Alabama’s Yelawolf probably has a deer head mounted on his wall. He eats at Sizzler. He doesn’t fit the profile of a stadium-status rapper, but that’s where he’s headed. “Fuck underground,” he told a room of DJs and writers. “I did underground for ten years.” Yelawolf has the air of an artist on the cusp of fame. He puts on an amazing live show and his classic rock/country rap is like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
His EP Trunk Muzik: 0-60 comes out this week, positioned as a prelude to his proper Interscope debut coming in March. The EP features new music in addition to tracks from his breakout mixtape of the same name. In our second interview with Yelawolf (for a proper introduction, see our first), we talked about his real Interscope debut, his mixtape with Big K.R.I.T., and his stadium-sized aspirations.
ML: We last spoke almost exactly a year ago when you were shooting the video for “Mixin’ Up the Medicine” with Juelz. What’s been the most significant milestone since then?
Yelawolf: Two specific milestones. One, the BET Hip-Hop Awards where I performed with Big Boi.
ML: Why exactly?
Yelawolf: First of all, I’m a die-hard Outkast fan, so artistically, it was an accomplishment. I met Big Boi five years ago on the streets here in New York. Randomly, him and his mom were asking me for directions. I was like, ‘I’m not from here’ and I said I’m on their way and I didn’t even introduce myself as an artist, but I remember at that moment thinking I want to meet him the right way. And I had a backpack full of my own music. I didn’t even give it to him, because I wanted to meet him the right way. Hustle and grind and build on my network. I met him and out came a record produced by Andre 3000, so it was one of the biggest cosigns of my career. Not only just because he’s a legend, but because I’m a huge fan, so it was personal. And doing the BET Hip-Hop Awards with him live — it just changed everything, because television’s still powerful. On top of doing the cypher with Wiz Khalifa, Bones, and Raekwon.
ML: And Premo.
Yelawolf: And Premo. Exactly. It was just history for me. It was something that my grandkids will go back and look at that. That’s something that will last forever.
ML: What’s the other milestone?
Yelawolf: The other milestone is this tour I just got off with Wiz Khalifa. The Waken Baken tour changed the way I see myself as a performer, the way I approach shows. It’s crazy, you think you got it, but you learn and learn and learn. When I did South by Southwest last year, I felt like I was hitting the nail on the head, but when I got on this tour, I started seeing cracks, I started seeing flaws in my performances. And it’s just using this whole tour, all 45 days, to get better better better better better. So it changed everything. It really made me realize my own potential.
ML: Which song gets the biggest response at shows?
Yelawolf: “Good to Go,” always.
ML: Why do you think that is?
Yelawolf: Synths. Synth line, 808s, you don’t have to know the record at all to bounce to it. Its just got the energy of a good show record. And I think mainly that’s because I’m doing shows at this point, while I was on tour with Wiz Khalifa, for a crowd that’s not familiar with my music. So when they hear that, it’s just got the energy that makes them wanna bounce and have fun. But “I Wish” never fails. All hands go up, back and forth, it’s always a good participation record.
ML: Have you ever performed that with Raekwon?
Yelawolf: No, never, unfortunately, but I’m sure one day we’ll get to it.
ML: Some popular rappers have demonstrated that people aren’t that particular about lyrics anymore. Are you worried that the mainstream audience won’t be able to stomach your flow?
Yelawolf: Nah man, shit. I’ve had thoughts like that before until I was in Louisiana and I jumped off in the crowd and this dude right next to me, this Asian dude, spit every line of “I Just Wanna Party.” I gave him the mic. I mean like, Jet Li looking dude. He spit every word of it. It just made me realize that when you’re a fan, you’re gonna learn it. Eminem is prolific. His wordplay is crazy, but his fans know every line. It’s not about that at all. It’s about melody. People are attracted to melody. It’s all about melody and cadence. It’s not about what you say, it’s how you say what you say.
ML: How has the Interscope deal paid off so far?
Yelawolf: Things like affording me to sit in a room with y’all and critique an album. Putting me on the road and packaging an album and putting it out in stores all over the country. They’re giving me an outlet to be heard by millions of people that otherwise I wouldn’t have. They’re giving me an opportunity to be what I’ve always dreamed of being and that is an artist that rocks stadiums. I wanna rock stadiums. It’s what I wanna do, and I’m gonna do it.
ML: When is the K.R.I.T. mixtape dropping?
Yelawolf: Trunk Muzik Wuz Here, the Big K.R.I.T. Yelawolf collaboration mixtape. We’re working on it. We’re four deep right now and he’s on tour. He got on tour the day I got off tour. On the same tour. It’s just about scheduling. Not to be corny but, fuck, it’s just what it is. We would be done with it if we could right now, but we’re probably going to have to end up tossing back and forth mp3s, which is wack. I wanted to be in the studio with him, but we might have to do that. We might have to toss back and forth shit. There’s no date for it, but it’s at the top of the list for mixtapes.
ML: Is Radioactive your real debut?
Yelawolf: Yes. March.
ML: Is that also going to be mostly your inner circle of producers or are you going to venture out more?
Yelawolf: Basically, we’ve had records we’ve been sitting on for three or four years for this album. So there’s going to be producers from all over, but the album will still have a flow. It’s not going to sound like jambalaya, like everything mixed up, spices from all over the fuckin’ place.
ML: Is there a concept or is it just you?
Yelawolf: No, no. All of my albums are going to be concept. They always have been, there’s always a meaning behind and a direction. For one, it helps for me to create a consistent project and it helps me also to write in a direction, to see the album. All of my projects have had the title first. You come up with the name of the album, and then you write around that.
ML: So what’s the concept for–
Yelawolf: Radioactive. I came up with Radioactive when I was doing the Big Boi verse and wrote it as a metaphor for being dangerous and bomb-like, and toxic, and to use caution. And that’s one meaning of it, the darker side of it. The other meaning to Radioactive is to literally be active on radio, period. It’s my take on radio records. It’s my take on being a mainstream industry artist. It’s my spin on it. It’s intended to be a worldwide record.
ML: Over the past year, we’ve heard about or seen you rubbing shoulders with people like Game, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Premo, Bieber-
ML: How often do these meetings actually turn into music?
Yelawolf: Well, there’s only a couple of those that were meetings– oh, you mean introductions, not sit-down meetings. Well the Bieber shit, I’m not sure if Bieber fans are ready for Uncle Yeller, the drunken uncle.
Yelawolf: Yeah, Kanye and Raekwon, yeah you’re right, I guess he did bend the rules there, but I’m not exactly the role model for the Bieber fans, so unless Bieb wants to underage drink or some shit.
ML: It’s about time.
Yelawolf: Bieber’s down to party. For me, it’s about the vibe. I’ve met so many people so far, so many artists, and if it happens, it happens. It’s all about the music. When I met Travis Barker, we caught a real vibe and we made really dope music together, music that is yet to be heard, but we’ve got some in the bag already. Big Boi too. Big Boi’s another dude I caught a real vibe with, so it’s all about vibe.
ML: What’s been your favorite album of 2010?
Yelawolf: Mark Ronson. Hands down my favorite album.
ML: Which song on there?
Yelawolf: The Cee Lo record. Don’t remember titles, but the Cee Lo record.
ML: You mean the D’Angelo record?
Yelawolf: It’s not Cee Lo?
ML: “Glass Mountain Trust.” Are you thinking about that one? [plays song off iPod] This one?
ML: That’s D’Angelo.
Yelawolf: Wow. I was actually with Amanda Lunt from Interscope Records and we were going out for a company dinner and she started playing it I was just like, ‘What the fuck?’ We listened to it front to back and I think it’s brilliant. I think Diplo is putting out crazy music, but Mark Ronson holds it down. He’s the king of good albums right now, but I hear Kanye West has got something super stupid ready.
ML: What’s your beer, whiskey or beverage of choice?
Yelawolf: Jack Daniels, Coors Light, PBRs. I like Johnnie Walker too.
ML: What’s the last thing you bought?
Yelawolf: A number two from McDonald’s. Large. Only ate one of the burgers and it made me sick. I ate that earler today.