Michael Wayne Atha (born December 30, 1979), better known by his stage name Yelawolf (often stylized as YelaWolf), is an American rapper. He is currently signed to Shady Records, Ghet-O-Vision, Interscope Records, and has since founded his own independent record label, Slumerican. From 2005 to 2010, Yelawolf released an independent debut studio album titled Creek Water in 2005, an extended play, and four mixtapes. The last of the four, titled Trunk Muzik, amassed a strong following for the rapper, eventually landing him a deal with Interscope Records, which re-released the mixtape as Trunk Muzik 0-60 later that year.
In March 2011, Yelawolf signed with Eminem's record label, Shady Records, and released his critically acclaimed album, Radioactive on November 21, 2011. The album debuted at #27 on Billboard 200. Yelawolf released his sequel to his breakthrough mixtape Trunk Muzik, titled Trunk Muzik Returns on March 14, 2013, and his sophomore album under Shady Records, titled Love Story is set to be released in 2013.
Atha was born in Gadsden, Alabama but was frequently on the move. His mother was 15 when she gave birth to him. Atha claims his mother was a "rockstar" who was constantly partying and under the influence of cocaine. Nashville, Tennessee was a big area of influence for Atha because his mother would travel out there. Specifically, he spent much of his time in Antioch, Tennessee at Hickory Park Place off of Bell Rd. Atha attended Carter Lawrence school in Nashville, Tennessee in which he claims was surrounded by the projects. Atha explains that "This is where Hip-Hop started making sense to him. That's where Hip-Hop made sense culturally."
Atha was homeless at one point in his life living in Berkeley, California. He specifically spent most of his time at a park in Berkeley known as People's Park. As they were sitting around homeless, people would come by to help out and offer them food such as cans of soups. Atha claims there was a defining moment in his life where he just snapped out of it and called his mother to hopefully return home to Alabama. Atha claims his mother didn't have much money, but because it was Christmas she purchased the ticket for his return home. Atha then explains "That was the 20th of December. By January 1st I was in Seattle, Washington. I had went down to Alabama then out to Seattle, Washington to get on a boat to make money. And that's pretty much where Yelawolf was born."
Atha appeared on UPN Network reality series The Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott in 2005, gaining attention as a contract artist (mural painting) from Rainbow City, Alabama. After his elimination from the show, he released his debut mixtape Pissn' in a Barrel of Beez in 2005, later the same year he released his independent debut album titled Creek Water. Two years later, Atha signed to Columbia Records and released the single "Kickin'" from his unreleased first studio album, Fearin' and Loathin' in Smalltown, U.S.A.. The album was never released because Atha was dropped from the label later that same year. Atha released two mixtapes following his release from Columbia, titled Balls of Flames: The Ballad of Slick Rick E. Bobby and Stereo: A Hip Hop Tribute to Classic Rock, the two of which went mainly unnoticed. In 2009, he signed with Ghet-O-Vision Entertainment and released his debut Extended Play Arena Rap.
2010-2011: Trunk Muzik and Radioactiveedit:
In late 2009, he began to work with Ghet-O-Vision producer, WillPower, on his breakthrough mixtape titled "Trunk Muzik". Released in January 2010, the mixtape created an enormous online following for Atha, and is considered by many to be one of the greatest mixtapes of all timeCitation Needed. Later that year, Atha signed a major record deal with Interscope Records, and began to work on a re-release of the mixtape titled "Trunk Muzik 0-60". It was released on November 22, 2010 under Ghet-O-Vision Entertainment and Interscope Records, which became his most acclaimed work to date.
In March 2011, after speculation of a joint record deal with Eminem, Yelawolf was featured on the cover of XXL's March 2011 issue, with Eminem and fellow new Shady Records signees Slaughterhouse, with the issue confirming his record deal with Shady Records. Yelawolf was also featured among XXL's Top 11 Freshmen of 2011, releasing several songs on the magazine's yearly Freshman mixtape, along with Kendrick Lamar, Cyhi Da Prynce and Big K.R.I.T., among others. On April 14, 2011, Yelawolf announced the title of his debut Shady release "Radioactive" with a release date that aimed for September. On May 18, Yelawolf announced his album's first single, titled "Gangsta of Love", produced by Jim Jonsin and featuring Cyhi Da Prynce. The song was leaked in early July, although it only featured unfinished vocals by Cyhi da Prynce at the end of the song. The song was later scrapped and no longer appeared on the album. Yelawolf partnered up with the video game Driver: San Francisco to release a music video for the song "No Hands" which was supposed to be included in Radioactive, but was later scrapped. On August 8, 2011, Yelawolf released the first official single from his album titled "Hard White (Up in the Club)", which features fellow rapper Lil Jon. The album's release date was moved down to October, and later had a final release date to November 21, 2011. On October 30, Yelawolf released the second single off Radioactive, titled "Let's Roll" featuring vocals from Kid Rock.
Anticipation for the album increased when influential hip hop magazine The Source (magazine), gave the album a rare 4.5 out of 5 mics, meaning the album was "near classic". Radioactive, was released November 21, 2011 under Interscope Records and Shady Records, debuting the following week at #27 on Billboard 200. The album featured production from Eminem (who is also the executive producer for the album), Jim Jonsin, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Diplo, The Audibles, Pooh Bear and WillPower of SupaHot Beats, and features from Eminem, Kid Rock, Lil Jon, Fefe Dobson, Mystikal, Shawty Fatt, Rittz, Killer Mike, and Gangsta Boo among others.
2012: The Slumdon Bridge, Heart of Dixie and Psycho Whiteedit:
On January 24, 2012, Yelawolf released a promotional track with British singer Ed Sheeran titled "You Don't Know (For Fuck's Sake)". The track was for a upcoming collaborative Extended Play, titled The Slumdon Bridge. On January 31, 2012, a trailer for the EP was released, it featured both artists in a studio recording the EP. In the video Yelawolf revealed the EP was recorded in 10 hours, and included 4 tracks.The Slumdon Bridge, which was released as a free download on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2012, marking Yelawolf's second EP, and his first collaborative project. It was later re-released to retail markets under Warner Music on April 14, 2012.
On June 16, 2012, in order to commemorate Father's Day, Yelawolf released a song titled "Happy Father's Day". The song was produced by Alabama producer M16. With the track, Yelawolf announced his fifth official mixtape Heart of Dixie. The mixtape was a project between Yelawolf and producer M16 and hosted by DJ Frank White. Coincidentally, all three are from the state of Alabama, therefore the title was derived from the state's popular nickname, "The Heart of Dixie". The mixtape was released on July 4, 2012 to coincide with Independence Day. It received mostly positive reviews.
In August 2012, Yelawolf announced the long-awaited joint EP with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, titled Psycho White. The first single to the EP, titled "Push 'Em" features background vocals by Transplants members Skinhead Rob and Tim Armstrong, and was released as a free download on September 12. After several push-backs, the EP was finally released on November 13, 2012. Debuting at #49 on Billboard 200 with first week sales of 11,000. Yelawolf stated that all the tracks on the album will have a music video and during a an article with Rolling Stone, both him and Barker hinted at a sequel to the EP.
2012-present: Trunk Muzik Returns and Love Storyedit:
On March 20, 2012, Yelawolf announced his sophomore album under Shady Records will start recording in June, titled Love Story. Due to a stage diving incident which caused a ruptured spleen, Yelawolf decided to delay the album's recording process. During an interview with DJ Skee he revealed that a sequel to his 2010 mixtape Trunk Muzik, titled Trunk Muzik Returns, would be released in August after "the dust settles on the Heart of Dixie" but since then has been delayed. He also shed light on his often delayed collaborative mixtape Country Cousins with fellow rapper Big K.R.I.T., during the interview DJ Skee offered to host the project.
In December 2012, Yelawolf addressed the status of all of his projects in an interview. He also spoke on his upcoming sophomore release, Love Story, and how it would be different compares to his debut effort Radioactive. "With Radioactive, I gave up a lot of creative space, and like I predicted would happen, there were some records that didn't translate to my audience." He stated he would record the album in Nashville and go to Detroit so him and Eminem could finish the album. Yelawolf also said that Trunk Muzik Returns would hopefully released in February 2013, with the date later confirmed.
On February 5 Yelawolf released the first song from Trunk Muzik Returns with "Way Out" and announced a release date of March 14, 2013 for the mixtape. In February 2013 Shady Records president Paul Rosenberg confirmed Yelawolf was recording the album in Nashville currently and it would be released in 2013. On February 26 Yelawolf released a second song from Trunk Muzik Returns titled "F.A.S.T. Ride". On March 12 a third song from Trunk Muzik Returns was released titled "Gangster" featuring fellow rappers ASAP Rocky and Big Henry. The mixtape contains ten original tracks and features guest appearances from Raekwon, Paul Wall, Killer Mike and ASAP Rocky. The album is entirely produced by his go-to producer WillPower.