He found his most seamless blend on Trunk Muzik (later, ofﬁcially released as Trunk Muzik 0-60), a menacing collection of 808 drum booms and lyrical gymnastics. It was this collection that stopped Eminem in his tracks after producer Jim Jonsin and Paul Rosenberg hounded him to take a listen. Because you can’t hear color, Eminem focused on the words, the style, the howling endurance of Yelawolf’s controlled chaos. Eminem had discovered his next Shady Records MC.
LATER IN THE DAY, after the studio shoot wrapped, Yelawolf sits inside a trailer, gangly form folded onto a low chair. Eminem is nearby, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, hat pulled down over his eyes. He has a diamond-encrusted sobriety symbol hanging around his neck. When he speaks, he peeks out from under the brim of his hat to make a point. This is their ﬁ rst duel interview, Yelawolf will later mention with great enthusiasm. At the moment, Eminem is singing the praises of his new protégé, a fellow technician of words who happens to also be white. “Obviously he’s white,” Eminem begins, “but I’m listening to what he’s saying and how he’s rhyming, and he sounds like nothing I’ve heard before. He doesn’t sound like a white rapper trying to sound like me or trying to sound like any other rapper for that matter. It was a unique sound to his voice, to his delivery, the way he would hit the pocket.”
VIBE: You’ve been building the new Shady Records 2.0 since signing Slaughterhouse. How does Yela- wolf ﬁt into your overall vision for Shady?
EMINEM: I’m not sure there is a set vision. Since I went through my personal thing as far as getting myself right, our only plan was to reestablish the label. And I’ve got a lot of faith that Yelawolf is going to be pretty damn big. It’s always exciting for me, because I love hip-hop so much to try to bring a new artist along and help them get where they want to be. But also it’s almost like I feel I’m helping to give back to hip-hop.
You mentioned getting yourself right. Are you completely clean these days as far as alcohol and drugs?
EM: Except for the heroin I shot up this morning. Except for that, I’m clean. [Laughs] While you’re clean, Yelawolf here smokes weed and—
YELAWOLF: No, I don’t. I hear that in your music a lot.
I hear that in your music a lot
YW: I started smoking weed at 11. By 12, I was smoking dust. Thirteen, acid, Freon, special k, mushrooms; 16 years old, I was selling X pills at school. Not even because I was a good dope boy, but because I was a scumbag. It was called chocolate chip, and it had heroin in it. I used to take that shit and go to class. I went so heavy into drugs that I had a bad trip one time that lasted for months.
What happens when you have a trip that long?
YW: You go on through to the other side. [Laughs] Well I just stayed by my grandmother’s side in Gadsden for a long time. I took some mescaline, some black pyramids and I had a bad trip that lasted me a few days. Then I took a break and my boy told me mushrooms ain’t the same, so we went to this cow ﬁeld and we just started popping caps straight out the patty, and chasing them with sweet tea. And I just checked out.
What are you actually seeing and feeling during those three months?
YW: I’m hallucinating and having insane anxiety attacks. Suicidal, like I can’t go on living like how I feel. For years I didn’t do shit after that. I drank water. I didn’t smoke, I didn’t do shit. Then I started drinking after that a little and then a lot. I tried smoking weed, but smoking weed would bring my anxiety back. The reason I feel I have a right to talk about it is because I did it. My mom still smokes weed to this day, she grows it. I got pictures of me at 5 years old next to pot plants. But I’ve never said in one record ever that I’m smoking weed.
How are you dealing with it all now?
YW: I just drink, and I tried to go sober. The night before the “Hard White” video shoot, I duffed some dude out at the bar and threw my beer all over him. I got really besides myself.
EM: Familiar story. [Laughs]
Did you take a lot of hallucinogens, too?
EM: No. A lot of Valium. And Ambien. None of that stuff are hallucinogens. Ambien could border on that. It’s like a mind eraser. I remember being on TV a few times and not remembering that I did it. Just fucking up lyrics.
Yelawolf, you connected with Kid Rock for “Let’s Roll.” What do you remember about meeting him for the ﬁrst time?
YW: I always knew that the comparisons were there when I ﬁ rst started. That’s what you deal with Marshall and Kid Rock. Are you saying because you guys are white, people threw you in together?YW: Well, early on, yeah. But culturally, I was making a connection with them two. With Kid Rock, it was the country, his connection with NASCAR, the rebel, the wild country boy side. My uncles are that way. I grew up in that world. On the hip-hop side, Marshall brought that out. I felt like I was sharing both elements of each. So, I said. “One day I would like to meet both of them.” That is the honest to God truth. I set that in my mind, and I wanted to make that happen. I had no idea I would end up on Shady or that I would end up with both of them at Kid Rock’s house. So it was really surreal.
So, when you pulled up, what did you see?