Snootie Wild was quietly one of the biggest rappers of 2014. His hypnotic “Made Me” with K Camp cracked the Billboard Hot 100 after piggybacking off the success of his regional hit “Yayo.” He is one of the latest in a group of artists finding popularity by talking about the obstacles they’ve overcome, and his knack for catchy hooks that pop on radio but don’t sound like pop music has proved to be a substantial approach.
With his new mixtape dropping this week, Snootie spoke to us about the history of Memphis rap, what he learned during his four-year prison stint, and why he believes Memphis is the new Atlanta.
WL: There isn’t a song on last year’s Go Mode EP that doesn’t slap. Talk about the making of that project.
Snootie Wild: First of all, the EP was really just explaining about me. It was like a timeline. It went from letting the people know that I was in the streets, these are the things I had to indulge in to survive, from “What do you mean yayo? What did you have to do to survive?” I got it out the mud. That’s how I came up with that second song [“Made Me”], meaning when you come from nothing and you can take nothing and make it into something, that’s getting it out the mud.
Once I came with that, I came with “Stackin & Flippin” to motivate people. I’m out here, project kid, did four years in the pen, got out, paid my dues, thank God I’m still living, and started moving forward on something I felt was a bigger challenge. When I say bigger challenge, I mean we as people are scared to jump outside the box, get outside the comfort zone and do something that is more challenging than we’re used to dealing with. That’s when I came with “Stackin & Flippin” to motivate people. It’s all types of ways you can stack your money without being illegal.
And then when we came with the last song “Gracias,” we put that song last for a reason. First, to thank the people and thank God, and to let the street cats know that you might be out here doing this or that, you might have gotten into a shootout and you holding a grudge over it. You need to be thankful, because you could have been gone. You need to be grateful. Even when you rich, even when you’re poor, even when you’re down and out, you need to be grateful because at any time it could go bad very fast or it could go great for you very fast. So anything could happen, and that’s how we came up with the song “Gracias.”
How did the first track “Here I Go” with Starlito come about?
First of all, that “Here I Go” is like the icing on the cake. Look where I came from. Look what I done got out of. Ain’t no stopping me. The motivation part of it, just… here I go.
Like you stepping out of that jail cell, you have nowhere to go, barely somewhere to live, but you don’t want to fold in life. You don’t want to just let yourself go in life. So you look up to the sky and you talk to God and say, “Fuck it, here I go.” And I’m gonna do it the best way I can without having to go back to jail. So every time I felt discouraged or lack of motivation, I just look up and go, “Fuck it, here I go.” And I go for what I know and what I believe in. And that’s what got me here instead of doubting myself.
I put Starlito on there because he’s one of my favorites, and I feel like he’s underrated. I feel like he’s delivered a lot of the same messages I’m delivering. I was heard, so I feel like he should be heard. And that’s what made me put him not on the mixtape, but on the EP, so he can get a bigger look and hopefully a greater outcome on his behalf as well. And it’s so the people know Snootie know what he doin’. He know to pick the right artist for the right song.
What’s the most important thing you took from being behind bars?
Discipline. Patience. Knowing that in any bad situation, you can find some good. That was probably one of the biggest lessons I learned in jail. Because usually when you in a bad situation, you always feed off that and let it grow like a fungus instead of taking two steps back like, “Wait a minute. There’s something to be achieved out of this.”
Did it ever get really difficult in there?
Numerous times. You don’t have your freedom, so of course you feel like you don’t have a purpose on earth. That’s what the jail system is. It’s made to break black men down. Well I won’t say black men, but people in general, it’s programmed to break you down. So you become a robot and live as they want you to be instead of thinking outside the box and running your own business. That’s what they try to limit us from being – something great, our own entrepreneurs.
Were you rapping before you went to jail?
Rapping was like a hobby. In the streets, in the projects, that’s all we had – sports and music. Those are the only things we see a majority of black people being successful and happy in. Getting away from the chaos, the buffoonery. Just being in the projects period. Barely knowing where your next meal coming from, barely knowing if you’re gonna be here the next day. So music started as a hobby, and then I took it more serious and made it a part of my life when I was incarcerated for four years.
So you decided to take rap seriously while you were in jail?
Of course. I realized how talented I was in jail because you have nothing but time for people to pay attention and see for themselves, so I got a lot of great comments. We used to have battles and I used to win a lot of them. I made it a part of my life, and it was like my outlet to be free from out of that jail. Music is just part of me now. When I got out, I didn’t see nothing else but music. I didn’t have full confidence then. I belong in the music world and the music world belongs to me.
What was it like battling in prison?
One thing about jail, you don’t remember. You only remember the first day you went and the last day you walkin’ out.
You’re from Memphis, and the city has a deep history of rap music, from Three 6 Mafia to Tommy Wright III.
Playa Fly, Skinny Pimp, 8Ball & MJG. Shout outs to DJ Squeeky, Matter fact I actually got a track on my mixtape that DJ Squeeky made. It’s one of my club bangers.
How has the history of Memphis rap influenced your music?
We grew up in the Three 6 era. Memphis was more on a pimpin’ type level. So it went from pimpin’ to trappin’ to chaos. Went from gangster rap, turf on turf, to all about drugs. I feel like now, if you really from the streets, the music is all about the struggle. All about what’s goin’ on, what you been through and how you made it out of that. Basically giving the blueprint to the kids that are in the position you were in and trying to help them get out of it. So basically it’s like delivering a message in every song I do.
How did you meet Yo Gotti?
It was crazy man. In my time taking over, making noise, I had the hottest team in Memphis, got our own headquarters, made a building out of a studio and went hard. We made sure we went to every open mic night. If [Rich Homie] Quan had a show, we had a show. We were determined. We weren’t gonna take no for an answer. If Migos had a show, Snootie Wild had a show. So it was really muscling ourselves into the music industry, at least to be heard and seen. Making noise in our city so we could be talked about.
Gotti heard about it, came home from vacation one day, he’s known for dipping in the clubs and checking out the DJs, seeing what they’re playing, what’s new, what’s hot, and at the time it was me. So we had a meeting, came with a money scheme, it made sense, me and him are from the same area of North Memphis, so we already kinda had the same vision of where we wanted to go with this music and how far we wanted to take it. So it was really easy.
What’s your writing process like?
I don’t write anything. I go off the spur of the moment. I let the beat talk to me. I let the track let me know what note I need to be in, how passionate or motivational it needs to be. It all depends on the track.
You’re about to drop a new project. Tell me what fans can expect from it.
I got a big, big project dropping on the 14th of this month called Ain’t No Stoppin’ Me. We had to push it back two times. Why? Because ain’t no stoppin’ me. I believe it’s gonna be one of the hottest mixtapes out. I think that “Twelve” record featuring Gotti is gonna be big. I got “Life Like This Before” that’s telling a little more about me, why I’m so numb to this lifestyle here. The things I’ve seen, the things I’ve been through. I’m all about if you’ve never had it, how can you miss it? So I try to stay grounded at all times, and that’s what that song is about. I never seen a life like this before. Look out for it.
Who are some of the producers on the tape?
I got [Reazy] Renegade, DJ Squeeky, 808, Cassius Jay, to name a few.
Who are some artists in Memphis people should be listening to?
If you ain’t listening to that boy Zed Zilla, make you sure get ‘em. Wave Chappelle, Black Youngsta, TP The Great. Shout out to Young Dolph, he workin’ hard. He got his straight out the mud too. North Memphis to South Memphis. I think we’re the new Atlanta.