When DX catches up with Yelawolf, it’s a day after that extremely awkward interview on ESPN’s Highly Questionable with Dan Le Batard and Bomani Jones. That particular exchange led the Alabama-native to admit his alcoholism. According to Yela, not even God himself could control his drinking. His voice sounded nearly dead, shades cover presumably clouded corneas, and his all black fit included a dark shirt featuring lettering that spell out SLUMERICAN. All of it looked depressing. Considering how he dismissed questions regarding Machine Gun Kelly and ended up calling the interview something out of a “Disney cartoon,” obviously any questions regarding said events were out the window. The fact that this conversation is a phoner makes chances of clear answers even slim to none. It’s around noon and from the sounds of it, he’s not too much in the mood to talk. So, this interview sticks to his recently released sophomore album Love Story. Oh yeah, Yela also explains his generational allegiance to Chevrolets and how it inspired “Box Chevy.”
The follow-up to his Shady Records debut Radioactive, Love Story is a thematic and sonic departure for Yela. While Hip Hop was within the forefront of most music past Trunk Muzik, this project brings his southern rock and country roots to the surface in a way similar to his Arena Rap EP. Like longtime producer WLPWR explains it, Johnny Cash meets Outkast. Love Story is a brutally honest, dark and layered look into the 2011 XXL Freshman who once was slated to be Eminem’s next breakout star but never quite reached the heights of his peers including Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill, Y.G., Mac Miller, Big K.R.I.T. and even rap oddity Lil B. Well, at least he managed outdo Lil Twist and Diggy. By the time the interview concludes, he sounds agitated. Could it be an alcohol induced hangover or maybe he’s simply over it? That doesn’t matter, because similar to Love Story, this interview will exist only to those with a vested interest in the white-knuckle journey of Mr. Michael Atha.
Yelawolf Explains “Love Story”s Music Direction & Love For Box Chevys
DX: Love Story has been out for several weeks now. There’s a vastly different direction that you took coming from Radioactive. Are you satisfied with the way things have turned out?
Yelawolf: Yeah, everything is where it’s supposed to be. Everything is comfortable.
DX: I talked to WLPWR about Love Story last month and he mentioned that his work on the project made him a better producer. Do you think this album made you a better artist?
Yelawolf: The record is empowering creatively for me. Love Story is really just a throwback to Arena Rap which is the project I did before Trunk Muzik when I had a band. It was really gratifying to make the project and it’s making sense to people. Some people don’t get it and that’s fine. For more, it’s like I want that separation. I wanted it. If this particular style or song is all you’re into then, maybe I’m not the artist you need to be listening to. I wanted those types of people to stop coming up to my shows to be honest with you. There has to be a more defined album that defines who I am. The reason Radioactive was the way it was is because all those songs were done mostly before I even got to the fucking studio. It was like “insert rapper.” The company I was with at the time was so hungry for a hit record, that they were calling all of these writers and producers with all these big plans. And, I’m guilty for letting it happen. I’m just as guilty for letting it happen as they are for trying to get me to do it. I left that shit alone and went back to doing me. Don’t get me wrong, there are tracks on Radioactive. Don’t get me fucked up. There are songs that I’ll perform off that album for the rest of my career. That album was sprinkled with the wrong thing. Love Story is unhinged. I wasn’t going to do it any other way. That’s why it took so long to make. I recorded fucking 40 songs before I even had the first song for the album. It took a while to find the right musicianship.
DX: The album features the fifth entry in your “Box Chevy” series. What makes that series so important to Yelawolf?
Yelawolf: I don’t know. I think it’s just tradition for me. It’s just traditional to do a “Box Chevy” record. I kind of stuck with it. Maybe I won’t do it for the next album but, it kind of just happens. WLPWR had that beat and it sounded like a “Box Chevy” record. Usually just riding, trunk shit. They all have different vibes. We had the “Box Chevy” record on Trunk Muzik Returns that was completely different than anything else I’ve done.
DX: The Box Chevy plays a very important part in American car culture.
Yelawolf: Chevrolets are just what I grew up on. We’re talking generations. Both my great- grandparents drove Chevrolets and my grandfather worked at Goodyear for almost 30 years maybe. Chevrolets were apart of my family’s lifestyle. My family reunions were like Chevy fucking conventions. Everyone was driving Chevys. You know there are Ford families too. In the south, especially small towns, the culture usually is you picking the greater or lesser of two evils with everything. You like this team or that team, you like this school or that school, you like Fords or Chevys. My family went with Chevys.
DX: It’s fairly obvious that you own more than a few Chevys yourself. What’s your collection looking like now?
Yelawolf: I got a 67 V10. I got a 1954 Bel-Air, 89 Silverado that was my poppa’s and a 2015 Silverado.
Yelawolf Talks Eminem’s Involvement & Favorite Johnny Cash Album
DX: WLPR also explained the creation of “Best Friend” with Eminem. What did you specifically want to do this time around in opposed to “Throw It Up” with Gangsta Boo?
Yelawolf: Well the record we did on Radioactive was one of those records that’ll remain. Getting Gangsta Boo and Eminem together for “Throw It Up” was a huge accomplishment for me. For this album, I didn’t want features. I felt like, the only reason I would get a feature from anyone was if the music was asking for it. I just thought what I was talking about and the way the beat was moving, I thought “Best Friend” would be perfect for Em and I. To do a record where I’m singing on it and not competitively rapping with Eminem. It definitely says a lot of where we are creativity.
DX: Considering most of the records from Radioactive were already made, how much did Eminem advise you on the creation of Love Story since you guys started from scratch?
Yelawolf: When I went to Nashville, I just locked myself in the studio. When I got to the point to where I was finishing the album, I sent it to Detroit. Well actually, everybody from Shady except Em flew out to Nashville to hear the album. From there, it went to Detroit. We sat it with Marshall and we wrote “Heartbreak.” He already had that track actually and he did some more production on it after I got on it to glue it with the rest of the album. He also wrapped up “American You” when me and Malay recorded it. Marshal asked to produce it. He was excited about it and I was like fuck yeah. We sent that to Detroit and let him do his thing on it.
DX: With the sound and aesthetic of Love Story, there are the Johnny Cash comparisons. Do you have a favorite song of his?
Yelawolf: Favorite song, probably “Hurt.” My favorite album? At Folsom Prison. That’s like my favorite but that last album he did with Rick Rubin is beautiful. “Hurt” that cover was crazy. Plus the video. Man that’s a tear jerker man. “Hurt” the way he delivered it became his story. All the things you obtain and the things you acquire as an artist really don’t mean shit in the end. That’s what I connect with. I’m not worried about the glimmer, glam and shit.
DX: Are you going to continue to experiment with the sound featured heavily on Love Story or will we ever see a Yelawolf more in line with your Trunk Muzik days?
Yelawolf: You know what man? I put out so much mutha fuckin music, that it’s really unfair to say that anything I’ve done is conventional. If all you ever listened to of my work was Trunk Muzik, then, that’s all you know. You missed Psycho White with Travis Barker, Trunk Muzik Returns and my project I did with DJ Paul. You missed all the freestyles, all the features. You missed a lot. Love Story makes perfect sense to fans who have paid attention. It may seem out the blue if all you’ve heard was “Pop The Trunk” but, I don’t trip on that really. Love Story for me is the stone I would say. It’s me putting a flag up showing everyone what I’ve grown to be. This is what I’ve become. People come to my show and yell out for records and I be like nope, you should have come to the last tour. That’s over, it’s a wrap. You’ll probably never hear that song live; like ever. It’s like Jay Z said, “you like my old shit, buy my old album.”
DX: I remember catching The Slumerican Tour a few years back when you had Rittz open for you. That show was pretty dope. Glad I got to catch it.
Yelawolf: We still do a piece of everything. I don’t do some of the stuff I was normally doing years back. To be quite honest, I have two hours to play music and I have so much music and the new album. It’s fun man.
Yelawolf Calls Rap “Fun, Easy Shit” & Talks Tour Life
DX: The last outside feature I remember hearing from you was the “Hard” collaboration with Da Mafia 6ix outside of what you did on the Shady XV compilation. Should we expect any guest appearances from you soon?
Yelawolf: Rap shit is fun man. Not to sound like an asshole but it’s easy. Rap is fun, easy shit. It’s fun to do. It’s nowhere near the challenge of writing a song or an album. You know? It’s fun to do and I’ll always do that. Last year, I did the “Profit” feature on Rittz’s last album.
DX: You’re talking about Next To Nothing?
Yelawolf: Yeah. Studio albums are different. It’s a different undertaking from features or mixtapes obviously. As far as this rap shit, I’ll probably always do that. I definitely tip my hat to Hip Hop before Love Story dropped. With all the classic rock freestyles I was putting out.
DX: You mentioned the Psycho White project a minute ago. Will we see anymore collaborative projects like the one you did with Travis Barker or DJ Paul?
Yelawolf: I don’t know. I’m in Love Story zone. This is where my head’s at. It’s harder to make something because it has to stand up. I just can’t go and do some shit that’s effortless. I have to be meticulous about that shit. Another collaborative project with Travis? Sure, but I’m a lot more pickier than I use to be. My ear has grown and my taste as grown.
DX: So, let’s talk about this tour. How’s touring been like you for you now? Anything you’ve changed about your approach?
Yelawolf: Linking up with DJ Klever and agreeing that this is officially us starting a group. After a couple of tours with Klever, I brought in Bones Owens who fit in perfectly. The people who join me on stage now, have to make sense 360. I’ve done shows like with Jimmy Kimmel where I show up and the band is already there. It doesn’t make sense. Everything has to make sense around me today. Our tour and the way we perform is as well rounded as the album is. The music is as well-rounded. The look and stage are all well-rounded. I put Klever and Bones in the album artwork for a reason. This is us and that’s what it is. Everything is sharp. I don’t mean good looking either, I mean it’s on point.
DX: Was that the reason you had Hillbilly Casino open up for you?
Yelawolf: They’re a fucking ridiculously good band. First time I saw them was in Nashville. There were kids at the front row of their show wearing Slumerican patches. I was already digging them but once I saw that, that was enough. Me and bass player for them Jeff are really cool. I just thought it would be dope to bring a Rockabilly band out to open and not a rapper or whatever. Not even that, just a rad support band that kills it. All the new fans on the Love Story album can really get a piece of Nashville. This is apart of the scene and that’s what I’m bringing to this tour.