The eclectic crowd, most in their twenties, lined up for half the block in anticipation of Yelawolf and fellow tour members Rittz and Craze. The Hard White Tour’s DJ, Craze, was the first act, playing bass-thumping records like “Niggas in Paris” and “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” before venturing into Dubstep and earning several applause breaks for his turntable tactics.
After Craze’s set came to a close, Atlanta rapper and signee to Wolf’s Slumerican Records, Rittz, came out on stage, wearing a black “Famous Stars and Straps” tee, black jeans, and a black beanie over his frizzy, chest-long auburn hair. Rittz ran through several cuts from his mixtape, White Jesus, eventually garnering support from the tepid crowd, after confessing that this was his first time in New York City, as well as his first time on tour, after quitting his 9 to 5 job two months back.
After some reorganization on the stage—a mounted deer’s head was placed below the DJ’s table—Yelawolf emerged, with the applause matching his status as the headliner. The Gadsden, Alabama-native sauntered on stage in all black everything, topped with a hooded green parka and wolf mask. As Craze, who was back behind the turntables as Yela’s DJ, spun the opening notes to “Daddy’s Lambo,” Wolf shed the mask and began energetically rapping and jumping around, to booming screams.
After the song wrapped, the Shady MC stopped to boast about his new label, asking the audience “you know why I go signed?” and replying by rapping a verse from “Trunk Muzik”—“I have to be the hardest, I got diamond nuts/I piss excellence, Ricky Bobby lines ‘em up.”
Without allowing the crowd to rest, Yelawolf went into the single from his upcoming album, Radioactive, “Hard White (Up In the Club).” Catfish Billy took off his shirt, exposing his tattooed frame, and sprayed water on the crowd before climbing down from the stage as fans mobbed forward, trying to get closer.
Yela then took the crowd through a tour of the music that inspired him, when he decided to be an artist at age 14. Yela asked for a cigarette, and was immediately showered with at least a dozen, and took out a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, before singing along to Johnny Cash (“Folsom Prison Blues”)—taking a deep swig of whiskey—along with Eazy E’s “Boyz-n-da-Hood,” rapping Andre 3000’s verse from “Bombs Over Baghdad,” and Eminem’s “The Way I Am,” before ending with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” The music choice was as eclectic as Yela’s own sound and appearance. He is a lyricist who looks—and behaves—more like a rock star than a rapper, as his jet black hair whips back and forth, reminiscent of mosh pits and metal bands rather than rap concerts.
Yelawolf also treated the audience to a cut from Radioactive entitled “Gutter,” featuring Rittz, dedicated to trailer parks and projects everywhere. “Once upon of time in a project home/lives a little girl with a heart of stone,” begins Yela’s verse, over a pounding bass-line.
But perhaps the most unexpected and tender moment of the concert was immediately after Yelawolf’s trip down memory lane, after he spat the first two verses of his song “Pop the Trunk,” and climbed down from the stage, holding his mic out, as the crowd rapped the entire third verse in unison while the 31 year old Alabama Native smoked and flashed the charming smile of a man on the cusp of fame.
After performing several more cuts from Trunk Muzik 0-60 Yelawolf and Craze said goodbye to the New York audience and walked offstage. Chants of “YELAWOLF” immediately sprang out, in beat with the pounding and accelerating boom-boom-clap coming from the speakers. Craze came out first, in a Dick Cheney costume, followed by Yelawolf, dressed in a sky-blue “Space Camp” costume and vulture mask. Behind the two performers, the curtains opened to reveal an American flag, just as the beat for “Good to Go” dropped.
Wolf rapped the first verse as two masked and costumed guns sprayed water-guns, before legendary Southern rapper Bun B swaggered on stage, dressed in all black everything and a hat embroidered with “Houston.” The Freshman and the veteran rocked together, performing their collaborative effort while the crowd drowned out their lyrics with excited screams.
It’s clear that Bun B, and the crowd in attendance, believe that Yela’s headed for the stars. —Martin Spasov