Before we can really get into this review there are a couple things we need to get out of the way. Yes, YelaWolf is white. It’s true. And while hip-hop nation is still deservedly suffering from a severe case of VIPTSD (Vanilla Ice Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), for an entire generation of young hip-hop fans Robert Van Winkle is only a vague memory, someone to laugh at while watching YouTube clips. Skin color matters less than ever. Second, yes, he does look more like a Travis Barker than 50 Cent, but from Kanye’s pastels to Tech …
DJBooth Album Review
Hip-hop hasn’t ever quite seen anyone like YelaWolf, but much more importantly, they haven’t heard anything like the man either. It’s not every day that a rapper can label his style as “a mix between Outkast and Lynard Skynard,” and it’s an accurate description, but that’s exactly the case for the Alabama native. A lean rapper with a penchant for combining thickly drawled Southern slang with automatic weapon fast rhymes, Yela is fearlessly determined to break into hip-hop’s often cloistered ranks, and his opening salvo is his new mixalbum Trunk Muzik. You don’t have to like Trunk Muzik, but you do need to respect it.
Like most young artists, Yela has rode the co-sign of a few major rappers to onto the national stage, and Trunk Muzik is scattered with evidence of how much respect established artists already have for him, starting with Raekwon. The Chef doesn’t take his co-sign’s lightly, so when I was introduced to Yela via Trunk Muzik’s lead single I Wish I had to listen, and I was impressed by what I heard. More than just a song, I Wish is a manifesto of Yela’s identity, a mixture of Southern white and black culture united by a love for music and brought to life by his razor-laden tongue. Equally impressive but much catchier is the riding Good to Go, a rider that brings along Bun B featuring some impressively quick rhymes from Yela, and Mixing Up the Medicine Remix, an acoustically banging cut with Juelz Santana that Yela uses to alternate between Bob Dylan and Big Boi styled rhymes. With friends like these, haters can go f**k themselves.
Speaking of which, Yela more than proves that he’s capable of carrying a track on his own, starting with the aptly titled F.U., a track with one of the most easily memorable chorus in hip-hop history. But as memorable as F.U. is, the title track Trunk Muzik is a more telling glimpse into the musical mind of Yela. While Yela’s street-meets-outer-space style will rightfully pull Outkast comparisons, here he sounds more like Cee-Lo to me, like a rapper completely willing to simply be himself, and talented enough to manifest that personality via rhyme. From the intimate Love Is Not Enough to the swaggering Pop the Trunk (my personal favorite), on Trunk Muzik YelaWolf routinely delivers the kind of unique music that should raise his ceiling to the sky.
Unfortunately, Trunk Muzik occasionally feels more like an audition tape than a complete project, as if Yela felt the need to prove his versatility, most notably when the topic turns the sex. Now lord knows I’ve got nothing against getting down (just ask my knocked up wife), but Lick the Cat feels too forced to be truly dirty, and while Speak Her Sex is at least more creative with its gun clicks and Timbaland-esque production, the slowish jam just isn’t the man’s forte. The synth-heavy In the Club feels equally out of place – if Trunkz Muzik has a track meant for the club on it that track is Stage Lights (Remix). With that said, it’s still early in YelaWolf’s career, and I’m confident that in time he’ll better figure out how to make hits without diluting his essentially unique character. He’s going to have to, because if Trunk Muzik is any indication, we can expect years of YelaWolf’s dope Bama style in our collective hip-hop future.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 01/4/10
Shady / Interscope
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"I Wish" (2009)
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