Unless you’ve been completely oblivious to the rap Internet for the last 5 years — then you know about the engaging and always passionate Alabama hip-hop step child known as Yelawolf. The music industry survivor has been delivering gripping hip-hop records dipped in rock and roll sprinkled with what Yela says is the “blues.” His previous releases Stereo and Trunk Music were loved by fans but received mixed reviews from critics. But show must got on, and Yela has a different kind of Love Story to tell
Other than the fact that Yelawolf has proven himself with longevity and a supply of solid material, he held his own alongside hip-hop heavyweights like Bun B, Raekwon, Juelz Santana, Killer Mike, T.I., Slaughterhouse, and of course Eminem.
“I learned what I’m capable of,” Yelawoulf tells VIBE. “Also, I’ve learned that people are ready and they’re down for what I have to say. It was scary taking those steps. Change is alwyas scary because you don’t want to alienate fans or the people who’ve supported you.”
Last Tuesday (April 20), Yela released his long awaited follow up album, Love Story. VIBE caught up with Yela in New York City’s bustling SoHo section where he discussed his new album, working with Eminem, why he quit social media and much more.
VIBE: What sparked the idea for Love Story?
Yelawolf: Just completely being myself. And Marshall [Mathers] gave me the green light to do whatever the fuck I needed to do to get that out. I’m dark, that’s just the nature of me and that’s how I write better songs. There’s always some dark undertone. If you go back to “Pop The Trunk” or one of the really dark gutter Radio Active tracks, Or “Throw It Up” with Marshall — those piano lines are dark. That kind of shit brings something out of me. “American You” has a more friendly melody but the song is more like ‘Fuck you, too.’ I’ve just been through shit, and I’m just letting it all out. Childhood issues, separations, losing family, fighting demons and all that kind of stuff. It’s really like the blues.
You mentioned that you didn’t want to alienate your fans. Do you think your core fans will understand this album?
I think I’ve sprinkled enough seeds throughout my career to where it’s not such a surprise. If you’ve been paying attention to my career you would’ve seen this coming. But, I try to make music that even if you weren’t paying attention — it would sound of top quality and not seem contrived. It’s not like it came out of nowhere. It just felt natural because it is natural. It’s just me. The way I feel. I’m an artist, and this is what we do.
You say that you’ve learned about your potential on this album. Is this the project that you’ve been waiting on your whole career?
Well, I’ve been hinting at this concept before Trunk Music. I was making “arena rap. I did Stereo, which is a hip-hop tribute to classic rock. This was all before Trunk Muzik. I was traveling around with a band. So, I’m just revisiting and breathing life back into that because I’ve always thought that that’s where I really needed to be. I knew that what I was doing back then was special. Trunk Muzik was ahead of its time and people weren’t ready. So, my career thankfully has really set me up to do it this way. It worked out man. I mean, Shady Records….
What’s your favorite song on this album?
“Devil In My Veins” is my favorite. It makes a lot of sense to me sonically; it’s where I can imagine myself at 50 years old. You got to grow up, well, you don’t have to grow up — not saying anybody has to grow up, you can be a kid all your fucking life. But for me, I’m just trying to age well like whisky.
I’m a huge The Highwaymen , Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings fan. We walked out on stage every night to “Silver Stallion,” the song by The Highwaymen. I connect to that fucking outlaw. I just see myself on a fucking Harley, chasing the sun, type of shit with a fucking six-shooter. I’ve always had the cowboy side to me. That outlaw, rebel shit. It speaks to me. And the subject of it is real. “Devil In My Veins” is the rawest song that I’ve ever put on an album. It is the rawest song I’ve ever done. That’s some shit.
Do you write more as a form of therapy or with hopes that your fans take something away from your music?
I’m not expecting anything from anybody. People ask me what’s the best thing from a fan. I don’t care. What, you want me to go read my Twitter? The best way to put it is if I was a painter and I took my paining to a gallery. It’s on the wall, and it’s for you to watch and enjoy. I’m just the artist. I’m not going to stand there with you and critique it. But it also helps me to not worry. Because if there’s a thousand people to tell me that it was phenomenal and that one person from Boise, Idaho said it sucks, “I’d be bummed out. I’d wonder why he didn’t like it. I can’t bother myself with that kind of worry, man. I’ve made that mistake before.
Really? What happened?
I got to a point where I wanted to fly to a city and beat up some random person I’d never met or seen because of how he was talking to me online.
A year and a half I deleted Twitter and Facebook off my phone, and I refused to go online. And during that time I did Psycho White, I did Trunk Muzik Returns, I did the Ed Sherran record. I did a lot. And, then right after Trunk Muzik Returns on my tour in Australia, I decided that I’d get back online. I deleted every photo that had ever been posted on Instagram and I started over.
But what did you read online for you to want to do that?
“Fuck you, Fuck your mother, you fucking wack piece of shit. Please quit rapping If I was in front of you right now I’d slap the shit out of you.” And, I’m like: ‘Oh yeah, I can make that shit happen. I can be right in front of you. “ And that’s not healthy, man.
First of all, I could’ve showed up to that dude’s door and it’s like a twelve year old kid. Someone just completely owned me, and I couldn’t allow that to happen anymore. Also, the way I was approaching social media was all wrong. I was not even using it the way that I should’ve have been. So when I came back I had a fucking plan. Social media is now like a song to me. It’s a living diary. If you follow me, all those photos and quotes you should be able to make a book out of it.
What has Em given you that you didn’t know prior to meeting him?
It’s the freedom and the trust that I’ve been given from them. Shady is still a record label and it’s still like: ‘Aight Wolf. Go to Nashville and do what the fuck you want to do.’ And, that invaluable. And, the fact that we’re putting out this album on this label is cool shit. To hear “Devil In My Veins” or “American You.” The fact that Marshall is like: ‘Yeah, fuck yeah.’ That’s some cool shit. It’s a juxtaposition but it is what it’s supposed to be. I’m growing, evolving and coming into my own with this album and he’s fully behind it and I couldn’t ask for more than that.
Stream Love Story below and purchase it on iTunes.