Yelawolf is one of the fastest rising emcees on the music scene. Coming off a breakout run on the Warped tour, he's signed to Eminem's Shady Records and has a hit single, "Hard White (Up in the Club)," with Lil' Jon. But as Yelawolf tells Rolling Stone, he needed some convincing to go the hip-hop route.
"I had tried to get a deal with some rap shit, and everybody was giving me the runaround," he says. "All these labels were gassing me up but never pulling the trigger. I just felt like, 'Fuck it, I’m just gonna do whatever I want to do.'
"I started a band. I had a fucking banjo, lap steel, turntables, drummer, fiddle player. I went nuts creatively." But his manager and crew pleaded with him to stick with hip-hop: "KP, Bear, and J Dot, they’re like, 'Look, man, just please do a rap project. We don’t get you a deal, you can walk.'”
So Yelawolf headed back to Gadsden, Alabama and started his legend with the Trunk Muzik mixtape. Now his debut full-length, Radioactive, is coming out October 25th on Eminem's imprint. For Yelawolf, that's the best revenge.
"I just feel humbled, but I also feel validated," he says. "When I finally got all my shit together, all my music, it was a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people. A lot of labels, a lot of critics, they didn’t want to accept that what I was doing was real, the place that I was from was real, and then the kind of person I am, I represent many, many people. I represent people from small towns all over the world – working-class, nine to five, working hustlers."
If there was one person Yelawolf knew would understand, it was Eminem. "I always wanted to meet Marshall and let him hear my shit. I was like, 'Yo, man, I think that if he heard the shit he would really get it,'" he says. "In a sense, man, we’re cut from the same cloth, and it’s almost like country meets city. But there are so many similarities about the steps that I had to take, the steps he had to take in order to get to where he’s at. There are a lot of life similarities that we clicked on."
In a press release announcing the release date, Eminem says, ""We are very eager for the world to hear Radioactive and proud to be presenting the album on Shady Records. Yelawolf is a true original and he has crafted an incredible record."
Yelawolf promises the album expands greatly on Trunk Muzik. "I’ve opened up and broadened my sound. I kept WillPower around, so the roots are still there, they’re still hardcore. But it’s more American music than just straight Gadsden, Alabama," he says. He's especially excited to gauge the reaction to one track he did with Philly producer Diplo (M.I.A.).
"That’s gonna fuck people up," he says.