"December 15th, '84 a star was born..." is how Jermaine Shute begins his six minute twenty second autobiographical recording, appropriately titled, "Life Story". The opening track to 2007's Starlito's Way 2 would suffice for this or any bio listing, but let's assume you haven't heard it.
"Where I'm from, you rap, you play ball, or you're selling dope...I did all three.”
The ambition of the average inner-city youth tends to push them towards one of those three life choices. Young Star never pretended to be average as he began to lay the foundations for a recording career while attending Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School in Nashville, TN. As captain of the Varsity Basketball team his senior year, Star once stated, "Dante Jones is the only person I know from out East (Nashville), that made it to the NBA, so I figured maybe I'll rap."
He began his earliest recordings around age 16, and by his sophomore year at Tennessee State University he had released his first mixtape It Ain't A Game No More. Six months later after three more releases, Star was able to leverage his local/regional following in to a record deal with rap juggernaut Cash Money/Universal Records. During his time with Cash Money Records he recorded under the name All Star Cashville Prince (due to Licensing issues with the name "All Star"). He would released several singles (most notably Grey Goose with remixes including Young Jeezy, Yo Gotti, & Lil' Wayne), cameo in numerous videos, and was featured on the #1 debuting Like Father, Like Song Album by Birdman & Lil' Wayne (RIAA certified platinum).
On December 15th 2007 (Star's 23rd Birthday), he released Starlito's Way 2 as a double-disc, primarily because Star felt all the great legends (.B.I.G. & 'Pac) had a double-disc in the prime of their eras. Star felt his life was in danger, and poured what little bit of sanity he had remaining in to the project. Subsequently, it was reviewed in The New York Times music section and regarded as Star's most thorough offering as of that date. The NYT review also focused heavily on the idea of Star being shelved or put on the backburner at Cash Money Records.
Perhaps it was because of the morbid mindset that surrounded Star's life at the time, or perhaps it was his own misappropriated focus on his label situation. Either way, Starlito views 2008 as “the worst year in his [my] professional career." Starlito does not acknowledge the recordings made between 2008 – early 2009 as important or a part of his story. The artistry was completely compromised by life and the perils of an artist whose life very closely imitates his art. Legal woes and street ties prevented Star from maximizing his full potential, and the risk that came with all of his external variables made his brand a difficult one to endorse. These difficulties forced Star (in his early 20s), to alter his own plans for himself and career.
By the Spring of 2009, Star had re-enrolled in college (Middle Tennessee State University), studying to obtain his Bachelor’s of Science in the Recording Industry & Marketing Program. After furnishing his own home recording studio, he began recording (himself) at a feverish-pace and even mixed/mastered his own mixtape I Love You, Too (May 2009). This tape, conceptualized around love (namely for rap, hip-hop, & his supporters) would be the beginning of the STARLITO era. He vowed to leave the All Star Cashville Prince nickname and associated music where it belonged, and move forward on his own accord. In part, the name change was a means to an ends to separate his ties with his prior label. In a much broader sense, the name was inspired by and an ode to the character CARLITO BRIGANTE from Carlito's Way (1993). Like Carlito, Star's aim is to escape the street life and create better opportunities for him and loved ones.
Later in 2009, Star would release 4 additional mixtapes including 2 concluding chapters in the Love trilogy (I Love You Too Much & I Still Love You). The renewed focus that came with the do-it-yourself mentality propelled Star in to a prosperous 2010. He released an independent album with producer DJ Burn One (Renaissance Gangster), which was critically acclaimed. A 1990s themed tape, Living In The Past with DJs Dolewite & Scooby surfaced early in the summer, followed by the 'Jackin 4 beats' tape Terminader Gold 60 which borrowed its namesake from a detox drink Star was (allegedly) using to sidestep the mandatory drug testing, as was part of his Court ordered probation …the purpose of the TG60 tape was to get it all out of my system!
The closing of 2010 was a rather strong one, as December got three releases from Star. Free At Last was released December 7th. Immediately after releasing Free At Last, Star was notified that his term had expired with Inevitable Entertainment, Cash Money Records, & Universal/Motown. This news reinvigorated Star, as he was prime to pursue other opportunities. A week later, Starlito along with Memphis recording artist Yo Gotti, released the collaborative mixtape CM5 (of the Cocaine Muzik series). Later in the same week (Star's birthday), Grind Hard LLC (Starlito's Record Label) released Starlito's Way 3 featuring two radio singles I Go Ham featuring Gucci Mane & I Shake Life featuring Yo Gotti.
2011 was thought to be the beginning of "Free Agency" for Starlito's ever-promising career, and with that in mind he set out to brand his own crew. The first priority and project for the year was the Trash Bag Gang's debut album, B**** I Got a Plug. It released on April 1, 2011 and Star was particularly proud of the reception it received considering the group's other members were Star's colleagues from the streets, and relatively unknown artists. During the same time period, Starlito headlined the Shake Life For the Gangsters Tour, which played in roughly 20 cities.
The conclusion of the tour came with the unsettling news that his paperwork with prior business partners and companies had not been fully terminated. Star felt as though the resistance that came with trying to sever those ties was a bi-product of his relentless work as an independent artist. And the entities' greed and desire to capitalize without assisting would not further a conducive relationship. He released At WAR with Myself (May 2011) in a similar tumultuous mindset as Starlito's Way 2. Starlito acknowledged with the release of At War With Myself that he wasn't sure if he would continue with a professional career. That summer Star also donated all proceeds from the project to a member of his rap group (Trash Bag Gang) who began serving a 25 year prison sentence for a drug conviction.
Eventually, and thankfully, Star would elect not to retire in 2011. In fact, July of the same year came with perhaps his biggest release to date. A joint project with Memphis' Don Trip called Stepbrothers assuredly heightened the awareness of each artist. SPIN Magazine recognized the album in the Top 10 of its TOP 50 albums as a part of its year in review issue. Numerous publications, blogs, and columnists praised the Stepbrothers as a superior release. The follow-up remains highly anticipated as the tandem continue to tour (Stepbrothers TWOur) leading up to its release. Starlito would also go on to complete another trilogy, to parallel the Love trilogy of 2009. In October 2011, Ultimate Warrior was released via www.grindhardonline.com , and a month later a supplement titled UW: Separation Anxiety followed. The conclusion of the WAR trilogy actually surfaced in 2012 following a Video Mixtape For my Foes, which released via
On April 1st, 2012, the anniversary of Trash Bag Gang's debut album, Star through his Grind Hard Label, released Mental WARfare. The album's title was a national trend via Twitter.com , and it's released also launched Starlito's Grind Hard Scholarship initiative. The GRIND HARD Scholarship is based around an acronym and mission statement of his company. Giving Reality Inspired New Direction towards Having A Real Dream, is the premise and foundation for both the scholarship and Star's personal plight for excellence. Star also released Post Traumatic Stress as a straight to web, ‘Jackin 4' Beats’ mixtape in 2012, though he's most proud of the project released on his most recent birthday.
Funerals & Court Dates remains one of Star's most conceptual mixtapes to date, as the assertion is made his generation has nothing to look forward to except for (as the title implies) Funerals & Court Dates. It is Star's willingness to make strengths out of what would otherwise be vulnerability that makes him so relatable, and one of today's most relevant underground artists. His story is a unique one that he embodies and makes a large part of his music. Perhaps, it's most telling that though he hasn't truly arrived as a household name or mainstream artists, he continues to thrive as an independent almost in a snowball type of accumulation of audience & fanfare.
Star has recently taken a vow of quality control and says that he won't be releasing 3-4 projects per year, as has been the norm. However, don't expect for him to slow from finding creative ways to express himself and his story, as a short film Reasonable Emotion is currently in the works, slated for a 2013 release. That, along with Stepbrothers 2 should pace an already accomplished career in whatever Star sees fit. After all, stardom doesn't mean half as much to Starlito as his livelihood, family, & overall well-being. Years later, his struggle remains the same, to get out of the streets –
Giving Reality Inspired New Direction towards Having A Real Dream.