Yelawolf Discusses Working With Kid Rock And Kool Herc, Songwriting, And Defends Group Home And Shawty Lo's Simplicity
HipHopDX chilled with Yela in Manhattan last week. The emcee explains the importance of sharing a day with Kid Rock and Kool Herc, Eminem's support, and why he loves Melachi the Nutcracker's verses.
Yelawolf careens into room 812 of Manhattan’s Dream Hotel 18-minutes late for this interview. He spent the day before up in the Bronx shooting the video for his countryfied, soon-to-be Southern anthem, “Let’s Roll,” followed by a late night kicking it with Kool Herc and Kid Rock - three generations of Hip Hop history cruising through New York City. Lime colored shades covering his eyes, plaid hunter hat complete with furry flaps covering his ears - Yela’s a bit surprised by J.Dot’s suite. “Let me tell you something,” he quips as he sits, reaching for a Marlboro. “I have the only manager on the God damn planet that will accept an upgrade and leave me in the little room.” J.Dot snaps back jokingly: “I thought everybody got this room. I didn’t know it was a suite until somebody told me.”
It’s all happening for Catfish Billy. Gadsden, Alabama’s “Slumerican Shitizen” and his Ghet-o-Vision cohorts are ably navigating the music industry’s terrible terra belle - Columbia Records’ label-conundrum behind them, now riding a crimson wave of Shady/Interscope opportunity all the way to mainstream prominence. At least that’s the plan. With a 2009 DXnext stamp in tow, a super respectable Shady 2.0/BET Cypher lyrical exhibition, a slew of stage shattering performances throughout the big time festival circuit, and VIBE Magazine cover on the way, among others - by any measure, 2011 has been good to Ricky Bobby.
If there’s an inkling of anxiousness approaching the release of Yelawolf’s anticipated debut, Radioactive, it isn’t floating through this interview. Rather, he’s as measured as ever - detailing the evolution of his storytelling, the reasoning behind signing to a major in an industry with a rapidly rising number of indie triumphs, and the shared sacrifice necessary for his individual success - visibly proud of the finished product. Yela also speaks at length about artistic compromises, Occupy Wall Street, and how he’s changed forever after hanging with Kool Herc and Kid Rock. Roll Tide.
Yelawolf Describes Hanging Out With Kool Herc And Kid Rock Together
HipHopDX: I know you guys had a long night last night. I hear you and Kid Rock were hanging out.
Yelawolf: Last night was one of those nights that’ll be talked about forever. It’s like that, “grandkids discussion.” You know, when you’re old and gray and talking about the good ole days. Last night was one of those nights. Yesterday was one of those days. Last night was one of those nights. I’m changed after yesterday in the sense that I found another level of humble that I didn’t know existed. [Laughs] Like, I’ve always considered myself humble in the sense I always respected people. Yesterday humbled me in what I really know about anything. When someone’s around you that has paved the way down [for you]...Kid Rock has laid the way down in a lot of ways: culturally and just his whole evolution. But to have him and [DJ] Kool Herc in the backseat just, banter, you know? The conversation. I tried to soak it in. I wish I had something recording it. It’s just a memory that I can only share with people. It wasn’t documented but I wish it was, man.
I wish I could remember. There was just so much. It was like somebody scanning through a fucking history book in 30 minutes and you can’t remember it all. But I wish I could.
DX: You guys were coming from the [“Let’s Roll”] video shoot up in the Bronx. [J.Dot] just mentioned that this was the first time Kool Herc has been in a major video shoot in a long time. How important for you is it to bring Alabama to the Bronx? You have ink that represents Alabama mixed with your passion for the culture.
Yelawolf: Not to be corny - but as far as keeping it real - I really don’t know of any other way besides doing it genuinely. And I’ve always approached everything I do with question to protect myself and to protect the way that I’m viewed; to protect the way that I see music and how I respect my elders. I’m protective of that so I don’t really know any other way. But this particular video was not my idea, man, at all. I wanted to shoot this video in Alabama. When we got the treatment - it got forwarded to me in an email - and the first line was “Scene starts off with Yelawolf and Kid Rock rolling through the Bronx in a Boss Hog Coupe Deville.” I was like: that’s brilliant! I’ve never really given up the reigns to someone, but that first line, I was like, “Yeah. Exactly. Yeah of course! Why didn’t I think of this?” [Laughs] Bringing us back to the root of all of Hip Hop, it just made so much sense. It shows respect and it’s also showing a fearlessness and what I’m willing to do and where I’m willing to go to share the culture that I’m sharing through Hip Hop. To pay that respect, I would go knock on Kool Herc’s door and go, “Hello, I’m Yelawolf. I’m from Alabama. You changed my life. Can I kick this song to you,” you know what I mean? That’s pretty much what the video was based around from my perspective.
[Kid Rock] has a whole-nother deeper history. His relationship with [KRS-One] and [Boogie Down Productions' D-Nice] put him on, which is insane. You would never think, but that’s his story. While we’re riding past neighborhoods and abandoned venues and Kool Herc is giving history - as Rock and Herc are passing stories - Rock was saying things that I didn’t know about. His whole personal history, which I’m sure he’s said before but I hadn’t heard it. So for him, coming back to the Bronx and paying that respect...because, dude, he started opening up for Too $hort and went from that to having Country #1 hits. Who does that, man? That’s how powerful Hip Hop is: it’s the root of it. ‘Cause it’s not like he lost fans during that transition. He just gained. And all his fans that are Hip Hop fans are like, “Yeah, I like that too.” It’s kind of like he created a cultural bridge, you know? But he came back to the beginning of that bridge and stood in the Bronx. It just meant a lot. It meant a lot for us to be there, especially with [“Let’s Roll" ]. This is my official, breakout single. I slept really good last night.
DX: I think that signals that Hip Hop is in an interesting place when you can have sometimes considered polar opposites in Country and Hip Hop and have artists be successful while being influenced by both. I spoke to David Banner last week and one of the things that he said people don’t appreciate about the South and Southern culture is that [it produces diverse artists]. Especially coming up in the late 1980s through the 1990s when there weren’t a lot of urban radio stations. You couldn’t go to your local bar and hear breakbeats. It was always Country music or The Police. If you turned on MTV then, you weren’t seeing whole blocks of rap videos. You might get [Ice Cube’s] “Today Was A Good Day” and then you had to watch five more videos before you get to whatever the next rap video was.
Yelawolf: Thank you very much! “Today Was A Good Day” [by Ice Cube] was one of the first records that I remembered front to back. It’s honestly, one of the only records I could recite to you front to back because of that. And you’re absolutely right. You had to be a digger and you had to be so wanting to know more about it and you had to find ways to find it if you wanted to know more about it.
I was born into music. My mom loved music, man. Period. She liked the business. She liked the culture of it. She liked everything. She liked Rock & Roll. Her first two long relationships - one was with a lighting and sound designer who did tours with Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, 10,000 Maniacs.
Yelawolf Recalls Becoming A Fan of Hip Hop As A Child
DX: That’s where you got your first Beastie Boys and Run DMC records from.
Yelawolf: Yeah. He did [Run-DMC’s] Walk This Way Tour. And it ended up in my hands, man. I’m straight mullet, a pair of British Knights, Swatch watch in the country, man, on the lake when the Run-DMC crew came to my house. For me, it was fate. So, I can’t deny or discredit God for what was given to me by fate. It was just there for me. Outside of that, when I really started to appreciate music, I became a skateboarder really young. And through skateboarding I was in a Niagara Falls of music, man. It just started pouring. Because really all I was getting was classic Rock, Country, and scattered Hip Hop. There was no one there to say it was [called Hip Hop]. I knew the music sounded different but I didn’t know how to define what I was hearing. I just was jamming to it. That was also a blessing: the innocence of first loving the music before knowing what it really was about.
DX: You’ve told an interesting anecdote about that, how you thought it was just another type of Rock. You were listening to the Beastie Boys‘ “Paul Revere” and you thought it was just another kind of Rock.
Yelawolf: Yeah. I had never heard the 808 sound. I’d never heard a programmed drum before that. And if I did hear Kraftwerk before that or The Cars or if I heard any other programmed drums prior to that, it didn’t really hit me. It didn’t hit me like [The Beastie Boys'] “Paul Revere.” It was so obviously strange. I was like, “What is that? How do they...What is that?” Like, What instrument is that, a fucking didgeridoo?” [Laughs] Nah, I didn’t know what a fucking didgeridoo was when I was a fucking little kid, but the point is I didn’t know how to identify it but I just loved it. I didn’t question it. I just knew it was a great song. That came first. In that sense, I was really blessed because I loved it first and then later on came why I loved it. And then later on came the judgement for loving it - you know, not supposed to or whatever. My love for the culture put me on the cross and made me make life decisions. If you just love a song and you just love music and you just want to be a part of it, you don’t think that one day you’ll damn near be dying over it, you know?
Yelawolf Says Pharaohe Monch, Tech N9ne, Twista Influenced His Emceeing
DX: We spoke briefly at The Roots picnic this year. You performed in the tent stage that day. And before your set, you were running around in the press area skateboarding and shooting hoops and I got a chance to ask you three questions. One of the questions I asked you was whether you approach Hip Hop from a competitive stand point. You said: “When I made Trunk Muzik I felt like I had to prove my worth being here as a rapper because I never really went hard because ultimately I’m a songwriter. Being an emcee, wordplay is just a perk of practicing for so many years. But the point to me is to make a good song...you’re more interested in the artist and not his lyrical ability.” At the time, I wasn’t sure what you meant by that because Trunk Muzik and Trunk Muzik: 0-60 sounded [lyrically competitive]. But after hearing Radioactive, the takeaway is the songwriting. You’re talking about economic conditions in the South. You’re talking about different types of relationships you’ve had. You’re talking about your history with music. You dig further into the storytelling.
Yelawolf: The quick-wittedness of a freestyle, I wasn’t blessed with that. I can’t come off the top of my head with something that is brilliant. I have to think about what I’m doing. I’ve always shied away from that for the sake of, “I don’t want to say something stupid right now.” I did go through a period where when I was around my friends and [we’re] kicking raps off the top [of the head]. I just grew out of wanting to do that. The first rhymes I ever wrote, I had literally a stack of books like this high. Meade Notebooks up to here of gibberish. Nothing. It meant nothing. Just gibberish. To look back and even try to recite, I’m like, “What the fuck was I even talking about? Who am I even talking to right now?” What I realized was that that was just a practice of wordplay and learning how to work syllables and rhyme and try to figure out metaphors. You first start playing with Hip Hop and lyricism based on the fact that being witty is what’s attractive about Hip Hop. I wanted to figure out what it is that gave me that and it became my pen game. That was it. That was my thing. I’ve always said that I’m on the pen and pad, man. If I have something to say for real, it is a thought. It’s something that I’ve thought about. The battle and the cypher, that was never around when I was growing up. It just wasn’t. There’s no scene for that. It’s open-mic night or it’s in the back of a Chevy or trading verses on the corner. It’s not like a diss battle.
That’s not what happened. That’s not where I grew up. In fact, that’ll get you beat up in the South - if you start mouthing off to someone with your diss rhymes and shit. It might be some hustler that’s just trying to put out mixtapes. You know, some dope boy. You don’t want that. He’s not even in the game for that. He’s in the game for making money telling his story - "selling Rap tunes" as Pimp C would say. It’s a different breed. Although it’s purely Hip Hop, it was created in a different way. That pride of Southern culture and our spin on Hip Hop just strengthened my songwriting and my want to be a songwriter. I just knew that a simple line like, “This ole sucka emcee stepped up to me / Challenged Andre to a battle and I stood there patiently / As he spit and stumbled over cliches / So called freestyling / The whole purpose just to make me feel low / I guess he wildlin’ / I said, ‘Look boy / I ain’t for that fuck shit / So fuck this” [from Andre 3000’s verse on “Two Dope Boyz (In A Cadillac)”] - like, that was very like, “Exactly!” It was kind of like, “Yep, that’s how it is. Don’t even try that shit over here, bro. Because when I get back to this pen, you gonna be in trouble because I’m gonna hit you where it hurts. I’m gonna put some real thought into this, and you’re gonna be real embarrassed.” [Laughs]
That pride made me hone into songwriting. All of what I’ve just said is just prior to me wanting to grow as an adult into bringing in melody from my Classic Rock influences and the simplicity of Country Music that influenced me and making music that is bringing all that in. I just really want to impact people with records. And it’s not always [that way]. There’s times to party and have fun and flip lyrics. I got one record on Radioactive called “Animal” that Diplo produced, featuring FeFe Dobson, where I just rant lyrically. And I have a record that’s called “The Last Song” that’s very personal; very simple written song about my father. There’s times to have fun and party and there’s times to get serious. For me it was just all about figuring out the balance - more so the balance that works with me. What works for me won’t work for anyone else ever again in history just like what worked for [Eminem] will never work for anyone else. Or Kid Rock...or Jay-Z...or Kanye [West]. You have to figure out your own space, man. That’s the challenge and the beauty of it all. What I’m doing won’t be done again. Now that I’m starting to figure it out, I feel like I’m really on to something with Radioactive and I finally have the opportunity to spread my wings in that sense. I am past proving that I can rap. It’s almost lame in a sense, like to want to out-rap someone. I don’t care anymore. I don’t even have the drive to want to out rap a muthafucka. Nothing impresses me anymore lyrically. Hardly ever. Marshall fucking blows my mind, the whole Slaughterhouse. And there’s a few emcees out there that just...Pharoahe Monch, you know what I’m saying? Busta [Rhymes], Twista, Tech N9ne. [They] make me go, “What the fuck? That was insane!” But past that, I’m even more interested in their records that are [stories]. My favorite record on Watch The Throne is ["New Day" ], the one about their unborn children.
DX: “New Day.”
Yelawolf: Yeah. That’s the most moving record off of that project and they’re so prolific in their wordplay. That’s my favorite record. My favorite record from [Eminem] is “I Am.” That’s my favorite Marshall record. You hear him go absolutely God damn bananas on “I’m A Soldier,” but “I Am” or “Stan” are like real fucking [songs].
So I have an appreciation. I love when emcees flex and get lyrical. But what’s attractive to me is just great songs, man. And that’s for Hip Hop, Country music, Rock & Roll, whatever the fuck it is. I just like good songs.
DX: I think your songwriting is really the biggest indicator of you being a product of your diverse influences. When you think about Country music, or Classic Rock, or a lot of the reasons why the greatest emcees resonate so much is because of the strength of their songwriting. But even looking at the tracklist for Radioactive, you have collaborations with Mystikal, which is a shout to the Master P/No Limit era that really put the South on the map. You’ve got a track with Gangsta Boo on there, which is a shout to Three 6 Mafia which was one of your favorite groups. You’ve got a track with Killer Mike which is a shout to the Dungeon Family, another favorite. You really went back and seemed to pull from some of your biggest influences and found a way to include them on your debut project.
Yelawolf: I’ve always looked up, man, even since Trunk Muzik when we had our Raekwon feature and Bun B. I always looked up. I always thought that reaching up to become part of what they’re doing is more important than reaching to the left or pulling someone who is from the underground with me. I’ve always been looking up and they were up there. No disrespect to my peers, but it’s almost like, “Dog, I got much respect for you, but I’m just climbing. I’m just climbing up. This is who I want to be a part of: the greats, the greats, the greats.” That’s what has led our features and it’s always been record based. We never have went into the studio and been like, “Let’s make a record for Mystikal.” Or, “Let’s get in here and make a record that Kid Rock would be perfect for.” We always made the record first and was like, “Man, if I could get Gangsta Boo and Eminem on this shit, this shit’s gonna be crazy!” The idea of it, the juxtaposition and the uncomfortableness of it is so attractive to me. I think that’s what’s attractive about records, period: beautiful music/hard lyrics, beautiful lyrics/hard music. The marriage of it, you know? Culturally, just to say, “Yeah, man, I’ll do it.” Mystikal, come on in. He needs V.I.P. at this party. All the O.G.s are more than welcome. I’ve always looked at it like that because I want that for myself after years of work. I would hope that that would lead into [that direction]. If a young person comes up after a career, then I can then help someone else come up. Each one teach one, man.
DX: One thing I thought has always been notable about you is how open you’ve always been about recognizing and stating your mainstream influences. You did an interview with Metallungies.com in 2009 and you were describing to them how Hip Hop culture in Alabama is a little bit different. You need things like MTV to turn new people on to the music. Right now the music industry, the economy, the country is arguably more polarized than ever. We’re more divided between the haves and the have-nots. You had a striking amount of success as an independent artist, even after the Columbia Records deal didn’t work out. You guys pushed even harder and released some of your most visceral music. But you were always really open about landing a major deal. This week, Mac Miller just debuted with 144,000 copies sold in the first week. You’ve got Strange Music and everything they’ve been able to accomplish independently.
Yelawolf: Got-damn, Mac [Miller] sold 144,000’ fuckin' records? Go, Mac.
DX: Yep. Rostrum Records. What was your motivation behind your desire to go major the whole time while there’s an increasing number of successful independent business models?
Yelawolf: Well, I was raised in the world of mainstream. All of the bands or Hip Hop groups that I was fans of had major label deals and that fucking Def Jam stamp; or fucking when Steve Rifkind was putting Wu-Tang [Clan] on the map; or [Led Zeppelin]; or Ray Charles; or everything Atlantic Records did for all those great artists. I wanted to be a part of a team. It’s kind of like wanting to play for the Yankees. You want to come play for championship team. You just want to be a part of that. [Michael] Jordan went to the [Chicago] Bulls and became the star player of that squad. You just want to become part of a winning team. We were a team before anything, but we wanted to join. It’s kind of like earning your way up to that. I’ve always looked toward that. That’s just how I wanted to do it. Independent always seemed like, to me, like such an unnecessary struggle when you could use unlimited fuel for an already working engine. The fuel of a major label can be so useful. The platform opens up huge. The distribution. I’ve always had ideas and records that I felt like, “Man, I need this shit to go everywhere immediately. This is not something that I want to work from Gadsden, Alabama for fucking 10 years. I need someone to hear this record immediately.
That was the blessing of the Internet. The underground don’t exist anymore. It doesn’t because everyone’s got fair game. Odd Future’s got pretty much the same outlet as anyone else - major or not. There’s a fucking Internet button that says “Download” for every fucking single artist on the planet. So, it’s changed a lot. But we just now have become - in the past few years - Internet-savvy. We used to just sell them out the trunk, man. When Trunk Muzik came, we were literally out the trunk. We had just now started to have a presence online. After “Pop The Trunk,” that’s when our Internet presence became real. That led into a major deal.
Not to discredit anyone, when someone says, “I sold 140,000 independently,” [but] no you didn’t. Your independent label just works like a major. You’re not independent. Stop. It just makes it sound better, but obviously you’re operating like a major. That’s what majors do: work fucking records. So if you’re independent label is working records like a major, you’re a major. Just go on and accept it, you know what I’m saying? If Atlantic Records or Universal or Interscope - if you’re on their playing field, then just be that. Because 200,000 units independent is kind of like you’re not independent. If you’ve even got the money to press up 140,000 copies of anything, you’ve got some real fucking money. [Laughs] That’s just real shit. You’re indie when you can’t afford to press up 5,000 copies. We were indie when we couldn’t afford to fucking put shit in stores because the demand was higher than what we could afford to give. And that’s why we wanted a major deal: because we couldn’t keep up with the demand of the music.
DX: Mettalungies also asked you if record labels expect you to sound like Eminem. You said, “Nah I don’t think people expect me to try to sound like him or when we’re going to get deals. Obviously they’re probably looking for something that they can attach to him, because he’s had such success, what label wouldn’t want that? They want a repeat of that. They want the next Whiteboy, I guess, to come and blow like that. They want a motherfucker who’s gonna sell records. So artistically, you can’t give a label too much credit for how they pick and choose their artists because that’s not their interest anymore, for real. The way we move as Ghet-O-Vision is really rare. We really are into what we do art-wise.” When you were putting together Radioactive for your Ghet-O-Vision/Shady/Interscope major label debut, were you forced to make any compromises? What was the difference between assembling a major label debut versus assembling Stereo, Trunk Muzik, and Trunk Muzik: 0-60?
Yelawolf: The compromise is always shared. It’s like an agreement that we make as a crew. Any compromise that we make, we make within ourselves and then we give that over. We still don’t compromise artistically in any kind of way. When we make a decision, we’re like, “Man, this is what we want to do and let’s take this and see where this goes up top. Let’s see how we can make this translate.” With Radioactive, I wanted to grow beyond mixtapes. That was the goal. I want to make records that have the potential to be on radio. I grew up on great radio records. There’s no shame to me in mainstream success at all. I think it’s what you’re supposed to do. It’s supposed to be that evolution. You’re supposed to go there. If you put that ceiling above you, you’ll shorten yourself out.
But then again it’s what you want to do with your career. Some people like to live in that world. I for one, do not. I want to make records that are broad and not just regionally impactful, but internationally impactful. That’s pretty much my approach with Radioactive: the international influences that I grew up on.
We still don’t compromise, do we [J. Dot]? [Laughs] We fight all the fucking time! It’s like, “I ain’t doing that!” Then J will be like, “But you got to.” And I’m like, “No I don’t! I swear I dont!” Then J will say, “You have to!” And I’m like, “Alright, I’ll do it.” And then sometimes my management’s like, “Aight, you ain’t gotta do it.” But it’s a team effort. Some shit I’ll try because I trust my people. Fuck man, I wouldn’t have them around me if I didn’t trust their judgement. I’m not right about everything and neither is anyone else. That’s how you work as a company, whether you fucking have a mechanic shop or a gotdamn record label. It’s like, “I think the car needs this.” Then someone else is like, “I don’t know, man. Oil don’t really need to be changed. I’m telling you, this is the problem.” And someone else will come in and be like, “You’re right. Works better this way.” Sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong but the end result is to make sure that shit rides good. [Laughs] You just want to have good shit, man.
DX: One of my favorite joints on Radioactive is “Made In The USA.” I’m from South Carolina and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, parts of Florida all have a very similar culture and view of America. In an interview in 2009, you were asked about race relations in Alabama, and you said, “What makes the South different in that aspect is that we really are divided financially more than anything, so you’ll run into these projects or trailer parks where there’s Black and White people living in the same world, dealing with the same shit.” You touch on that on “Made In The USA” and on “Slumerican Shitizen.” Yesterday, while you were filming the video for “Let’s Roll,” Occupy Wall Street had one of it’s biggest rallies. Occupy Wall Street’s “We Are The 99%” battle-cry has traveled the world at this point, but it speaks to the economic inequality in this country. What’s your take on that, especially coming from Alabama which is one of the poorest states but in the top half of number of states with the most millionaires?
Yelawolf: The millionaires, I would say, are people that have just inhabited the state. NASA, Honda - they just come plant up in the land. Some of the biggest military bases, they just plant seeds there. But the people who were born and raised out of there - not to get too deep - but great, great grandfathers who seriously came on a wagon or on a trail and put a flag down on a couple acres and said, “I want to start life here,” that’s kind of how Alabama was built. It’s how America was built. But a businessman from Japan might be like, “Yo man, there’s cheap land in Alabama. We can go put a goddamn a Honda factory up there. There’s a bunch of people there who need work. Let’s just go post up. The factory will be a success because there’s X amount of unemployed people who need jobs there and it’s cheap.” Their success comes from businesses coming in.
The problem is when businesses come in, all the independent businesses suffer. My grandfather retired from Goodyear. My grandmother retired from Food World in the bakery. That’s the American story. They worked a nine-to-five for 30-something years, traveled back and forth from there house like a sentence. I was really raised looking at them say, “Earn it. You’re fucking old enough. Get a goddamn job. You’re not going to sit around here. You’re 15 years old. Go get a job. Work is real. I don’t care if you’re fucking flipping pizzas or goddamn digging ditches or you’re fucking working as an electrician or you’re a goddamn rocket scientist. I don’t give a fuck what you do. Make some fucking money because these bills need to be paid.” That’s it. When businesses effect that working class man, it creates an uprising. It’s only natural that when a person is effected at the bottom by someone else’s faults at the top - it just shows that someone’s greedy up there. Someone’s fucking up. Someone’s not being fair because I know this: “I go to work everyday and bust my ass for eight hours to help sell a fucking car across the country. I’m American made. I make this for us.” I didn’t understand that when I was young, but my paw-paw was like, “Buy American. Buy American.” He didn’t fuck with anything unless [it was made in America]. “I work at Goodyear, goddamn it. Don’t buy that shit. We didn’t make that shit. You’re not supporting me. You look up to me, right? Then why are you wearing this ‘Made In Japan?‘ Why do you want to buy a Honda? I worked at Goodyear for 30 years. What do you mean you’re gonna ride fucking Pirelli's? What are you supporting? You’re gonna get me fired.”
I’m not politically-savvy. I don’t know to detail what’s going on with Wall Street. But I know logically what’s going on. They’re fucking sick of it. They’re sick of being mistreated. They’re sick of getting shorted on their checks and it’s all because someone at the top is being greedy. Man, that’s what the fuck goes on. My paw-paw got laid off after working for 20 years. [He] had to move and leave my grandmother he’s been married to forever and get an apartment in some other state to go work for another Goodyear plant. It was either, “You’re either getting laid off and you’re not gonna make no money or “I’ll send you over to this other state and this other plant.” He chose to keep his job. He left and got an apartment. It was a crazy time, man.
But my paw-paw’s protested a bunch of times. Him and his workers, standing outside Goodyear like, “Hell no we won’t go!” and got what the fuck he was asking for because what you gonna do without the working man? They can’t even make the muthafuckin‘ tires. You ain’t even gonna have no wheels at all. He’s the one that fixes the muthafuckin‘ machines that makes your shit. What you gonna do now? You might know how to work numbers behind that desk, but ain’t no muthafucka gonna turn that screw in a goddamn machine and get that machine working. You gotta care about the working man. That’s the thread of America. Somebody’s gotta fucking lay this carpet. Somebody’s gotta fucking lay those bricks; work that crane. You can design it, but somebody’s gotta fucking make shit work. That’s the fucking same shit with music. I design the music but somebody’s gotta make shit work. Management. Major labels. It’s a shared fucking investment, man. Life is a shared investment.
DX: You’re one of the few cats that I see citing Group Home as one their biggest influences. You shout them out on “Radio,” and in a bunch of previous interviews. Where’s the Group Home appearance on the album? You talk about Group Home often enough to where I halfway expected to see Lil Dap showing up somewhere.
Yelawolf: I know, I know, I know, right. I know. I appreciate that. There’s a lot of artists that I grew up entirely influenced by. Whether it’s Group Home or Anthony Kiedis from the [Red Hot Chili Peppers], theres a lot of features that I will work on making happen in my career. I would just as much be happy doing a record with Group Home as I would Willie Nelson. That’s for real the God’s honest truth. There’s features that didn’t make this particular project and it’s not because I didn’t want them to be a part of the project. But if I had every artist that’s influenced me on my album, I wouldn’t have a verse! [Laughs] I might have a God damn eight bar verse on one song and the rest would just be features. So it’s just about spacing it out. I’m still building myself, too. It’s just learning to share that space, man.
But Group Home, there was a period of my life where that was all the fuck I’d listen to. I lived in a fucking one bedroom apartment with my mom. We didn’t have beds. Mom was so so hurting financially and that was the album that kept me together. I used to fucking sit in the breeze way and listen to that shit. I was is in Antioch, Tennessee. Everyone else was listening to [Kingpin Skinny Pimp], Nappyhead and Gold Teeth, 8Ball & MJG, the local artists from Nashville. I don’t know, man. DJ Premier. [Group Home had one] of the best produced albums ever [in Livin' Proof]. Beat-wise, fuck, man.
I love the simplicity. Some people hate simple shit. But that’s one of my favorite styles of Hip Hop. Like Shawty-Lo, man please. You don’t wanna battle Shawty-Lo! You don’t want that. You don’t want the whole entire hood to come down on your fucking head. I love that! I love real. Crunchy Black. I love real. I don’t give a fuck what you do. You can be the most brilliant lyrical mutherfucker, but if you ain’t real, I ain’t impressed. I just love simple shit. I think [Melachi the] Nutcracker, know one really gives him credit for being that from New York. New York, they have that! A lot of emcees from New York want to be grand lyrical. Like, dog, naw. Do that! Why do you think Juicy J is killing it? Do that simple shit. It’s hard to be simple. It’s not easy. It’s hard, man. It’s hard to be simple and fly. That’s why Wiz is fucking killing the game right now, because he understands that it ain’t easy to write a song that’s simple. Snoop Dogg’s fucking done it for years. It’s hard as fuck. It’s a lot easier to impress people being lyrically savvy than it is to be slick and still impactful. That’s some Beatles shit. That’s my appreciation for the simplicity of Hip Hop. As far as Group Home and features, we’ll see, man. I’ve become friends with Premier so, you never know.