Around this time a year ago, a fresh-faced Toronto emcee named Drake proved that with the right presentation, people will be willing to pay for what you once gave them for free – and So Far Gone became the world’s first gold mixtape. In many ways, Gasden, Alabama’s Yelawolf is Drake’s antithesis. The canned beer-drinking, tattooed skater joins Drake as lyrically-gifted threat to your girlfriend, but his twangy bars, trailer-park and riverbed imagery and Creedence Clearwater Revival influence throws mud at the Young Money aristocracy. However, Yela takes a page from Drizzy in celebrating his major label deal by retail-releasing the winter mixtape that delivered him. Trunk Muzik 0-60 gives its New Year’s Day presentation a fresh white tanktop and a pair of Ray Bans, but the Yelawolf that won fans over in appearances with Big Boi and Paul Wall is still a raw, unrefined talent that’s never wasted a day in an A&R’s office.
The very things that Yelawolf chooses to rap about make him unique. “Pop The Trunk,” one of the highlights from the mixtape is the major appeal of this emcee. The record is Deliverance-meets-”Natural Born Killaz,” as back-roads and slaughtered hogs make the listener fear for their life in a way that concrete Gangsta Rap has failed at in recent years. The song’s piano by newcomer SupaHotBeats enhance the terror. Just as kids in rural communities smelled the powder of the L.A. Riots 20 years ago with MC Eiht in Music To Driveby, Yelawolf is pulling inner-city audiences out to the sticks, where social interactions aren’t all that different. Still, Trunk Muzik is deeper than a simple country drive. “I Wish” beautifully brings Hip Hop into the equation, as Yelawolf stands up for a new nation of skate-inspired emcees who feel ostracized by their parents and peers, as well as by the conventions of what it looks like to be a Rap fan. “I wish a mothafucka would, tell me that I ain’t Hip Hop / Bitch, you ain’t Hip Hop!” In a simple, angry chorus, the emcee speaks up for all types of people who are making the team without putting on the uniform. Moreover, Raekwon comes on the song to not only cosign Yelawolf as the authentic article, but to speak to his own early ‘90s guard about how times are-a-changin’.
While a bulk of the album has to do with simpler subjects: cars, partying, marijuana, “Love Is Not Enough” shows Yelawolf’s depth. In the tradition of Ghostface, Fatlip and Cannibal Ox before him, Alabama’s own makes a love-gone-wrong song that doesn’t compromise his image or music. Borrowing strongly from Devin The Dude’s masterpiece “Anythang” in production and chorus, the song is applicable about feelings of deceit looking back at first loves. “I Just Wanna Party” is quite the opposite. Here, “Catfish Billy” crosses the railroad tracks from Asher Roth’s frat-house flip-cup and chronicles an affair with cars parked in the yard and crushed powders on the kitchen counter. The bras may end up hanging from the ceiling fan in both cases, but a strong guest feature from Gucci Mane shows that no matter the environment, Yela can hang with the best of them.
Putting it in his own terms, Yelawolf is a bonfire ready to ignite. Trunk Muzik 0-60 lights the match as one of the most versatile emcees in Hip Hop today finds a way to break new ground. Yes, the Beastie Boys, Nappy Roots and Bubba Sparxxx all have pivoted towards the direction that he’s taking, but Yelawolf is his own artist. As download links expire, this retail version pulls the best highlights from the original and escorts Yelawolf into the mainstream. The avid fisherman/emcee and his Interscope backers need not worry, no special bait is needed to lure in audiences here, it’s more about dropping a hook in uncharted waters.