Interview: Snootie Wild Talks Memphis, "Yayo," & His Uncle, Rock Legend Arthur Lee

Memphis rapper Snootie Wild talks about coming up in Memphis, his hit "Yayo," and why he never listened to his famous uncle Arthur Lee's music.

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Complex Original

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Rapper Snootie Wild shot from North Memphis obscurity earlier this year on the back of an undeniable regional-turnt-national hit called "Yayo." The song led to a deal with Epic Records through Yo Gotti's CMG label. One hit does not make a career, but the lanky, charismatic rapper has managed to knock another one into the endzone with the success of steadily rising single "Made Me."

With a sparse, bleeping beat accompanied by echoing bells and heavy drums, “Made Me” makes its point and gets out of the way. At its center is Snootie Wild's Memphis drawl, uncomplicated lyrics, and dynamic performance. Sometimes, artists can overthink the craft; Snootie Wild takes his music seriously, but he's also an artist who doesn't clutter up the process.

Complex spoke to Snootie Wild when he came through the Complex offices earlier this summer, around the release of Yo Gotti's underrated CMG Presents: Chapter 1. That label compilation is very nearly stolen by Snootie Wild guest spots, each of which display a cutthroat lunge for the pop jugular that stands out even next to his label boss. It wouldn't be surprising if "Stackin & Flippin It" or "Want U 2 Kno" end up hitting the charts later in the year. Snootie spoke with Complex about how his buzz was built, advice for others following his path, and the famous musician in his bloodline.

Interview by David Drake (@somanyshrimp)

When did you start getting into rap music as a fan?

When I started with music it was like a hobby—for black kids, it's like basketball, something we had to cling on to and enjoy, pretend we're this artist or this basketball player. Stuff that we could actually reach out and see. I got serious about it when I first was incarcerated [for aggravated robbery]. I used it for an outlet. It was '07 when I first did my time. 2007 to the end of 2010. I was 21.

When you started taking music seriously, who were you listening to?

At that time, I was listening to all types of music. First of all, I was incarcerated, so it wasn't like we had CD players or nothing. So whatever came on the station that was soothing to the ears is what I listened to. It kind of helped me, though, because it made me open-minded just with music, sounds, different rhythms. That's why I'm so creative now.

Who were you looking up to when you started rapping?

Project Pat, Tupac, Jeezy, shout out to big brother Gotti of course. People I can relate to, people who can relate to me, people who been through the struggle I've been through.

Was there anyone who you worked with or mentored you?

Naw. I got straight outta jail October 2010 and just figured it out for myself.

Tell me about your earliest material.

Before signing the deal, we had an old song call "Oh Yeah" that's still kinda hot in Memphis. That was one of the first songs we pushed. [That was released] a couple years ago. That was just something to open up the city's eyes to Snootie.

'Yayo' was what I was going through, that is how I was feeling, that was what I was indulging in, so we just made it come to life. It don't take you long to record the truth. 

How did you push that record? Do people in Memphis still hand out CDs?

Nah. Take it to the streets. I'm riding block to block, letting folks hear it repeatedly, going to open mic nights letting people hear it repeatedly. I didn't have nowhere to go. Couldn't afford nowhere to go, so I'm neighborhood to neighborhood every day, until it's stuck in their heads, 'til they ask for it.

We're hands-on with people. DJs, we gotta go outta town, meet up with them personally, get familiar with them, let them get familiar with us. Other than that—we couldn't afford to just travel like that, we ain't have contacts, numbers to reach out to DJs. Vertigo was one of the first DJs that helped us.

What's the scene like in Memphis in music? Where do you do your open mic nights?

The majority of the time it'll be Club Zodiac, like the East Memphis area. But the majority of the time, if you're really trying to take your music serious, and make things come to life, Memphis is like a ghost town. You'll be better off stepping outside of Memphis. Ain't no A&Rs going—they're not going to get caught up in Memphis, Tenn.. So you don't have that reach you need to get to the next level. So most definitely any artist probably stepped outside the box to chase their dream.

When did you first record “Yayo”?

About a year and some months ago. That's what I was going through, that was how I was feeling, that was what I was indulging in, so we just made it come to life. It don't take you long to record the truth. Of course I got creativity and I got punchlines in it, but it was still basic. You take all that out, it's still what it was.

How did it take off at first?

I did the same thing I did with the first record. Took it to neighborhoods, banged it. Took it to open mic nights, banged it. I seen a kind of a different reaction. People already respected my music locally, when we played that it was just a different reaction. The conversation was more quick. We saw how the track it was on put energy into the people. We were like, This it. We ran with it.

I'm from the projects, so I'm not going to say I was listening to my uncle ARTHUR LEE as a kid.

How did Gotti get on the "Yayo" track?

DJ Lil Larry got a lot to do with it. At the same time, just me grinding, me making noise in the streets, putting it out there, stamping it out there. It already had a couple of views, it was already being talked about. So I guess when big bruh came to the city, he fell through one of the clubs and they played it for him. He seen the reaction of the crowd, seen how crazy [it was], so he saw dollar signs. Linked it up. Now we on a money gang, money train.

Did anyone in your family do music?

Yeah, of course. I had plenty of folks that did music. One of them was my uncle, but it's like my cousin. Arthur Lee. He was in a rock band overseas. He was in one of the biggest bands there was, called Love. That's my cousin.

Did you ever work on music with him?

Nah, I've been around him. Got a chance to talk with him about it before he passed. But I never seen him do music or anything, I saw it on DVDs a lot. I'm from the projects, so I'm not going to say I was listening to him as a kid. But when I got introduced to his music, I most definitely started listening to it. Me and him got a lot alike. We change our styles up, we never stay basic with the same style or deliveries, because we bored with it. It's all about just trying to experiment and come with a different sound, different tune, every rip.


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