Congrats to YelaWolf on earning himself a blurb and a big ol’ picture in the New York Times on Friday:
Doing the nasal Dylan impression on the hook, which turns “Subterranean Homesick Blues” more druggy, is YelaWolf, a white rapper from Alabama with a classic rock jones and a glorious, tinny drawl, as heard on last year’s mixtape “Stereo.” On his forthcoming mixtape, “Trunk Muzik,” he boasts, “Trashed off the glue you build an airplane model with/In the gutter like an empty PBR bottle is.”
But since everybody knows Metal Lungies has ten times the clout of the New York Times, YelaWolf called me from Juelz Santana’s video shoot for “Mixing Up the Medicine” to talk about his career thus far and his artistic direction. Not the bum ass Times.
ML: I heard a rumor that you signed to a major. What is your label situation?
YelaWolf: Nah, just Ghet-O-Vision right now. We aren’t signed with any major.
ML: Is anything on the table?
YelaWolf: I don’t know, man. I don’t even ask questions. I don’t deal with that shit after being at Columbia. I just kinda trust [A&R, producer] KP and [my manager] J Dot. They’ll let me know if something serious comes across the table, or else it’s usually just a bunch of talk and a bunch of letdowns.
ML: So you were at Columbia originally?
YelaWolf: Yeah, ‘07 going in to ‘08 we signed with Columbia and we were there for a real short time before Rick Rubin came in and fuckin’ shut everything down. So me and KP and J Dot left as a unit and started grinding for the last couple of years on the street as Ghet-O-Vision.
ML: Killer Mike described you as a cross between Dungeon Family and Lynyrd Skynyrd. How would you describe your sound?
YelaWolf: That’s pretty good. That pretty much hits the nail on the head. I definitely derive a lot of melody from classic rock and as far as content goes, I derive a lot of my inspiration from MCs out the Dungeon Family of course. West Coast, Hieroglyphics and East Coast, BIG, Jay-Z, Mobb Deep, Group Home. Lyrics and beats, man.
My classic rock – I was born into that. That was just where I was at. I had a single mom, 15, 16, and she was really heavy into classic rock, so I was surrounded with that, but hip-hop came through– my mom’s boyfriend was touring with Aersosmith doing lights during the Walk This Way tour and when I was a kid they bought me a Run DMC t-shirt, a “My Adidas” CD and some Beastie Boys shit and that’s how a I found it. And then fast-forward, I just really fell into it along with skateboarding and shit, I just soaked up all this pop culture.
ML: I’ve never heard of Alabama having much of a hip-hop scene. How is it down there?
YelaWolf: It’s not hip-hop as most would expect it to be. I mean I go as far as to say ‘want it to be’ because it’s a different perspective entirely. We don’t have the battles, we don’t have the ciphers. We got storytelling and driving Chevys and Cadillacs and spitting verses over Southern beats. But because I’ve been traveled, I bring that element of hip-hop, the raw element of hip-hop – I came up writing graffiti, I’ve done pieces in my hometown, full murals, through skateboarding and me hearing a lot of new underground hip-hop through skateboard videos and through just standing on the street like that. I was just really lucky to find that side of hip-hop. But outside of a very small circle of people, it’s not hip-hop as most would expect it to be. It’s still real country out there, so it ain’t no hip-hop scene. Like I’m saying, there’s no battles and ciphers and shit. We got Elks Lodge, Masons Lodge, and lodges and shit like that. That’s our venue. And we’ve got promoters that bring out acts, so it’s still real hood and real raw, but it’s dope. That’s what makes it special.
ML: You’ve touched on racial tensions a little bit. Is that still a big issue in Alabama?
YelaWolf: I mean, it’s an issue in the South, period. Racial issues are issues in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, north of South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Georgia of course. We all share similar issues when it comes to race. What makes the South different in that aspect is that we really are divided financially more than anything, so you’ll run into these projects or trailer parks where there’s black and white people living in the same world, dealing with the same shit. And mainly the hate comes from generations ago, but most of us are over that shit and whatever is lingering is just leftover bullshit from grandaddy or uncle or dad’s cousins and shit. Of course it’ll always be relevant, man. ‘Til the end of time, man. It is what it is. It’s the Confederate States. You can’t get around it. What we do is, we accept it and use it to better ourselves and try to really own it instead of disown it. Claim it and make it our own, the problems that is, the Confederate flags and all that shit – just kinda adopt it as our reality and put some positive life on it and show some truth about our neighborhoods. It’s everywhere out there, for sure.
ML: Before Eminem, white rappers were kind of written off as gimmicks, but now, all white rappers are compared to Eminem. Do you think that’s true and has that affected you?
YelaWolf: It hasn’t affected me and I think it’s totally fair to compare any white rapper to Eminem, because there’s only been one in history to have any success. Real success, respectfully. That dude fought tooth and nail to gain it, so you can’t take nothing from him. I don’t mind the comparison because I feel like five, ten years after I’ve had a career, somebody’s gonna be comparing them to me, ‘cause there’s not gonna be many. Great acts, black or white, are few and far in between, I feel like, so it’s only fair that people compare me to him, because who else is there really? Bubba Sparxxx did his thing for a minute, and then MC Serch is too old for people to really compare to, El-P from Definitive Jux is too underground for people to— there’s a lot of amazing white MCs in this world, but there’s only one that the world knows. That’s human nature, man, we have to compare. You get a hamburger, you’re like ‘Man, this tastes like a McDonald’s hamburger.’ I mean, it’s a hamburger, but fuck, McDonald’s sells more hamburgers than anybody in the world, so who else are you gonna compare it to?
ML: But when you’re trying to get a deal or something, do people expect you to sound like Em?
YelaWolf: Nah I don’t think people expect me to try to sound like him or when we’re going to get deals. Obviously they’re probably looking for something that they can attach to him, because he’s had such success, what label wouldn’t want that? They want a repeat of that. They want the next whiteboy, I guess, to come and blow like that. They want a motherfucker who’s gonna sell records. So artistically, you can’t give a label too much credit for how they pick and choose their artists because that’s not their interest anymore, for real. The way we move as Ghet-O-Vision is really rare. We really are into what we do art-wise. The respect level that we have for ourselves and trying to be, as KP says, as fundamentally dope, period, all around. That’s all we carry to the table. Whatever they expect from us— who knows, man. We put the shit on the table and that’s it. We keep it going.
ML: Tell me about Ghet-O-Vision.
YelaWolf: Ghet-O-Vision was started by Kawan [“KP”] Prather and he signed Tip to Ghet-O-Vision back in the day, got him a deal with LaFace and KP has had a long history of success with Southern acts like Outkast, and Tip and of course Usher, so that’s his label and when we did our deal with Columbia, we did it with Ghet-O-Vision. That’s the family which consists of Kawan Prather, myself, [manager] Courtney Sills, Jeremy [“J Dot”] Jones and [producer] Malay.
ML: A lot of people have written about your live shows. I haven’t seen one myself, but what’s so special about your shows?
YelaWolf: What people are getting from my shows is just, I just snap. There’s no other way to describe it other than when I get on stage, I turn on that switch and I’m there to entertain, I’m there to perform, I really feel my music and at shows, I’m there to be the fucking best and I don’t want nobody before or after me to do any better. So when I step on stage, I’m trying to crush everybody and that’s the competition side. And the artistic side is just that I really love what I do and that comes through with any artist. So I just get up there and sweat and fuckin’ give it my all.
YelaWolf: Yeah man, we did. Will Power from Supahot Beats, which is a huge part of my career and he’s actually done 99% of the production on Trunk Music which is coming out – he had made that beat years ago, like four years ago or some crazy shit like that, and he finally pulled it out like ‘What the fuck is this?’ Fell in love with it, did the record, went to KP to let KP hear it and he was like ‘Oh my God, this is perfect, I know Millie Jackson’s daughter’ and I was like ‘Get the fuck out of here.’ So he was like, ‘Dude, let’s get her over here now’ and he called her and within the hour, she was at the house cutting vocals. That’s her doing all the ‘fuck you’s, backing it up. Man, it’s just one of those magical moments in music when the stars align, make history. We got footage of it too. It was a blessing. That doesn’t happen all the time.
ML: Right now you’re working on the Trunk Muzik mixtape?
YelaWolf: Yeah, Trunk Muzik is wrapped up. We’re gonna lock in a few more features for it. I’m done, the music’s done and we’re gonna grind out this next week and make sure we get our features on there and it’s ready to go. We leaked “Pop the Trunk” and actually, we might just put the whole thing out. KP was talking about we might not leak anymore records. Might just dump the whole thing. But it’s going online. You should be seeing it online in less than two weeks, I’m sure.
ML: What was the last thing you bought?
YelaWolf: Last thing I bought? Some ramen noodles from the corner.
ML: That’s what’s up.