Rookie Watch: Yelawolf Talks New Projects, Working With Big Boi, and The Small Town Struggle


At first glance, you might consider Yelawolf a fitting participant to be pushing a skateboard through the X-Games or as a suitable front-man to lead a new band backed by Travis Barker. In hindsight both are actually two very possible career choices for the Gadsen, Alabama Native, but Michael “Yelawolf” Atha’s name is more likely to be brought up in circles more familiar with Bun B and T.I. than Tony Hawk and Blink-182.

The half-Cherokee, half-Caucasian rapper caught hip-hop’s attention last year with his breakout mixtape Trunk Muzik. Yela’s backwoods blend of tongue-twisting rhymes coupled with his unbridled flows have earned him co-signs from the likes of Raekwon, Travis Barker, and OutKast. Growing up heavily submersed in both skateboard and hip-hop culture, Yelawolf saw a brighter future for himself with the mic over the wooden plank on wheels when injury halted his professional skateboard around 2000.

Currently holed up in the lab working on his debut album Trunk Muzik 0-60, the Interscope signee has let a steady stream of mixtape accessible freestyles keep the streets fed and embarked on a nationwide tour with Wiz Khalifa. VIBE pried one of the new voices of the South away from the vocal booth to talk Trunk Muzik, vicariously working with OutKast, and the small town struggles.—Mikey Fresh

VIBE: Finally, your manager got you out of the studio…

Yelawolf: Yeah man. Sorry about last week—I just be getting into a zone when I’m in there. We’ve been finishing up the Trunk Muzik: 0-60. I try to live in the studio when I’m not doing shows. Actually, me and Pill just did one the other night. I hopped on one his records.  I do so much music that it’s like a fog, and I can’t even remember all of it.

So is the album completed?

We’ve pretty much wrapped everything up, but I been in there just doing verses and stacking them. I want a lot of music to choose from for my next album, which is already in the works. Trunk Muzik 0-60 is just where I want to take people first, staying in theme with the car culture and everything I represent. I’ll be experimenting more on my next album—it should be out by March.  So yeah, everything is done but we haven’t officially turned anything in just yet.

Are there any collabos that you’re particularly excited about?

I just did a record with Gucci Mane called “I Just Want To Party.” And don’t get it fucked up: Gucci is a real MC. He’s also probably the coolest muthafucka that I’ve met. I mean, he came in and knocked out his verse out in minutes, and we shot the video two days after we recorded it. It’s basically like the party version of  “Pop That Trunk”. I can’t give away too much, just wait.

Jim Jonsin has mentioned contributing to the album, what other producers did you work with?

Well, let me tell you, Jim kept it in the gutter for my album, there’s no “Lollipop” on there. He brought that old school country shit… we did a record called “Billy Crystal Meth”. But I also did about three records with Travis Barker and I got up with Diplo, but we might save those records for my next project. We’ll see.

Aside from the studio, you’ve pretty much been living on the road. What cities have been showing you the most love?

My first headlining shows on the West Coast were really crazy. Seattle was off the fuckin’ chain. Vancouver was nuts… Chicago was wild. Even in Hollywood when I performed with Travis Barker. It’s crazy to finally be connecting with people but I’ve always believed in myself—I always knew this was going to happen.

Then you have to be hype for your first outing on the Rock The Bells tour.

I think I’m more excited to see the other acts. There’s so many I haven’t seen from Lauryn [Hill], Slick Rick. I haven’t seen the whole Wu-Tang [Clan] together. And they’re doing 36 Chambers—what! Wu-Tang rules the world, man. Being a skateboarder, we’ve always loved Wu-Tang. I was heavily influenced by that crew. Especially RZA’s beats; I think he put everyone on some other shit. So it was just surreal being on the Rock The Bells panel with everyone. My manager didn’t even tell me I was on it until we were on the way to the press conference.

Musically, your style comes from so many different places. Who are you a fan of that most might not expect?

There’s so many. Like, I was just listening to Modest Mouse earlier, just jamming. Lykke Li, I’ve been on lately. That Major Lazer album, too and I’ve never been real heavy into reggae. I’m all over the place. I might listen to Carrie Underwood one second and Three 6 Mafia the next. I can really find something I like in all kinds of music. I’ll be in Indian restaurant and just be jamming if the beat is hot. For real, some of my favorite music is Mexican. It’s something about the bassline and the drumming. I can’t even speak Spanish but that’s probably why I like it so much.

 A group that doesn’t come as any surprise as one of your musical influences is OutKast. How was it working with Big Boi on his new album?