Meet the next up-and-coming rapper to carry the South on his shoulders

The Internet is known to help boost awareness for any relatively new artist. Kevin Gates, a burgeoning talent out of the South, has been a household name for the past year. To most outside of the Baton Rouge rap scene, Gates is viewed as the  next rap star to take the top spot alongside Lil Boosie. His growth has been due to his consistent grind in putting out what he considers “reality rap.”

Gates made some noise after his release of Make ‘Em Believe released in April 2012. The tape—which features standout hits “Satellites” and “Trap Girl”—offered a taste of his emotional honesty over hard production. He followed up that with The Luca Brasi Story, which was heralded among hip-hop heads and music publications as the tape to look out for. Now, he’s focused on the next project to continue giving his loyal fans some quality street music.

Earlier this week, XXL got on the phone with Gates to speak about why everyone has deemed him the next hottest act out of the South. “I have a nice ass following, but I don’t pay attention to that. When you start paying attention to your fanbase and you start paying attention to your following, I notice that other artists, they do things to get more followers. I’m not doing that. I am continuing to make great music,” he explained on his growing fanbase. We discussed his childhood in Baton Rouge, the response of Luca Brasi, his relationship with Young Money, and how he relates to Eminem.—As told to Eric Diep (@E_Diep)


On Moving From New Orleans to Baton Rouge:

Kevin Gates:"I was born in Women’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. That was the hospital that my mother had me in because I guess it was a government funded hospital. Earl K. Long. I was born over there. I was born in Earl K. Long hospital and then after that I lived in New Orleans. I don’t remember coming out the pussy but I grew up in New Orleans. I lived in the Lower Ninth Ward and we moved to Baton Rouge later on.

"It was always low-income housing for us. That’s what my mother was able to afford. Section 8 livin’. It was that for a little while. Then after that I lived with my grandmother. My grandmother raised us. My grandmother, she really raised me for the majority of my life. I guess my mother had got married, she was married for 14 years, and I got to go live with her and her husband and my little brother and my little sister. He was a plant worker so he had a nice little bit of income. Being in the Southern region, most of the work opportunities there are industrial related. It is engineering, relief operators—just anything dealing with a plant. He made money where I was able to go experience this at least for a small bit of time, for a little while. But for the majority, my grandmother and grandfather raised me."


On The Music He Listens To:

Kevin Gates: "[I listen to] really anything. Because my aunt stayed listening to rock 'n' roll, they were eclectic. They listened to all different types of genres of music. Coming up, I always listened to all different types and genres of music. I’ve always had a love for music.

"I can’t say [hip-hop spoke to me more] because I don’t just make hip-hop but that’s what’s being put out right now. I just love music. I love reggae music. I love soft rock. I love rock 'n' roll. I love music. It’s just music. Probably right now my favorite is Ed Sheeran and he doesn’t rap…well he raps a little bit.

"I listen to anybody. Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z, Nas, Shyne, The Wu-Tang Clan, 8 Ball & MJG, E-40 and the Clique, everything man. Jim Jones. I listen to Yo Gotti. I love Gucci Mane. You just gotta listen to everything. Everything that’s out, I listen to but if I feel like an artist is talking about the streets and he’s not talking about it the right way, then I can’t really listen at it because I really live that life. Not “lived that life” because I was a gangsta but “lived that life” because I was in low-income housing. I got to see a lot of those things that go on in an impoverished environment. So I can tell when somebody lived it and I can tell when somebody didn’t."


On Being Considered A “Ghetto Reporter” In His Music:

Kevin Gates: "Yeah, I would say that … the things I see, the things that go on, the things that would be news to me. I used to say I make quality street music but I prefer to call it “reality rap” now. It’s just from the observation standpoint and it’s also speaking from the hands-on standpoint. And that’s just what I do.

"I’m honest in my music. I don’t exaggerate. I make very honest music. They can hear it in my tone of voice; they can hear when I’m stressed. They can just hear it and feel the emotion in every song. So riding around and listening to a Kevin Gates CD is almost like having me in the passenger seat with a cup of syrup, smokin’ something and just talking to you. Jamming to my experiences. That’s all. I’m not a gangster. I’m not a thug. Because the people that call themselves that, I don’t act like those people and I don’t look like those people that call them that. So I’m just me at the end of the day. I’m Kevin. I’m plain old Kevin. I don’t have one of those stigmatized names. I’m just sharing my experiences through my music. I provide insight for what’s going on in my realm through my music."


On Taking Rap Seriously:

Kevin Gates: "I never really were took it seriously until, I believe, I came home from jail in October 2011. That’s when I took it serious. Other than that I would go to the studio make 3 songs and go back to what I was doing. Go in there and make a few songs and then go back to the mall. I’d just stop in and do it and I’m glad I never looked at it like that because the people that do, they try. And if I can make beautiful music effortlessly, just the way I live, I appreciate that in itself.

"[My music] was already doing what it was supposed to be doing. It’s just I didn’t realize the effect I had on people. But when I saw it, when I came home, I was able to see like, “Wow! This is what’s going on.” I noticed one thing, when I came home from jail and I saw that, I started trying to make music and the music wasn’t as good as it felt it should’ve been."


On The Luca Brasi Story:

Kevin Gates: "[The mixtape] wasn’t really outlined, but my moods transition. I can tell you that. Like I said, with me being honest with everything that I do, it came together quite simply because I went in the studio and made music. The songs that fit the project, we put on there. The ones that didn’t—we’ll wait for another project to put them on.

"The title stems from the Godfather. I am really into mafia movies. Me and my grandmother both are really into mafia movies. I don’t know if it was the theme of the tape, but at the same time Luca Brasi was a protector. He was an enforcer. He protected the family. He was a famous hitman for the Godfather, for the family. I am really a family-oriented person. With the small family that I do have, a few individuals that I call family, I’ve always been the protector, the person that watches out. I guess that’s where the nickname kind of came forth from with me always watching those movies. I really got into mafia movies and it is sort of a nickname that was given to me. People that know me and know the love that I have for [mafia movies], they call me that.

"[Master P and Curren$y] are individuals that I know already. That’s just me. I am not going to go outside my element to get someone on the song, you know what I am saying? Whatever happens, it’ll happen organically with me. Whatever goes on with me, I prefer it to be organic. My following can tell when it is organic and they can tell when it is not. I don’t believe in going outside of my element to make something happen. I believe in allowing things to happen as they happen."


Eminem’s Influence on “Marshall Mathers”:

Kevin Gates: "I am an Eminem fan. He had an estranged relationship with a few of his family members. I also have an estranged relationship with certain individuals. Like I say, the whole idea of being misunderstood. I related to Eminem a lot with that. Sometimes, I feel like Marshall Mathers because he is a very talented, talented artist, but he is also misunderstood. I guess by the people that he might love the most."


On his relationship with Young Money:

Kevin Gates: "I have a good relationship with Young Money, they manage me. I started my own label called Bread Winners Association, BWA, that’s the label right now. I plan on dropping “Satellite” in March and I plan on dropping a video around the middle of March. I am just keep on making great music. Let’s see what happens.

"I look at them like an extended family. They taught me a lot in the game. I really look at Wayne—Tune—as a coach. Anything that I needed advice about or whatever; I could call him and ask him. He is really a genius musically. That’s my relationship with them, but I aspire to, you know, I want a conglomerate. I wanted to get it out the mud so to say.

"Wayne taught me how to approach a song and make it my own. Every record that I approach I make it my own. I guess that’s the key thing and always being true to self with anything that I do."


On What Incarceration Has Taught Him:

Kevin Gates: "A lot of times you need to sit down and look at things. You need to be able to look at things from the outside. You need time to reflect on what is going on. A lot of times when you are involved in a situation, you can’t see everything. So like I said, it gave me time to reflect. It gave me time to learn myself. It gave me time to see what I really was in life. I had time to mature, so to say. I already lived life at an accelerated pace, but I have looked at things from a different perspective.

"Now, I look at things from a better perspective, in which I believe for you and for a lot of other individuals, it’s better that I look at things from this perspective now … because the old perspective wasn’t really too good.

"The reason I stay away from that question, “What I went to jail for?” [It] is because I am not trying to tell you I went to jail for this, this and that. That’s not the image I am selling. Like I say, I am just Kevin."


Long-Term Goals:

Kevin Gates: "When you say my long-term goals, every day I work on myself. The things that I am doing as a person, is really trying to become a better person, if anything. Every situation that I gothrough in life I look at as a test. When we pass those tests, they speak volumes as individual character. That’s really where I am with it right now. Like I say, I am not impatient, I am just patient. I am waiting on things to unfold as they unfold. I can’t tell you what my goal is for the next six months, but I can tell you what my goal overall is. I just want to be your favorite rapper. That’s what I want to be. I want to be your favorite rapper."

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