Stage Lights: Yelawolf Interview
Monday, April 12, 2010 by Team Greedmont | 11 Comments; | Category: Alternative/Rock, Interview, Music, Rap
Yelawolf talks about his art, passion, and being everyday people
Behind a lot of Yelawolf’s tunes, there’s anger, insanity, intelligence, and street-smarts. Needless to say, rappers with a catalogue like that don’t always have the reputation for being the most friendly or talkative, especially to young journalists. He’s on tour with Wiz Khalifa, just singed a major record label deal with Interscope, and is prepping for new projects. Yet, he found the time to talk to Greedmont about music, comparisons, and an assortment of other subject matters.
Yelawolf is an Alabama raised rapper that has been making quite a wave in the music world, lately. Meshing his southern background and skateboard style into hard-hitting music that garnered him a lot of attention on projects like “Stereo” and “Trunk Muzik”. He has collaborated with such artists like Juelz Santana, Slim Thug, and countless producers. He’s noted as one of the most unique and distinct voices in Hip-Hop. Now that he’s on tour and signed, he seems to be on the brink of world domination.
My phone rings. It’s him. I answer, “Hello?” “What’s Up, Myles?” Yelawolf says in his cool, calm, and collected voice. Not with an attitude, but like we were friends about to catch up. I don’t know if Yelawolf has always been this calm, or if it’s just the calm before the storm since he just recently signed a major label deal that not only bridges him, but his Ghetto Vision label that he believes very deeply in and will also allow him to keep all creative and artistic control. “We only went with a label that let us do what we are doing”, he continues
“… We’re all about the integrity of the art. I just want to reach the world.”
If you didn’t already know Yelawolf is not just one of the most prolific lyricists in rap, right now, but he’s also white. I decided to not to tip-toe around the subject and ask him a few racially charged questions that I figured a white rapper in Hip-Hop would have a especially unique take on. When asked about the inevitable comparisons to label-mate and fellow white rapper, Eminem, he responds, “Comparisons are just human nature. You have to have something to compare it to and we just have to make it your own.” He brings back the focus on the music and the art quickly, “I’m passionate about what I do. I do what I love. I make sure every record I like is based on a real point of view.” Still, when inquired about a possible collaboration between Eminem and himself he quickly jabs, “All for the collaboration. Absolutely”.
If you don’t know Yelawolf for his witty delivery, the successful “Trunk Muzik”, or his collaborations with Hip-Hop heavyweights, you might know him from your television. He had a stint on Missy Elliot’s reality television show “Road to Stardom”. I inquired about how it might have affected his career or mentality. He responds truthfully and openly, “It didn’t do anything for my career. It came out way more [of a] personal experience.”
Listening to Yelawolf’s music and watching his growing, yet still distinct image you have to ask yourself how did he grow up and what he’s inspired by. Yelawolf divulges about his childhood. He grew up with a young mother who had him at fifteen years of age and had to grow-up faster than the average child. “I was making my own meals. Getting myself up from school in 3rd and 4th grade. I just grew up quick.” He still contributes his vast and eclectic taste in music to his mother. “I could have heard all of that shit on skateboarding videos and still not been attracted to it.” In his youth, he also found his love of skateboarding and the culture. “I got my first skateboard when I was four or five. I got my first pro model when I was like twelve or thirteen. I really started going hard out in Nashville.” he also adds about skateboarding culture and it’s influence on him, “It just broadens my horizons”.
“I base everything off of my own perspective. I am super passionate about the state of Alabama. Generations of my family are from Alabama… I feel a certain sense of responsibility. To be completely honest and real about who we are and what we do.”
Yelawolf has a profound respect and admiration for his hometown of Alabama and his history. His roots run thick in Alabama and he’s open about how his history manipulates his music, lyrically and conceptually. “I base everything off of my own perspective. I am super passionate about the state of Alabama. Generations of my family are from Alabama… I feel a certain sense of responsibility. To be completely honest and real about who we are and what we do.” His responsibility doesn’t stop at just Alabama, but Yelawolf is passionate about the working class everywhere. “I love the working class, blue-collar people. So many people in Hip-Hop want to be the star, I just want to be the people.” He jokes about a time where money didn’t flow so smoothly, but he still partied with the best of them. “You start being so fresh that you roll up in the party, the freshest person there and have no car… I know how to wear those Wal-Mart shoes.”
Yelawolf is an artist’s artist. He has the passion, and apparently it’s finally being noticed on a more mainstream scale. He has a certain type of passion and sharpness in his voice that a lot of rappers don’t possess. “There’s a couple of ounces of passion people are missing. I believe in my shit. I believe in my team.” Yelawolf has the recipe for perfection. A thirst and drive that’s very rare in a lot of young Hip-Hop today. “I’m an extremist. When I want to do something, I just fucking do it. And if I’m not good enough, I get good enough.” He sees himself working with artists like Outkast and Lykke Li and filling up arenas. It’s more than probable with work ethic and talent like his.
I prepare to close the conversation and Yelawolf thanks me for the interview and I thank him for sparing some time. Plenty of rappers have the talent or knowledge, but a lot do not have the passion or integrity. It’s the integrity that separates good music from great art. Yelawolf is in the business of making great art. Look out for his new project, “Trunk Muzik: 0 to 60” dropping in June and catch him on tour with Wiz Khalifa. Yelawolf is one of the newest voices in Hip-Hop, but it’s turning out that his bite is going to be way worse than his bark.
- words by Myles E. Johnson of Studio13