Yelawolf, real name Michael Wayne Atha, is the truth, plain and simple. An incredibly talented rapper hailing from Gadsden, Alabama, he has a flow that is very much his own. A former Alaskan crab fisherman, turned pro-skateboarder hopeful, turned head-nod-inducing lyricist, he is what many hip-hop fans have been thirsting for.
Raised by his single mother in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee he was exposed to a wide variety of music as a child. He freely admits to being influenced heavily by classic rock. “I just picked up a lot of classic-rock, melodic influence from my mom, music that she listened to, like 10,000 Maniacs, Led Zeppelin, REO Speedwagon and Yes,” he said. “She was actually dating a dude who was on tour with Aerosmith during the ‘Walk This Way’ tour who brought me back some of my Adidas T-shirts and [a tape of] ‘Paul Revere.’ Beastie Boys, that was my first taste of hip-hop.”
Alongside this classic rock, were the seminal southern hip-hop groups, UGK, Outkast, Skinny Pimp, and Three 6 Mafia. Blasting their 808 and hi-hat heavy tracks all over the gritty neighborhoods where Yelawolf was growing up, he could immediately identify with both cultures. “Where I’m from is like ‘Hustle & Flow’ versus ‘8 Mile.’ It’s that really grimy, box-Chevy, dope-boy, working-class music,” he says.
After moving to Berkley California to pursue a pro-skateboarding career, which failed after numerous injuries, he began to focus heavily on his music. Putting out a number of highly praised mixtapes, Ball of Flames: The Ballad of Slick Rick E. Bobby was the first to be released. The second mixtape Stereo an underground gem, with DJ Ideal was a hip-hop tribute to classic rock, and it received five cigars in Ozone magazine (the equivalent of Source‘s five mics), no small task for a half-white, half-Cherokee southern boy. His EP, Arena Rap, featured a full band, including a fiddle and banjo player. However at the beginning of the year he debuted “Trunk Muzik“, which completely blew the haters away.
“Trunk Muzik” featured artists like Bun B, Juelz Santana, and Raekwon. This sh*t bangs…hard. You probably actually heard him before and didn’t even know it. He did the ridiculously catchy hook on Juelz Santana’s “Mixing Up The Medicine.” He also did the hook on Slim Thug’s “I Run.” Basically he has been grinding incredibly hard to get his name out there. And as it usually does, hard work paid off. After doing 9 shows at this years SXSW, he met with Interscope records, and inked a deal.
He is simply one of the hardest working guys out there right now. He is working with everybody from Eminem to Raekwon to Bizarre. The later of whom just dropped an album today with a Yelawolf feature entitled “Down This Road.(download here)” I completely expect his major label debut, which has no release date as of yet, to be amazing, and possibly a hip-hop classic. If you love hip-hop, and are a little scared of what the future of this culture is looking like, look to Yelawolf to give you hope. For now though, definitely check our video interview with him, check out his amazing video “Pop The Trunk” and download his mixtape “Trunk Muzik.” And show some love for real hip-hop muzik.