Rapper Yo Gotti must pay $6.6 million to a Winston-Salem talent manager for failing to sign an agreement allowing the release of a song Gotti rapped a verse on and then going behind the manager’s back to try to lure away a singer, a Forsyth County judge ruled Tuesday.
In a written order, Judge Todd Burke found that Mario Mims, who performs as Yo Gotti, engaged in “unfair and deceptive trade practices” in getting Michael Terry to pay him $20,000 for the verse on a song by Terry’s artist, Lamont Fletcher, who is known as Young Fletcher. Burke found that the actual damages were $2.2 million and tripled that amount to $6.6 million based on the finding that Yo Gotti engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices.
Memphis-born Yo Gotti, 38, has been putting out music since the 1990s and his latest project, “I Still Am,” was released in 2017. He is preparing for the release of his next album, “Trapped,” and has been on tour.
Burke presided over a nonjury trial Tuesday morning in Forsyth Superior Court. Yo Gotti did not attend the hearing and he and his company, Collective Music Group (also known as Cocaine Muzik Group) did not send any attorneys for the hearing. Yo Gotti and his company have not answered the lawsuit. Yo Gotti is signed under Epic Records. A representative of that company did not respond to an email message seeking comment.
During the trial, Clarke Dummit, Terry’s attorney, entered two affidavits into evidence. One of the affidavits was from Terry, the chief executive officer of Stack Dollars Empire LLC, a Winston-Salem record label and talent-management company. The other affidavit was from Reggie Green, a Forsyth County resident who has worked in the nightclub and urban/hip-hop music industry in the Southeast for about 20 years.
According to those affidavits and Burke’s order, what Yo Gotti had agreed to do was something fairly routine in the music industry — get paid to perform on a lesser-known artist’s song as a way of breaking that artist into mainstream success.
Yo Gotti had done the same thing for other artists to much success, Terry and Green said in their affidavits. That’s why Terry reached out to Yo Gotti, who agreed to rap a verse over Young Fletcher’s song.
The practice is known as “jump starting.”
Yo Gotti recorded his verse and was paid his $20,000, but the “jump starting” stalled because Yo Gotti did not sign what is known as a “side artist agreement,” which would allow Young Fletcher to release his song with Yo Gotti’s verse on it to streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, as well as sites such as YouTube.
Terry and Young Fletcher made attempts to contact Yo Gotti in person and through Yo Gotti’s agents, managers and attorneys. Nothing happened over several months, according to the affidavits and Burke’s order.