Yelawolf is frustrated. He recently voiced disappointment with his label, Interscope, for promoting “one single in 11 months” from his debut album, November’s Radioactive (he was sure to clarify his frustration was not aimed at Shady Records). Surely, the album saw neither the commercial nor critical success that seemed possible for the Alabama-bred firespitter. Though many thought it was still a strong project—as Yela’s fury on the mic was not toned down—Radioactive had a different overall feel than much of his previous work. With Heart of Dixie, not only does he recapture much of his Trunk Muzik energy, but also willfully addresses the concerns triggered by his debut.
“I would hope that you would look into my story, not just in my flow,” Yelawolf pleadingly raps on the tape’s final track, “Wrap Song.” Indeed, it’s easy to be so consumed by the former XXL Freshman’s furious flow that the content of what he’s saying slips by, but it would be foolish to let that happen on the ten-track Heart of Dixie. This is most clear on the tape’s best song, “Be The One.” Over graceful piano strokes, Wolf touches on being on Shady, facing doubters, and even takes it back nearly a decade to his appearance on Missy Elliott’s show The Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott. The chip on his shoulder to continue to prove himself is also evident on the opener, “Howdy,” where he spits four minutes of passion, and early on wonders, “Why do I feel like I never had Marshall Mathers’ co-sign sometimes?/Like Radioactive failed?” He continues, “Maybe when I tell myself I’m one of the best, I’m just lyin’/When my Uncle Buddy call and ask, I say I’m just fine/But I feel like I haven’t made it, Uncle Bud I’m just tryin’.”
There are the less revealing, more predictable moments, like “White Boy Shit” and “Sobriety Sucks,” but even those fit, as they’re irrefutably authentic to Yelawolf. At the same time, they reinforce the point that he’s back in his Catfish Billy zone with Heart of Dixie, returning to his musical roots while delivering fans the music that he wants. It’s more than likely what they want, too. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)