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Mixtape Review: Yelawolf, Trunk Muzik Returns

Since the release of his major-label debut Radioactive, Yelawolf has slowly crept back into the underground hip-hop scene. The idea of crossing over for a larger commercial audience in hopes of scoring a hit weren’t met to his expectations. There were certainly contenders, “Let’s Roll” and “Hard White (Up in the Club)” contributed to the album’s chart success. But Yela openly expressed frustrations with how the album turned out, and those frustrations have been reflected in his musical output since. Trunk Muzik Returns is a return to the form that won his fans over. Unlike some of the uncomfortable attempts at pop songs found on Radioactive, Yelawolf is raw and uncut here, which has always been the basis of his appeal.

The original Trunk Muzik, later re-released as Trunk Muzik 0-60 based on its success, established Yelawolf as the other white rapper with a quick-fast tongue and unfiltered rhymes. The sequel’s singles (“Way Out” and “F.A.S.T. Ride”) are some of his best work, containing the right ingredients of vintage Yelawolf with a sleek new twist. The now bearded Alabama MC showcases relatable moments throughout—with a certain country back-roads mystique—over experimental production and funky grooves. There’s a clear artistic progression upon listening to the tape, and on Trunk Muzik Returns’ opening track, he makes it known that “this fire in me ain’t going out.”

The biggest change in Yelawolf appears on “Box Chevy Part 4,” a five-minute track that sees him crooning over his love for his Chevy. Although it contains lyrics about turning to drugs to escape internal pain, there’s a personal stamp here that makes it worthwhile. Yelawolf could have easily laced up a “Box Chevy Part 3.5” of sorts, but instead delivers a proper ode that finds a balance between rock and hip-hop. It’s the type of direction we’ve encountered in his previous releases, and these attempts continue to push a new persona, one more evolved from the typically hard-partying and trash-talking rapper from before.

Yelawolf has a penchant for lyricism and brings along rappers like Raekwon, Killer Mike and A$AP Rocky on the tape. Paul Wall makes a surprising return on “Hustle,” where he raps about holding down a few side jobs, while steadily getting money through any means necessary. On “Gangster,” a cut that’s reflects Yelawolf’s trunk rattling past, he details his upbringing through a truth-telling lens. It’s here he grasps the attention of longtime fans and shows he can still take it back to his Slumerican ways.

The project isn’t without one or two missteps, though. Yelawolf isn’t exactly the type to hold anything back, and “Fame” is another chance for him to let some things off his chest. The song details his rise, from pushing his demo to taking meetings with label executives like L.A. Reid. Generally, these rags-to-riches stories are interesting, but it comes off as self-loathing here. “Tennessee Love,” a somber love story over woozy production, isn’t a song typically in his wheelhouse. On the one hand, it’s a fitting ending to the tape, but there’s an oversensitiveness to his confessions.

If Yelawolf had something to prove, it was that he’s still an adept rapper who stuck to his guns.  Even if Radioactive cooled his buzz for a bit, there’s a sense of self-awareness of his mistakes here and he certainly sounds determined to impress fans and fuel the fire for his sophomore effort, Love Story. As he raps on “Rhyme Room,” “Catfish Billy, you can put Trunk Muzik in the picture frame/You ain’t gotta tell me that I made a mistake and some of that shit was lame/But all I wanna do is say “fuck that shit” and please accept my change/I was only tryna people please/So people please, know my name.”

Say no more. The Slumerican Shitizen is back.— Eric Diep (@E_Diep)

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