RI Exclusive: Yelawolf Interview with RAP IRELAND

With tattoos crawling up from beneath his shirt, almost grasping at his jawline, Yelawolf, with his foot long mullet, looks more Rock N Roll than Travis Barker and Kurt Cobain combined. Throw in an upbringing in the deep, dark woods of Gadsden, Alabama, and you have perhaps the most unlikely candidate to be opening the show for Wiz Khalifa in Dublin. But make no mistake. Shady Record’s latest signing is one of the most promising rappers to emerge into the mainstream in recent years. Fresh off the infamous Shady 2.0 BET cypher, and on the cusp of his debut studio album Radioactive about to drop, Yelawolf took the time to sit down with Rap Ireland‘s Kev Storrs to discuss the road that has taken him to this point.

Words: Kev Storrs   Photos: Ciaran Mc Grath

Subscribe to Rap Ireland: 


Kev Storrs: Welcome to Dublin… First time?

Yelawolf: Yes sir, nice to be here.

Kev Storrs: We’re sitting down backstage at the Wiz Khalifa concert.. How did you end up on the tour?

Yelawolf: Well I’m just on this leg of the tour. It came about I guess through my booking people, The Agency Group. It was a nice fit. They had seen me open for Raekwon before.

Kev Storrs: You got booed off at that show right?

Yelawolf: Haha damn. Yeah I got booed. I came out with like a banjo player and fiddle player, white boy with a mullet, and messed up my words, said like “This my first time in Alabama”, and I was in New York. So they were booing, they got on me, but by the end they were with me. It’s happened at a couple of Wiz shows too, but you know, things have changed a bit now.

Kev Storrs: That’s got to hurt..

Yelawolf: It’s hard being a white rapper sometimes! When that happens you just need to battle through.

Kev Storrs: So are you a big Wu-Tang fan? Were they an influence growing up?

Yelawolf: Oh yeah, I mean that’s a given. Growing up there was a period when it was just Wu Tang. All we listened to was like, Wu-Tang, Cypress Hill, Souls of Mischief and Outkast. They were a really huge influence on my music.

Kev Storrs: You grew up in Alabama, not exactly a breeding ground for Hip-Hop. Was it difficult to be accepted as a rapper down there?

Yelawolf: Well I was born in Alabama and Alabama would be my home, but to be honest I spent so much time in Nashville, Tennessee and Atlanta that I was really exposed to the culture there and picked up a lot. I mean, we never saw ourselves as those on the outside looking in would have. But we never got any problems from people elsewhere. Just the locals, and fuck them.

Kev Storrs: I doubt it was easy trying to make it as a rapper there…

Yelawolf: Yeah, there’s no real outlet for making Hip-Hop in Alabama. You need to travel to get heard. You really need to be working though. You need to be going at it every day and getting yourself seen, getting yourself out there on the road, doing shows, making music. It’s all about being on your grind.

Kev Storrs: You didn’t just appear out of nowhere… You’ve been putting out mixtapes since ’05… How has that grind affected your approach to music now?

Yelawolf: Well it’s different. You know, when you’re on your own you need to have that hunger, and it’s that hunger and passion that will keep beating on the door until you knock it down. Right now I have the feeling like.. you know when you finally get the job you want and you sit behind the desk and you just sigh, and it’s like, now I can do what I want to do.

Kev Storrs: Do you still hustle as hard?

Yelawolf: Well as I said, it’s different. My thing has always been the music and bringing it to the table musically. So now I have got the right people around me and they can handle the business end. They have their skills and they know what they’re doing. They have the connections. But in saying that, I’ve learned a whole lot about the business side, just from being there, listening in on conversations and seeing how that whole thing works. I guess what I bring is the creative side.

Kev Storrs: Like putting Gangsta Boo and Eminem together on a track?

Yelawolf: Exactly! It’s like, who does that? It’s really so bizarre, like a once in a lifetime thing that just had to happen. I think it’s that approach to music that sets me apart from others.

Kev Storrs: Has the work rate changed?

Yelawolf: A lot of people say when they “make it” that things get busier, but to be honest, I was grinding just as hard before, maybe harder. I mean, I was playing at South x South West a few years back and I did 14 shows in 3 days. That shit was hard. I was hungry, and as I said you need that hunger to kick down the door. So now it’s the same; only difference is more people at the shows, more people buying music, more people watching videos. It’s the same grind just on a bigger level.

Kev Storrs: It must be a bit surreal now touring Europe, playing the likes of Dublin to sold out crowds..

Yelawolf: Well yeah, but I’m only supporting Wiz. This is Wiz tour. He sold out these concerts not me. So I have to keep myself grounded. All those people out there tonight, I know they’re not here to see me. They’re not here to see Yelawolf. They came to see Wiz so I need to always keep that in mind. Like in Paris we played to 7,000 people sold out. But again, that’s Wiz crowd. When I’m selling these shows out myself, then maybe I can take some credit.

Kev Storrs: We’ve had people all week asking about your stage time… I’m sure at least some people are here to see you!

Yelawolf: Oh yeah, most definitely. Everywhere I’ve played there has been a core group who have come to see me play. Like sure, I’ve helped sell tickets, I’m sure I boosted them a bit, but I’m grounded enough to understand that for now I’m just the support act. I have to go out there and show these people what I can do. Like you said, this is a huge opportunity. And while there is that core that is here to see me, there’s so many people out there who don’t know, who I need to show who Yelawolf is and what I do.

Kev Storrs: We’ve had a few people ask us why you were not supporting the Game tour instead. What was it like to work with The Game?

Yelawolf: That was a really quick thing, it came out of the blue. Really it all came from my man Jim Jonsin. He’s really been looking out for me. Like whenever I’m in a town where he’s at he’s always like come through, let’s work. So he set that up.

Kev Storrs: Of all these big names you have worked with, who was the big one, the one you grew up listening to, the one when you said to yourself “This is a moment, now I’ve made it”?

Yelawolf: Marshall (Eminem). It has to be Marshall man. For me that’s still just like wow, that’s as big as it gets.

Kev Storrs: How did that come about?

Yelawolf: I guess when I got signed to Interscope that was like one of the first things I wanted to do. I was like if I can just get in front of Eminem I’d love just to meet him. So my CD ended up on Paul Rosenburg’s desk and he liked it. At the same time Jim Jonsin played the Pop the Trunk video for Eminem down in Miami and at that point they called me in for a meeting. So they flew me out to Detroit. I thought it was just going to be a quick meet and greet to say whatsup, but turned out to be more, the beginning of a deal. He knew my music, he knew what I was trying to do, and that was big for me. My team didn’t tell me about the deal until it was done. I still don’t really believe it. But one thing I’ll say is, I never settled, I never went for just any deal, and it’s got me to where I am today.

© Rap Ireland 2011

We would like to thank Yelawolf for taking time to speak with Rap Ireland. We would also like to extend our thanks to Roisin Moloney of Universal Music and photographer Ciaran McGrath.


Comments are closed.