Alabama-born rapper, Yelawolf first started turning heads with a mixtape before signing to Shady Records and releasing his solo debut album “Radioactive” in 2011.
It’s hard to dub Yelawolf under Southern rap with his unique blend of impressive vocals, rap verses and instrumentals that sample steel guitars and hip hop beats making it evident that he belongs under another umbrella all together. The tatted-up songwriter has a word prowess and flow he’s honed over the years that should make anyone who encounters his work stop, rewind and listen again.
With features on Eminem’s new two-disc compilation album, Shady XV and a tour that’s sold out more shows than not, Yelawolf is on his way to an exciting year to come. In fact, he’s preparing for the release of his second studio album, Love Story that is what he calls the best representation of his true artistry and a reflection of his passions.
We caught up with Yelawolf at his show in Detroit where we talked about his latest single, “Til It’s Gone,” working with Eminem, his upcoming album, Love Story and more.
CN: You have a couple features on the new Shady album. How did it feel to work with Eminem on the project?
Yelawolf: I mean, it’s cool. The one record that we did work on together was the one with Skylar. He called me and basically asked me to narrate it with a verse, it was a lot of pressure. It was a challenge, honestly. The other records, “Pop the Trunk,” “Going Down,” “Let’s Roll” I think is on there, it’s just a compilation of kind of the brief history. The record we got to get down and get creative on, “Psychopath” was a fun one to write. I just did the best I could do with my style and try to make a good song.
CN: What about “Til It’s Gone?”
Yelawolf: “Til It’s Gone” is a love story cut. It started with guitars, I just took the guitar loop and took it out to the truck and wrote it. It’s probably the fastest record I ever wrote. It probably took about an hour and a half to write that at most.
CN: Who would you say are some of your musical influences? Especially being from Alabama then making your way to Nashville and being immersed in Hip Hop.
Yelawolf: There’s just so many, it depends on what genre. I have influences in hip hop, I have influences in rock, country so it just depends. I’ve always been swimming in music, it’s been in my house, in my life. My mom’s first boyfriend was doing lights and sound for Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper, Fleetwood Mac. Her next long term husband was the tour manager for Randy Travis so there was the country music side. So I was always around it, a lot of music. Hip Hop was something I was getting from skateboarding and being on the street. The other music was just always in my household.
CN: So then at what point did you decide to pursue it as a career?
Yelawolf: I decided in 2000 that it was something that I needed to do seriously and stop fucking around. It took me until late ‘06 to really hone a style that was going to work for me. It took time to figure out— anyone can rap, that’s the honest truth. It’s not hard to rap. I guess it’s hard to be skillful, but it’s not hard to rap. It’s the story of the person and who they are and their style and how does what they say match up to where they’re from. It’s the whole thing. It was important me to create something authentic. I’m still doing it, still getting sharper and still figuring it out; Love Story is the closest I’ve gotten for sure.
CN: With that said, do you feel that it’s important to be invested in the songwriting aspect?
Yelawolf: Yeah, I mean for me. I can’t speak for other people, but for me it is. I’m a melody driven songwriter. Writing rap verses is just fun, it isn’t even a challenge. It’s writing a song conceptually from front to back, that’s what’s up.
CN: You’ve worked with an array of different artists, who else would you like to work with?
Yelawolf: I don’t know. I used to have this big bucket list of people I’d like to work with, now I’ve been taking it one day at a time, one record at a time. I’ve had my sights on Anthony Kiedis for a long time but I don’t know if that’ll ever happen. I’ve been saying that for a long time, I just think he’s one of the best rappers ever who ever lived and no one really knows. He’s really one of the best rappers ever, he’s incredible. People don’t even consider him to be a rapper but he does. He, plainly to me, raps and an amazing singer too. If I could get Anthony Kiedis over some 808’s that’d be the move. Or anything for that matter, anything he wanted to do.
CN: You mentioned your new album, you’ve evolved as a songwriter. Are there any collaborations and what can people expect?
Yelawolf: As far as collaborations go, I wasn’t thinking like that on this album. My last album, Radioactive, I just learned a lot. Love Story is just something that I wanted to handle and if there was a feature to come around it would be something so necessary and organic and cool, the right thing, you know? There will be features but they were all very hand selected. No features from popular rappers or whatever just for whatever reason.
CN: What inspired the title for the album?
Yelawolf: Love Story is about passion. It’s about the passion for everything that I do. Loving a writing story is about being alive, the album itself is a testament to continue otherwise I would have hung it up, quit when I hit hard times. But Love Story is a fucking love letter to music, to my life, to celebrate growth and evolution.
CN: What would you say is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome personally or professionally since the start of your career?
Yelawolf: Just fucking people changing. People that you’ve known forever just aren’t the same anymore. Fame is like a sickness to some people, makes them act weird. I don’t understand but that’s been the most difficult thing to deal with..watching a group of friends really shrink down to 3 or 4 people that are cool and don’t act different just because of who I am now.
CN: What would you say is your greatest achievement?
Yelawolf: Greatest achievement? My children for sure.
CN: What’s the idea behind Slumerican?
Yelawolf: Slumerican is a culture brand. It could be car builders, people who build helicopters, tattoo artists, photographers, skateboarders. Slumerican is for anyone who understands it.
CN: And finally, what are you plans going into the new year?
Yelawolf: Put on some fucking furry slippers, light an expensive cigar and sit in my crib in Nashville and kick it with my kids and spend some of the money we made on this tour.