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.
In his affidavit, Terry said Yo Gotti failed to show up at a promotional event in Greensboro and he and Young Fletcher traveled to Washington, D.C., and Atlanta to meet with Young Gotti to get a signed agreement. Each time, they left empty-handed.
“At some point during this time period, Yo Gotti contacted Young Fletcher directly and privately offered him $150,000 to leave my label and join his instead,” Terry said in his affidavit. “Young Fletcher turned down the offer.”
Terry said in his affidavit that he tried to promote Young Fletcher and his other artists, but it was a difficult time for him and his family and for Young Fletcher, “knowing that the release of the song would have ‘jump started’ his career at the national level so that he was no longer just a local talent.”
To make matters worse, according to the affidavits and Burke’s order, Yo Gotti recorded a song with the verse he made for Young Fletcher’s song “so it would intentionally make the plaintiff look like he was copying Yo Gotti.”
“Yo Gotti’s actions were willful and malicious and caused actual injury to the Plaintiffs,” Burke said in his order.
Dummitt said in an interview Tuesday that he does not know why Yo Gotti did not sign the agreement. He said in a news release that he sent out Tuesday after the hearing that Yo Gotti was so evasive that he arranged to have a Forsyth County sheriff’s deputy serve the rapper while he was performing as a headliner in Winston-Salem.
Terry said in the news release that the famous rapper underestimated who he was dealing with.
“Yo Gotti probably thought, ‘Oh, these small town North Carolina dudes can’t do nothing to me, but he was sorely mistaken,” he said.
And this isn’t the end, Terry said.
“He might want to pick up the phone now because I’m coming after the cars and the Bel Air mansion.”