Travis Barker remembers vividly the time he first listened to Yelawolf’s breakout 2010 mixtape, Trunk Muzik. The Blink-182 drummer was instantaneously mesmerized by the Alabama rapper’s whiplash flow and cutthroat cadence. “I was tripping,” Barker tells Rolling Stone. “It was incredible.” The pair became fast friends, forming a bromance that led this year to a musical partnership: the two spent countless hours in a Los Angeles studio together, cooking up material for their Psycho White EP, a rock-rap bender of a debut collaboration, which you can now listen to exclusively on RollingStone.com.
These days the two refer to each other as a “brother from another mother.” But Yelawolf admits he was nervous the first time he met Barker in person. In 2010, Barker had summoned the rapper to skateboarding and reality-TV star Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory Studios in Los Angeles to record a hook on the Barker-produced Paul Wall track “Live It.” If Wolf was uneasy, Barker didn’t detect it. “We clicked from the time we first met,” the drummer remembers. “We just had a bunch in common, whether it be cars or skateboarding or tattoos.”
On a deeper level, each admits he saw in the other a similar, yet geographically distinct version of himself. “We’re almost the same person,” Yelawolf contends. “[Travis] sees me as I do him: as this weird parody of cultures. I represented something in the South and the East that he does from the West Coast.”
The two musicians, who toured together last year as part of Lil Wayne‘s I Am Music tour, also connected over a love of raw, hard-hitting music. It wasn’t long then before the pair began bouncing musical ideas off one another, reconvening every few months in a Los Angeles studio to work on a new cut. “We just started cranking out songs in the studio,” Barker says, adding that neither he nor Wolf ever imagined they’d release any of these off-the-cuff collaborations.
“We never even spoke about a project,” Wolf says. The bulk of Psycho White, the rapper explains, came about simply from each floating an idea and seeing how the other would respond. Yelawolf recalls one particular occasion when he came into the studio whistling a melody he describes as “Opie Taylor-meets-Marilyn Manson,” after which “Travis broke out the marching snare and just started cranking out the drum pattern. And I was like, this shit is fuckin’ bananas,” he recalls, describing his reaction to what eventually became the song “Whistle Dixie.”
It was only five months ago, in fact, after the pair had recorded the EP’s smashmouth single, “Push Em,” that they decided a proper release was in order. “We had four songs, and we were like, some of these are bangers,” Barker says. “We felt we should really do something with it.”
“We just feed off each other,” Barker adds. He’s quick to give Wolf credit for wrangling Rancid singer – and Barker’s Transplants band member – Tim Armstrong on the reggae-infused cut “Six Feet Under.” “Tim got in the studio and wrote that and left the verses open and I came in there and did what I could do with it,” Wolf explains.
Psycho White, released by Barker’s own LaSalle Records, was perhaps most appealing to the musicians for the creative freedom it offered them. Wolf, who last year released his major-label debut, Radioactive, was relieved to not have any “fuckin’ label executives” hanging around the studio, whispering in his ear. “It’s the first time I’ve done a project in years without anyone around trying to A&R it,” he says.
Although there’s talk of the pair touring together next summer on a leg of the Warped tour, it’s very much tentative, given that each has a chaotic schedule: Barker is currently working on a new Blink-182 EP and a new Transplants album, while Wolf is soon heading to Nashville to “disappear and make some records.”
“That would be really exciting,” Barker says of the possibility of hitting the road. “I wish we could tour right now.”