It’s difficult to find another genre of music as inherently competitive as Hip Hop. From deejay battles to B-Boy battles to Beatboxing Championships to graffiti, each element comes complete with it’s own sport-like display of skills. The same is consistent with emceeing, and as the genre continues to mature, that competitive spirit has further ingrained itself into quality songwriting. “When I made Trunk Muzik, I felt like I had to prove my worth being here as a rapper because I had never really went hard because ultimately I’m a songwriter,” Yelawolf told HipHopDX at the 4th Annual Roots Picnic in Philadelphia’s Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing.
“Being an emcee and wordplay is just a perk to practicing for so many years. But the point to me is to make a good song. I’m pretty strange as far as the music that I listen to. I could be listening to James Taylor. I could be listening to Crunchy Black or I could be listening to Nas. You’re more interested in the artist not his lyrical ability. That’s nerdy, you know. Who cares? I don’t care if a rapper can flip a 100,000 words. It’s impressive but it’s also boring at times. It’s like, ‘That’s cool, man. But your song sucks.’ It’s a balance, yo.”
Following his breakout year in 2010 and the success of Trunk Muzik, The Gladsen, Alabama native inked a deal with Eminem’s Shady Records in 2011. Eminem’s origins in Detroit’s battle scene has been widely documented, most notably through the movie loosely based on his life, 8 Mile. “[Eminem] had that perfect balance,” Yelawolf said. “He’s ultimately the best example of an emcee who comes from the battle world who is able to make good songs and has skills. That’s not an easy thing to do. I just like making great songs. And on my project, Radioactive that’s coming out, we’re going to set an example of what people can expect from me for years to come.”
Similarly to Eminem, Yelawolf overcame racial hurdles on his way to national recognition. “Dealing with hecklers will turn you into a beast,” he says.
“As a white rapper, fuck man, and especially the way I step up there, the way I look and where I’m from and the shit I talk about — I had to be ready to fight. That helped my show. It also helped my show to have a band. I had a band for a while in [Atlanta] and people used to show up to our shows in helmets because it got that rowdy. So I took a piece of that and project that Rock & Roll energy through Hip Hop live.
Yelawolf also commented on what he appreciates most about Hip Hop. “The dopest part about Hip Hop is that it can come from anywhere on the planet,” he said. “It’s not like any other music. It’s not. You can’t really go to Japan and get real good Country Music. But you can go to Japan and get real good Hip Hop all day. Or Australia or even Alabama. Hip Hop is however you choose to brand it. That’s the beauty of it all. Hip Hop can be anything. You can use a sitar from India to make a beat or you can use a banjo — it’s still going to be Hip-Hop. But you can’t do that with other music. You can’t.”
Yelawolf performed at the 4th Annual Roots Picnic along with Little Dragon, Esperanza Spalding, Wiz Khalifa and headliner, Nas.
His upcoming album, Radioactive will be released through Gheto-Vision/Shady/Interscope.
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