Yelawolf, Creepin’ on a Come Up
Fresh off his feature on Juelz Santana’s “Mixing Up The Medicine,” Alabama newcomer Yelawolf is cooking up a batch of new music, including a recent track with Raekwon. With blessings from Atlanta pioneer Kawan “KP” Prather and his label Ghet-O-Vision Ent., Yelawolf offers up a unique combination of classic rock and hip-hop, which can be heard on his indie releases, Ball of Flames: The Ballad of Slick Rick E. Bobby, Stereo, and Arena Rap.
Despite the improbable odds of being a successful White rapper out of Alabama, Yelawolf continues to defy expectations and win over diehard rap fans and artists alike. His latest co-sign comes courtesy of Bun B, who appears on “Good to Go,” which is stewing interest for the rap rookie’s upcoming mixtape, Trunk Music. XXLMag.com caught up with the rising star, who now calls Atlanta home, to talk about breaking the color barrier, working with hip-hop legends and why you should never sleep on Yelawolf.
XXLMag.com: How does a White boy from Alabama link up with Harlem’s own Juelz Santana for a song like “Mixing Up The Medicine?”
Yelawolf: I have a band and in that band my homeboy Ashanti is my fiddler player and he knew Cane, who produced “Mixing up the Medicine.” Cane had come up with the idea of doing that Bob Dylan cover and previously, I had did this mixtape called Stereo, which was a hip-hop tribute to classic rock. I fit the bill for what he was trying to get across and Cane reached out to me to feature on it. Juelz came out and I met him in ATL.
XXLMag.com: Alabama isn’t really known as a Mecca of hip-hop. How do you fit in to the rap world as a White MC with heavy rock influence?
Yelawolf: I’m not the first white rapper. There’s nothing initially brand new about what I’m doing. What made it hard for me to break for so many years is my perspective, my influences and all of that combined. I grew up on hardcore shit so it just comes naturally… I’m inspired from Alabama because of what it’s like. I pick out literal things that are going on in my space and place them into the music. The culture of Alabama, my surroundings, things that I see everyday—big trucks, Confederate flags, Chevys, dope boys, projects, trailer parks, mud tires, deer heads, camouflage, rednecks, poor people, lakes, rivers, trees all the things I’m surrounded by heavily influences my content.
XXLMag.com: Your style also seems to be real melodic. Where did that approach to rap come from?
Yelawolf: My melody comes from classic rock. I was born into classic rock. My mom had me when she was about 15 and she was heavy into classic rock. I have a lot of that melody rooted in me.
XXLMag.com: Who are some of your musical influences?
Yelawolf: Early in my life, it was Lynard Skynard, REO Speedwagon, Journey and Mother’s Finest, classic rock. My mother’s boyfriend at the time was doing the Walk This Way Tour and some of the road crew came back to stay with us. They bought me some Motley Crue shirts and some Beastie Boys tapes; that was when I first discovered hip-hop. When I moved to Nashville, I found out more about Three 6 Mafia, UGK, and N.W.A. Around ’93 I started really getting into Hieroglyphics, Digable Planets—I was really into them—and I was really connected with Wu-Tang Clan as a fan growing up skateboarding. I could recite every word of the Cuban Linx project I used to ride to it every day, Raekwon’s definitely one of my favorite artists.
XXLMag.com: Speaking of Raekwon, how did you wind up collaborating with him on “I Wish?”
Yelawolf: I met him in Miami when we flew out to work with Scott Storch when I was with Columbia a few years ago. He just happened to be there—this was way before we decided to try and do a record. About four or five months later we were in New York cutting a record and KP called Rae; he got to listen to some of my album and he just ran with it. It was an honor—he doesn’t work with everybody.
XXLMag.com: As far as labels go you mentioned Columbia Records. Clearly you’re no longer with them. What’s your current label situation?
Yelawolf: My management team, J Dot and Courtney Sills, introduced my music to Kawan “KP” Prather in ’07. He flew down to Atlanta and basically signed me on the spot through Columbia with his company Ghet-O-Vision Ent. We were with Columbia six maybe seven months when Rick Rubin came in and just cleaned house. We uprooted from Columbia and went back to the streets. Ghet-O-Vision Ent.’s been working as an independent for the past three years together. As you know, KP brought OutKast out, he signed them, he brought out Tip, Pink, John Legend, Usher, he’s a music pioneer for Atlanta and he’s just brilliant at what he does.
XXLMag.com: In terms of your upcoming mixtape, Trunk Music, what can we look forward to off that?
Yelawolf: Trunk Music is straight raw rap. I’m really excited about it—definitely my best yet. I’m heading to the studio to wrap it up entirely…. People are going to be awed by incredible super hot beats. [Willpower of Supahot Beats] killed it. He did 99-percent of the tracks. The production is amazing. The perspective is what’s attractive about the music—I don’t imitate, lie, or beat around the bush with the truth of my own life. I speak from pieces of my life’s experiences and put it in my music that is what is going to make it special. There is a lot of depth; it’s definitely not in one lane. —Rosario Mercedes Velazquez