Yo Gotti‘s been rapping since he was 14 years old, and has built a reputation in Hip Hop as one of the more consistent and reliable artists of his generation. Now, with the biggest hit of his career on his hands (“Down In The DM”) and a rejuvenating partnership with L.A. Reid and Epic Records, the Memphis native is blasting off into the stratosphere. To commemorate that, he graces the cover of our Culture, Women in Hip Hop & Sports issue.

Whether it was his Cocaine Muzik mixtape series or club hits with everyone from Jeezy to Lil Wayne, Gotti has remained true to form and given fans an intricate glimpse into his life with each release—most recently CM8, one of the better Holiday 2015 releases featuring a more soulful Gotti than many may have been used to. While “Down in the DM” continues to scale the charts, Gotti—born Mario Mims—is set to drop his new album, The Art of Hustle, featuring Lil Wayne, Pusha T and more, today [Friday, February 19].

For his cover story, we talked to Gotti (while he shot a set of stellar images for us in Brooklyn on an early February afternoon) about a traumatic, life-changing childhood experience to his traverses in the music industry. Here’s an excerpt of Gotti’s cover story, “Hustle & Flow.”

When Gotti talks about his early years, specifically when he was just six or seven years old, his eyes gleam and his shoulders sit upright. It’s as if he’s reached the riveting end of an action film. As previously mentioned, he was raised by six women including his mother and all were serious drug dealers. As far back as he can remember, anything he ever needed or wanted was quickly and easily provided. They lived in nice homes, had multiple estates, took frequent recreational trips, and Mario Mims was the coolest kid in his circle. “I’m at home, and there’s big money, bags of money everywhere. My mama and my auntie, they’re in and out. Rolex watches, mink coats, six or seven cars in the driveway. We’ve got houses in Vegas, a house in Memphis where we stay right behind Elvis’ house, Graceland, at the time that was the nice area.”

In this issue, we also dive into the latest news from the ongoing Freddie Gray trials in Baltimore and Hip Hop’s growing influence on the small screen, as networks continue to pounce on opportunities to broadcast content influenced heavily by our culture. The Panthers couldn’t beat Denver, but Cam Newton, Steph Curry and more join our cast of new sports legends, while our Mindsquad put together a brief guide to the biggest music releases of the year. Not a Broncos fan? No worries, Denver’s got another big draw: marijuana. Check out our “Green Rush” feature before you dive into exclusive interviews with R&B renaissance man B.J. The Chicago Kid and tenured actress and Hip Hop enthusiast Debi Mazar.

Yo Gotti shares our double cover with a powerful statement regarding the upcoming Academy Awards and the role of Hip Hop in Hollywood. The unveiling of this cover will take place next week.

Get your copy of this issue on newsstands or our digital app on Thursday, February 25.

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