Nearly four years after the release of his Shady Records debut, Radioactive, Yelawolf is finally back, this time to attempt to solidify his place in the spotlight with his sophomore album, Love Story. As many may argue and as Yelawolf has even openly admitted, on past releases the Alabama native focused more on pleasing others than staying true to his own personal craft. But with Love Story there’s a sense of self-awareness and confidence that seemed to have been missing before. Really highlighting his rural Southern upbringing on the LP, it seems that Yelawolf is more certain of his artistry and anchored in his country roots than ever before.

After establishing himself as a fast-tongued, unfiltered contender in hip-hop a few years back, Yela slowly lost his momentum, sliding back into what many would deem the underground hip-hop scene. However, more than ever before, Love Story puts forth his distinct style and offers a better understanding of who, exactly, Yelawolf is. The Shady rapper opens the LP with “Outer Space,” and although the song doesn’t necessarily set the tone for the majority of the LP, its 1970s funk element certainly grabs attention. The follow up, “Change,” is a better indication of the LP’s Southern sound that pops up repeatedly throughout the project.

Eminem’s contribution to the LP is relatively equal to the involvement Em had on Yelawolf’s debut. The Shady CEO contributed production to three songs—“American You,” “Best Friend” and “Heartbreak”—and is the only featured guest on the project. WLPWR serves as the backbone for the majority of this album, crafting up 10 of the 17 tracks. WLPWR and Yelawolf very clearly established the sound for the album as a unit and created a cohesive flow throughout. Yelawolf even tries his hand in the producer’s corner on “Devil In My Veins” and “Ball and Chain,” which he did not attempt on Radioactive.

Em joined in on “Best Friend” which is undeniably one of the top tracks on Love Story. Em goes in on the track and spits for nearly three minutes, making it the longest record on the project. “I'm the Iggy Pop of hip-hop when I walk in the booth/Dawg, I’m the truth like Biggie rockin’ with 2Pac in the suit/Talking to Proof dropping a deuce/Fill up a syllable clip like a refillable script, cock and I shoot,” the Detroit-bred icon vigorously spits.

With Love Story, Yelawolf took his time crafting something close to his heart. It’s evident that he’s learned from past miscues and opted for the opposite route this go around. He’s fully aware of who exactly he wants to be in hip-hop: a proud, raw, unapologetically Southern MC, something the game’s been missing. He really touches the country audience with the project, a genre hip-hop rarely reaches. After digesting the LP in its entirety, Yelawolf might just be that bridge. —Miranda J.

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