|Label:||Shady / Interscope|
|Next Project:||Trunk Muzik (Out Now)|
|Twitter:||Yelawolf on Twitter|
Looks can be deceiving, but blown-out speakers don’t lie. Though much has been made of YelaWolf‘s unconventional appearance – he’s white, covered in ink and looks more like a punk rocker than your average emcee… – it’s the Alabama up-and-comer’s fresh, attention-grabbing sound that’s got the ‘net buzzing and subwoofers rattling across the nation. Drawing from classic rock, old-school rap, and the quintessentially Southern style of acts like OutKast and Three Six, Yela comes with a hard-edged brand of Trunk Muzik as innovative as it is bass-heavy.
Having racked up reader accolades for tracks like “Pop the Trunk,” Raekwon collabo “I Wish” and exclusive freestyle “Dirt Road,” as well as making guest appearances on records by the widely-renowned likes of Juelz Santana (“Mixing Up the Medicine”) and Slim Thug (“I Run”) YelaWolf recently took his hustle to the next level with the January 1, release of his Booth-sponsored Trunk Muzik mixtape. Available here for streaming and free download, the street album has gotten Yela recognized in the Booth and beyond as one of the South’s fastest-rising stars.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” YelaWolf steps into the Booth to discuss his feelings on the inevitable Eminem comparisons, the unfortunate state of his Chevy and just how excited he is to perform alongside OutKast DJ Cutmaster Swift at this year’s SXSW festival.
Listen to the Interview
Yelawolf Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is an Alabama native whose brand-new, DJBooth-approved Trunk Muzik mixtape has stirred up quite the buzz. An emcee who traveled down a “Dirt Road” in our freestyle series this past November, please welcome YelaWolf – how you doin’?
YelaWolf: Yeah! What up, Z? I’m chillin’.
DJ Booth: Hey man, good to talk to you as always. I know Paul Wall coined this phrase a few years back, but right now you got the Internet goin’ nuts.
YelaWolf: [laughs] Yeah, man! That’s what’s up. You know what? It’s crazy – for so many years, I’ve avoided the Internet, just by staying on the grind. And, two Alabama just ain’t big on computers still. [laughs] My mama’s still on dial-up . It’s irony, man; the fact that I have any buzz on the Internet is irony. I’m excited.
DJ Booth: You should be. How long did it take your mom to download your mixtape on dial-up? About 25 minutes?
YelaWolf: About an hour! She couldn’t watch “Pop the Trunk,” because it wouldn’t load up.
DJ Booth: [laughs] You need to get her a DSL line, man.
YelaWolf: Yeah, I gotta hook her up when I get that big deal.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Before writing up a few questions for our interview today, I watched and I listened to a handful of your interviews from the past few months, as you’ve gotten bigger and bigger, and it seems like every interviewer has asked you the same damned questions. How annoying is that?
YelaWolf: I take it with a grain of salt. It’s bittersweet, man. I know there are certain questions that are unavoidable, and something always has something to do with being white, and what’s up with Eminem, you know… But it’s all good, man. The comparisons are fair; there’s only been one white successful artist. I’m not gonna say that – one, primarily, successful white artist. Paul Wall had great success, MC Search had some success-
DJ Booth: Bubba Sparxxx.
YelaWolf: Bubba had some success in the game. But you know what it is: there’s just one huge pop star who set the standard.
DJ Booth: No, I hear you. Well, instead of doing any cookie-cutter question-asking, I’m just going to go over a few things for all of our listeners, so that we can catch up to now. I understand that the root of your stage name is Native American, correct?
YelaWolf: Yeah, yeah. YelaWolf is Native American, yellow being the color of the sun, fire, power, hunger, drive and “wolf” represents my ability to survive and my fearlessness.
DJ Booth: I ask a lot of artists, “Where does your stage name come from?” and they say something like, “I dunno, man – it sounded cool,” and you have this poetic answer – I love it!
YelaWolf: Yeah, yeah. It just comes from knowledge of self, man. Just growin’ up, learnin’ about who I am, and it defines who I am as a person.
DJ Booth: Well, in addition to dropping knowledge about your stage name, it is widely known that you did the hook on Slim Thug’s “I Run,” you’re on Juelz Santana’s new record, “Mixing Up the Medicine,” and you have a hot new mixtape out right now, available for download at DJBooth.net, called Trunk Muzik Did we cover all the bases? Are we good?
YelaWolf: Yeah, we’re good, man. We just did the remix to “I Wish” with Prynce Cyhi and Gangster Pill, which we shot a video to, which will be hittin’ the ‘net soon. We just leaked the “I Wish” remix, so everybody check DJBooth.net for that. MTV’s comin’ out here tomorrow to shoot an interview, so the mixtape is makin’ some moves for me.
DJ Booth: Excellent. Absolutely, it is. I know it probably isn’t your birthday today, but you mentioned the “I Wish” remix. If you could have one wish right now granted to you, if I were a genie, which I am not, what would it be and why?
YelaWolf: Sh*t, man, if you’d get my Chevy off the side of 20, ‘cause it broke down the other day…
DJ Booth: If you need me to, I can call a tow truck for you.
YelaWolf: Yeah, genie that.
DJ Booth: [laughs] OK, so, any wish in the world, and you just want me to take care of the tow truck for you?
YelaWolf: Yeah, take care of my Chevy. My baby’s f*cked up. She blew up on the way to ATL the other day, and me and my homie were ducking under a bridge, hidin’ from f*cking cops, avoiding getting taken to jail… [laughs] It was drama, man. So there she sits, for five days.
DJ Booth: Well, I’m glad you didn’t get in any trouble, because then we wouldn’t be able to do this interview, and I would’ve been upset. So, good job.
YelaWolf: I don’t know… for what it’s worth, rappers are getting’ bigger deals by goin’ to jail, so maybe I just need to go to jail.
DJ Booth: You need to get your deal first, and then go to jail; that’s the order.
YelaWolf: [laughs] I think they’ll cut a bigger check if I go to jail first.
DJ Booth: As long as you have the album in the can already – that helps.
YelaWolf: Yeah. We’re good, ‘cause I’ve got that.
DJ Booth: As a skateboarding, rock-influenced, heavily-tattooed rock guy, is there any concern that the urban audience of today’s generation will or won’t be able to connect with you and your music?
YelaWolf: Nah, no concern on my part. I give people more credit than that. People are smart. They just get dumbed down by, usually bad leaders, who don’t give ‘em the right advice. So I expect the best out of people, man – I don’t take people for granted. I believe that the music itself is gonna open up doors. When the people who’ve never seen [me] before find out what I look like, whether it’s a shock or whether it’s “All right, cool,” it’s still music when you hit “play.”
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Yela, on New Year’s Day we unleashed your Trunk Muzik mixtape. A month later, it continues to rack up downloads. And every single person I talk to asks me, “Hey, have you heard of this guy YelaWolf?” and I’m like, “Yeah, actually, I have.” Has this whole process for you been overwhelming, or merely a long time coming?
YelaWolf: It’s validating, it’s gratifying and it’s humbling at the same time. Of course, we set out when we made Trunk Muzik to do exactly what it’s doing, so we’re blessed in that manner. I certainly worked really hard to get where I’m at, but when it’s time for people to start hearing you, they’re gonna start hearing you. I mean, this definitely isn’t [my first] project to hit the ‘net… I had Stereo, which is a hip-hop tribute to classic rock, which we got five cigars in Ozone for, we got nominated for an award. It just didn’t connect with people like Trunk Muzik is, and I think that’s ‘cause people were waitin’ for me to rap over some raw-ass beats. I’m thankful that people are being receptive.
DJ Booth: Yeah. As someone who listens to hundreds and hundreds of songs per week, it’s a rare occurrence if I ever have a moment where I don’t think that one song is simply blending into the next, ‘cause they usually all sound similar, and to hear your music has been so refreshing. Does that word get used a lot in conversations that you’ve had with people? “It just doesn’t sound like anything else out right now!”
YelaWolf: Yeah, I’ve heard [that] a lot. It’s just got so much to do with my influences. You know I’ve gotta give it up to classic rock, all the classic rock I grew up listening to, like Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, 10,000 Maniacs, Lynyrd Skynyrd. And then early hip-hop: NWA, Souls of Mischief, Digable Planets, Outkast, Triple Six Mafia, these people who gave me the delivery. I never really forgot that, and I apply that to my music. And I think that’s why it connects with people in a different way: ‘cause I’m deriving directly from my inspirations. And then my life, my own life that I live every day.
DJ Booth: Let’s go off of that for a second, ‘cause I heard you say in a previous interview that one of your goals is to have people hear your story through your music and understand where you come from. So, if someone were to watch the newly-released video for “Pop the Trunk,” let’s say, which depicts drug use, violence, an unhealthy lifestyle, which would be the term that mainstream America would use, would they be getting an accurate portrayal of life in Alabama for you?
YelaWolf: Yeah, semi. Only because, I based that record off of stories I’ve been told, or been part of, so it’s years of stories mashed into a three-minute record. Is that particular mood, in that particular place, representative fully of my life in Alabama? No. But does it represent a piece of my life in Alabama, and a piece of the culture here? Yeah, absolutely.
DJ Booth: In that video, we see the mother that you mention in that song out back by the woodshed. But I was told this morning, that’s actually [your] mom, right?
YelaWolf: Yeah, that’s my mom and my pop. That’s my mom’s husband, Tim, who played himself – he’s the person who inspired the first verse. I’ve been hearin’ a lot lately, like, I’ve heard, “Aw, white boy ain’t gangster, he ain’t gonna pop the trunk.” People are not listening, or they’re not hearing – I’m tellin’ a story about people that are doing it, not me doing it. I was inspired to write that verse about him ‘cause he’s such a hard-ass. He keeps a loaded gun on him at all times, and he’s got property that he would really shoot somebody over, if you come up in there stealin’ some sh*t. So he inspired that.
DJ Booth: Well, it’s good that you got that first story, because not only did it help you make a banging record, but it also acts as a PSA that nobody had better trespass on your stepfather’s property.
YelaWolf: [laughs] I wouldn’t f*ck around with Tim Snyder Pig’s property, dog. That’s “Tim Synder Pig,” if the name ain’t hard enough!
DJ Booth: So how did your mom feel about the cameo role? I know that you said that, because of the Internet, she didn’t get to watch the video, but how was the introduction to her acting career?
YelaWolf: She’s seen it by now… She’s excited. She was upset she didn’t get to wear makeup, but I wouldn’t let her; it didn’t look hard enough. Her and Tim both surprised me – they’re naturals. I was happy to have her, man. I’ll bring her back for another video someday, where she can be real pretty.
DJ Booth: I know that your mom has always been a big believer in your creative talents, and has always fully supported your work. How does she feel about where you’re at right now? Does she fully understand the magnitude to which you’re on that brink, that horizon, if you will?
YelaWolf: Uh, no. No one does out here. No one close to me understands. I don’t think I even fully understand. I hope I don’t; I hope it’s bigger than I think it is. But I’m just remaining humble and keeping grounded, keeping my head down, I’m gonna stay working. And I really like keeping people around me who don’t know what’s going on, ‘cause they don’t really care. It helps the artist stay on ground level, it keeps my work where it should be. But she’s ecstatic for me. Everything’s extra-big for her. Just because I’m doin’ a show in Atlanta, it doesn’t matter where it’s at, she thinks Usher’s comin’ out or something.
DJ Booth: [laughs] Yela, I read on your Twitter account this morning the following. You said, “Change defines what we will be remembered by.” So, I’m gonna get deep with you here. On the brink of launching your career, what is, right now, up to this point, the single biggest change that you’ve had to make, which you believe has helped you the most to get to where you are today?
YelaWolf: I’ve had to let go of unnecessary baggage. You’ve gotta shake off things which are not gonna help you in your future, you know what I’m sayin’? Like, I can’t go as hard anymore with my drinking and my wilding out. Change always means, in some way, taking responsibility, so the biggest change that I’m making is just taking full responsibility.
DJ Booth: Well, speaking of a change, one that you had no control over, I read in your bio that, several years ago, you actually had a deal in place between Ghet-o-vision Entertainment, with K.P., and Columbia, but after Rick Rubin was hired you kinda were hung out to dry. So, where do you believe that you would be right now, if that deal had not fallen through, and you ended up already releasing an album, your debut, on that major?
YelaWolf: I dunno, on tour with the Peppers or something? Maybe f*ckin on tour with Eminem. I don’t know; something big, man. I’ve never met Rick Rubin, so if the door’s still open to work with him, I would love to get in the lab with him and see what comes out. As of now, man, I’m dealin’ with what didn’t happen.
DJ Booth: I’m a big believer in, everything that happens happens for a reason, though. So, I dunno if you believe in that also, but that could hold true right now.
YelaWolf: Everything does happen for a reason, but I will say we have a choice. We have a God-given ability to choose.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. YelaWolf, both an emcee and a teacher dropping knowledge here inside the Booth. All of our younger listeners, I’m sure, are going to be pleased with the outcome of this interview. Well, you’re about to have a big performance coming up; I heard you’re going to be at South by Southwest this March. That’s a huge opportunity for you.
YelaWolf: It’s huge, man. I cannot wait to get out there. I’ve got, like, three shows or four shows a day. Yeah, I can’t wait. Me and DJ Cutmaster Swift, who if y’all don’t know, Cutmaster Swift was Outkast’s DJ.
DJ Booth: Yes, he was.
YelaWolf: Hes been with ‘em from day one. So, I’ve got the best.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. We might be down at South by Southwest, and if we are, I definitely look forward to seeing you perform. Hopefully after the fourth performance of each day, you have not lost your voice at that point. I recommend lots and lots of Ricola.
YelaWolf: [laughs] Ricola, lemons and tea, I got you.
DJ Booth: [laughs] Cool. Yela, give everyone a website, a MySpace page, a Twitter account, something so they can find out more about you and, of course, the exciting new project, Trunk Muzik.
YelaWolf: Yo, everybody out there in DJBooth.net-land, listening to DJ Z and YelaWolf, I want everyone to check out myspace.com/YelaWolf. I’m encouraging all of you to follow me on Twitter, and also, please, please download Trunk Muzik from DJBooth.net. It’s a project I’m extremely proud of, and I’m sure you’re gonna enjoy it. Throw it in the Chevy, throw it in the headphones, throw it in the stereo, throw it in the MP3 player, whatever, and sit back and listen to my first classic-to-be.
DJ Booth: And just as a precaution for everybody listening: whatever you throw it in, make sure it’s insured, because Trunk Muzik will blow out speakers, it will blow out headphones, and you will have to go and replace them. And, since YelaWolf does not have his deal yet, he’s not gonna be able to reimburse you yet.
YelaWolf: Yeah – I will not be held responsible for blown speakers. I think we actually put that disclaimer with the download. [laughs]
DJ Booth: Yes, we did – I love it! Thank you so much for taking the time to join me inside the Booth for an interview. Nothing but the continued best of luck, my friend.
YelaWolf: Hey man, thanks for havin’ me. Catfish Billy, holler at’cha!
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