Tyga (former)

Perhaps the defining label of the late 2000s/early 2010s, Young Money was spearheaded by the holy trinity of Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Drake. With three of hip-hop’s biggest artists at the helm, Young Money has put out nearly 20 platinum albums over the last 15 years; Resultantly, Tha Carter III, Pink Friday, Tha Carter IV, Take Care, Nothing Was the Same, The Pinkprint, If You’re Reading This Its Too Late, Views, Scorpion, Queen, Tha Carter V all sold over a million copies.

13. Westside Gunn – Griselda
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  • Founded: 2012
  • Notable Artists: Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher, Boldly James, Stove God Cooks, Conway the Machine (former), Mach-Hommy

While Young Money represented the zenith of rap’s crossover stardom, Griselda is rap at its purest and most untouched. As two underground musicians who started their own record labels, Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine launched Griselda Records just about a decade ago. Over the years, Griselda records have been consistent in both sound and subject matter. Unerringly, Westside Gunn and co. weave stark scenes of drug dealing with moments of opulence over dusty, sample-driven beats. Despite the relative inaccessibility of the music, Griselda has become the left-of-center capital of modern day rap. Fittingly, Benny the Butcher’s Burden of Proof featured appearances from Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and Big Sean. Similarly, Westside Gunn wrangled Tyler the Creator, Joey Bada$$ and Wale for Pray for Paris. 

14. Eminem – Shady Records
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  • Founded: 1999
  • Notable Artists: Eminem, Royce Da 5’9, Westside Boogie, 50 Cent, Griselda (formerly)

For the last 23 years, Shady Records has been home to Eminem’s biggest releases such as The Eminem Show, Encore, Relapse and Recovery. Outside of Eminem, Shady Records signed 50 Cent at the peak of his powers in 2002, just in time to cash in on Get Rich or Die Tryin’, The Massacre and Curtis in the early/mid 2000s. Interestingly, 50 Cent launched G Unit while he was on Shady Records. In doing so, 50 Cent also joined the lineage of musicians who started their own record labels

15. Jay Z – Roc-A-Fella Records
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  • Founded: 1995
  • Notable Artists: Jay Z, Cam’Ron, Beanie Siegel, Kanye West

As the brainchild of Jay Z and Dame Dash, Roc-A-Fella Records was a powerhouse from its birth in 1995 to its shuttering in 2013. During this 18 year run, Roc-A-Fella Records was synonymous with East Coast rap, releasing albums from Jay Z (Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, The Black Album, etc.), Cam’ron (Come Home With Me), Beanie Siegel (The Reason). Outside of the Acela corridor, Roc-A-Fella Records also signed a young producer named Kanye West as he rose to prominence. As a result, Kanye’s first—and best—six albums were all under the Roc-A-Fella imprimatur. 

16. The Beatles – Apple
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  • Founded: 1968
  • Notable Artists: The Beatles, Yoko Ono, James Taylor

Originally created as a creative outlet for The Beatles and other musicians in their orbit, Apple became one of the most powerful record labels of the 1970s. Despite releasing all of the albums The Beatles and then eventually the solo projects of each respective Beatles, Apple folded by 1976 when their contract with EMI ended. And although Apple eventually went defunct, the Beatles made history as one of the first big musicians who started their own record labels

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Music

How Electric Theatre Collective Made Pharrell’s “Cash In Cash Out” Video

The music video for Pharrell’s “Cash In Cash Out,” is, in short, a visual symphony. The repetitive nature of the song itself finds parallel in the repetition of the visuals—all of which were concocted digitally in a fashion meant to invoke media-making practices of antiquity. The entire video revolves around a Zoetrope, constructed to appear as a claymation cinema experience. The visuals beg the question: was this real or CGI? We spoke to the team behind Electric Theatre Collective, who conducted the visual effects for the project to hear how it came to life.

What is Electric Theatre Collective?

Electric Theatre Collective was started by three friends nearly 11 years ago, all of whom had been working together at a larger a larger visual effects studio. “They did that kind of tried and tested thing of hitting a wall, and deciding that they wanted to start working together with their mates and not working for a huge company,” Jon Purton, managing director of Electirc Theatre, tells me. They got a small office space, and started booking clients. “I don’t think they thought it would be as impressive as quickly as it was. It kind of exploded,” Jon explains. 

Jon Purton, Managing Director of ETC

It’s a company set up by a group of friends that just want to do cool stuff.

Today, Electric Theatre Collective boasts as many as 100 employees, and conducts post-production work for numerous ad campaigns, TV/film projects and music videos. Jon joined the company around five years ago, and remarks: “As we’ve gotten bigger, we’ve tried to retain that small vibe.”

For Electric Theatre, music videos often fall into a bucket of passion projects—those the team is really excited about working on. “The days of big budget music videos kind of died out,” Jon explains, adding: “so when we’re choosing what projects to press go on, everybody’s gotta be kind of in love with it.” That’s how they teamed up with director François Rousselet and his company DIVISION to do all of the effects for Pharrell’s latest video, Cash In Cash Out.

Cash In Cash Out

“The Pharrell video is definitely my personal favorite project, and that’s the case for a lot of the guys,” Jon tells me. To my surprise, the project has been in the works since 2020, when Pharrell and his team first approach Francois and DIVISION to produce the video. When the pandemic hit, nobody could shoot live action anymore, so rather than utilizing practical effects to construct a claymation aesthetic, “they came to us,” says Jon.

“Traditionally, we’ll get a chronological script, but this was kind of a collection of ideas. It’s a narrative piece, but really it’s more like an art sculpture,” Jon explains the in-progress project when it first fell on their desks. “Everyone fell in love with the idea.”

When ETC first began working on the project, there was only one featured artist: 21 Savage. But they knew there was intent to add another feature, so they paused the project in late 2020 as they waited to determine who would be locked in. Pharrell ultimately for Tyler, the Creator for the track’s second feature. “21 and Tyler are so different that it works,” Jon remarks, adding: “You get to the end of 21’s verse and you need that Tyler pickup. It’s almost like the video restarts again.”

”If you stopped on any frame, we wanted there to be so much detail that people would just go back and watch it again. Just to pause it, or grab a screengrab to make a desktop background. Something that’s visually crazy,” he recounts. Go ahead and test it. Pause any part of the video, screengrab it and zoom in to see how immensely detailed every object is. 

Jon Purton

We wanted people to question whether we did this for real or if it was CGI.

The entire artwork is meant to replicate a Zoetrope, and Jon tells me that the construction was so detailed that one could truly build a version of the antiquated animation device based on the modeling they did for the video. “We could, in theory, take this and build it for real, mechanically,” Jon explains to me. The video’s invocation of a vintage style imbues the whole viewing experience with a sense of the dichotomy between past and present technology.

The Future of ETC

Jon is extremely optimistic for the future of ETC with numerous projects underway. They worked last year on a project for Meta, and Jon is eager for the future of AI and generative art and the impact it will have on the medium of visual effects. 

“We’ve got a big character piece we’re working on with some familiar faces that’ll come out the backend of this year,” Jon teases, joking to me that they’re already working on scripts for the end of the year: “It’s summer time, but we’re looking at scripts with Santa Claus.”

They’ll also release a behind the scenes video chronicling the creation of Cash In, Cash Out in the next few weeks, which will reveal some of the objects and loops produced by the ETC team that didn’t make it into the final cut. 

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Music

Curiously Curated 007: Top-Notch Underground Talent

Here we are on volume seven of our Curiously Curated series. We’ve come a long way thus far, and there’s plenty more ground to cover. Today, we’re introducing you to five artists that you need to know.

1. Dee Aura

One of New York’s most impressive talents is Dee Aura. The rapper has come a long way since his start, and most recently was brought out by Skepta on stage at Governors Ball earlier this month. He stepped up to bat in front of a massive crowd at Citi Field, and showed them what he’s got. I had the luxury of seeing it live, and it was beyond gratifying to see Dee Aura come this far. For those who know the rapper, it’s implied that he’s just getting started.

In addition to his ties to Skepta, Dee Aura is insanely tapped in across the globe. Here’s his latest video with Philly phenom Matt Ox:

2. Quarters of Change

With two hits to show for their relatively young career, this band is showing a ton of promise early on. You’ve probably seen Quarters of Change on TikTok, whether for their debut hit via 300 Entertainment, “Kiwi” (featuring Juice) or their scenic Wall Street video shoot for “T Love”. The band has a nostalgic yet original feel to them, and their music (and visuals) make it perfectly clear. Not only are their music videos fire, their TikTok is pretty entertaining on its own.

Here’s the TikTok video that blew up their single, “T Love”:

3. Hass Irv

Hass Irv has made quite the impression with his notable career thus far. He seems to not only have a knack for music, but a similar knack for networking and connecting with his audience. He manages to get in the room with some of today’s most popular act. His impressive level of talent makes it (seemingly) easy to consistently connect dots, resulting in underground hits like the one we’ve featured below.

Oh yeah, he’s also an insanely gifted designer, as made apparent in his boutique balaclava brand, brainface.

Hass Irv’s video with G Herbo for his “All Day” remix is one of the New York rapper’s best. Take a look:

4. Jay Swishes

Another New York talent worth noting is Jay Swishes. He’s built quite the catalog, including a solo hit “Good Company,” and a powerhouse feature from Rowdy Rebel on “John Wicc.”

Jay Swishes has a way of going in on both dancehall beats and harder hip-hop focused beats, giving his sound a signature that is hard to replicate.

In addition to his latest drop, a debut EP called ‘I’m Him,’ Jay made some major noise on YouTube with his video for “John Wicc” featuring Rowdy Rebel. See it for yourself:

5. meat computer

One of the greatest parts of the latest evolution of music is the level personalization you see in artists’ brands. Before the SoundCloud era when artists could (finally) independently distribute their music, when would you ever see a name like ‘meat computer’?

Yes, meat computer is an actual artist, and he’s so, so, so fire.

meat computer is one of a kind – and don’t take that lightly. He always manages to think outside of the box, regardless of the medium: music, visuals, social media, or anything else.

Here’s the perfect intro to the wild world of meat computer, his video for “eyes wide shut”:

What a week this has turned out to be. These five artists are all immensely experienced, which has translated to respective recent success. Take a listen to our Curiously Curated playlist on Spotify, which features this week’s artists, as well as all 6 previous editions – recording artists and producers.

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Music

Which 12 New York Rappers You Should Know?

While New York’s rap movement is currently ignited by its combination of OG’s, superstars, and upstarts, another wave of talent is waiting to surface. Across the state of New York, specifically the tri-state area within Westchester County and New York City, MCs are steadily building their audiences while adding to their resumes.

Whether it’s releasing music videos that attract millions of views, collaborating with one of the culture’s biggest acts, or touring alongside a Grammy-nominated artist, this list of rappers has done a bit of everything and getting closer to introducing themselves to hip-hop’s mainstream audience.

Here’s our list of 12 New York rappers you should know.

Young Devyn

Coming from Brooklyn, NY, Devyn has established herself as a talented rapper and songwriter with the ability to make many records– ranging from drill to soca. Over the past year, the 20-year-old MC has signed with Island Records, released a new EP (Baby Goat), and performed at Rolling Loud.

Dougie B

Alongside his close friends and fellow collaborators, Kay Flock and B-Lovee, Dougie B has become a prominent Bronx drill act. Inspired by his infectious energy, Dougie has provided various standout verses (I.E., “T Cardi” and “I’m Back”), worked with fellow Bronx native and multi-platinum MC Cardi B, and performed at HOT 97’s Summer Jam earlier this month.

Malz Monday

Coming from Westchester County, NY, Malz has become an early favorite for those loving lyricism and storytelling. Coming off of his acclaimed December 2021 release, Super Heroes Don’t Exist, Malz has reached over 215,000 monthly Spotify listeners and is performing at the Mercury Lounge on July 2nd.

Ice Spice

If you’re really into New York drill, you’ve probably entered a rabbit hole and discovered plenty of artists before– with Ice Spice being one of them. The Bronx, NY native is gaining a lot of steam right now as her standout single, “No Clarity,” has nearly 200K views on YouTube, and she got featured in Converse and Foot Locker’s Black Music Month campaign.

Kenzo B

Within the last five months, Kenzo B has quickly caught the attention of fans around New York City, and for a good reason. Aided by her slick wordplay and smooth delivery, the NYC native is positioned to have a good summer as her “Bump It” single is consistently being played at events and throughout neighborhoods.

Niko Brim

Whether as an activist who played a crucial role in making Juneteenth a national holiday to touring with Grammy-nominated MC, Cordae, Niko Brim‘s star has been steadily rising over the past year. The proud Mount Vernon, NY native, who’s also a co-founder of the buzzing rap collective, CYN, has been busy releasing new and well-received music— an April-released joint EP with Kai Ca$h titled ELEVEN53 and various freestyles.

STEELYONE

Coming out of New Rochelle, NY, STEELYONE has become one of the Tri-State’s most respected and experienced lyricists. Fresh off releasing another stellar project in Lost City last January, the Stainless Global leader completed another sold-out overseas tour through Europe and is gearing up for more releases before the end of this year.

Iman Nunez

In recent years, Iman Nunez has produced one heck of a resume. Between exchanging verses with the legendary Styles P, performing alongside Lil Wayne and Machine Gun Kelly, and making his SXSW performance debut this year, the Yonkers, NY MC is sure to take off even more in 2022-’23.

Shawny Binladen

The “King of Samples” may catch people by surprise with his name, but his music does all the talking. With “Whole Lotta Wickery” being a massive success and following singles such as “Shawn Ye” and “Hercules/Paradise” gaining traction, it’s not a surprise Shawny got added to Rolling Loud’s New York lineup for this coming September.

The Girll Codee

The evolution of The Girll Codee over the last year is a clear example of consistency at its finest. Brooklyn’s Shaa Bigga and Siddity have done nothing but deliver incredible verses, great energy, and a fun live show– the latter, I witnessed during their performance at HOT 97’s Summer Jam. Next month, they’re reportedly releasing a new EP.

Melvoni

Regarding top-notch videos, Melvoni is one of the few artists from New York in that conversation– especially as an up-and-coming artist. “Feel Alive 2” is quickly becoming a standout record of his, and there’s a lot to like about Melvoni– great melodies, strong songwriting, and a good ear for production.

26AR

Even though record labels are making a great effort to sign artists from New York, the pairing of Def Jam and 26AR makes me excited. Ever since his Rocko Ballin-assisted “MANEUVER” got over seven million YouTube views, the new Def Jam signee has been on a hot streak– most notably releasing “MY SET Pt.II,” “Beatbox Freestyle,” and most recently “Hottest In My City.”

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Music

Nellyville Turns 20

I am. So hot in herre. So hot in. Ah! It’s hard to believe, but it has been a whole twenty years since Nellyville was released, and today we are taking a time machine back to the album that officially solidified Nelly’s spot in rap history.

To understand how Nellyville came about, we have to first visit the era that established Nelly as one to watch—Country Grammar, which was released June 27th, 1999. The album spawned several hit singles including “E.I.” and “Ride Wit Me,” and has since gone on to be certified diamond, making it one of the few rap albums to do so. The success of Country Grammar positioned Nelly to have an even bigger sophomore era, which leads us back to Nellyville.

Released June 25th, 2002, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 where it remained for four weeks, and spawned several hit singles which we are going to take a look at one by one starting with the first single “Hot In Herre.”

Hot In Herre

Produced by The Neptunes, “Hot In Herre” is the epitome of early 2000s rap songs and videos. With a hot (literally) video and epic one-liners, the song earned Nelly a Grammy Award for Best Male Rap Solo Performance in 2003. It was also Nelly’s first number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The video was filmed in a nightclub, and became a staple on 106 & Park and TRL.

Dilemma

Produced by Macon and Bowser, “Dilemma” featured then Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland as she was preparing to launch a solo career of her own. The song contained a sample of Patti LaBelle’s 1983 song “Love, Need, and Want You,” and quickly rose to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 where it stayed for ten weeks.

The hit single earned Nelly and Kelly a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung performance. The video featured Nelly and Kelly playing young lovebirds and special guest Patti LaBelle, who portrayed Rowland’s mother. 

Air Force Ones

By the year 2002, most were already familiar with Nelly’s love of sneakers, in particular Air Force 1s. So it wasn’t surprising in the slightest that Nellyville contained a song talking all about his love of the classic shoe. Produced by Trackboyz, the single featured rappers Murphy Lee, Ali, and Kyjuan, and peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.

Not much is known about the music video in terms of dates, location, etc., but we can tell you it is very much NBA Live 2003 in terms of the scenery, and we’d have to imagine that at least 1,000 Nike boxes were featured in the vid.

Work It

“Work It” didn’t experience the type of success of its predecessors, but it did feature rising solo artist Justin Timberlake. While it might not have been a massive hit here in the U.S., it was a top ten hit in the U.K., peaking at number 7. A video for the song was filmed at the Playboy Mansion.

Pimp Juice

“Pimp Juice” is one of those songs that didn’t receive the props it deserved at the time, but has since gone on to be appreciated. It was both a different sound and look for Nelly, as the video served as a departure from the rapper’s trademark headband, band aid, streetwear look, which was replaced with a leather jacket and fedora. The song was produced by Epperson, and peaked at number 11 on the US Hot Rap Songs chart.

So what’s Nellyville’s legacy twenty years later? Well, “Hot In Herre” is still used in commercials, movies, etc. “Dilemma” is/was the soundtrack to our childhoods/teens/early adult years, and brought back plenty of memories a couple of years ago when he performed it during his VERZUZ battle with Ludacris, and AF1’s will forever be associated with “Air Force Ones.”

In short, Nellyville was a piece of art.