With the announcement at the beginning of June that he is to embark upon the ‘Trunk Muzik 3‘ tour in support of releasing the third instalment in one of my personal all time favourite set of hip-hop mixtapes, I take a few (okay, maybe a lot of) moments to dedicate and reflect upon the affinity I feel towards Yelawolf & the ‘Trunk Muzik‘ takes, delving into some of the finer moments produced by the unique Alabama artist, aswell as weighing up some of the instances and characteristics that have unfortunately hindered Yela’s career.

March 2018 marked five years since the release of Yelawolf’s second ‘Trunk Muzik‘ themed mixtape – aptly titled ‘Trunk Muzik Returns‘. The first ‘Trunk Muzik‘ mixtape that dates back to January 2010, but for me really November 2010 is when the magic garnered my attention – due to Yelawolf signing to Interscope Records and providing affable resources to extract greater results – such as impressive guest features and production personnel – the tape was re released as ‘Trunk Muzik 0-60‘ and when I stumbled upon the tape, through ominous and compelling lead single ‘Pop The Trunk‘, I was blown away.

I have extremely fond and vivid memories of riding with Yela, as ‘Trunk Muzik 0-60‘ was so often my soundtrack for work travel, it was a project I’d NEVER skip a song on and really feel every track maximised it’s individual potential and all built together to form a formidable entity – the sort of project you ride through the highs – feeling like something monumental was coming and nothing could you stop you as the abrasive ‘Get The Fuck Up!‘ rattles along incessantly or the and lows – being full of sympathetic emotion for Yela as he laid out the pain of a soured previous relationship ultimately because his ‘Love Is Not Enough‘ – with and fully commit to, while loving every second.

Box Chevy‘ light glistening echoed synth tones that dangle atop a surging bassline accompanied by a blitzing hi-hat dominant drum beat loop with the distinctive Southern twang of Yela’s  accent coming off so captivatingly as he and Rittz exchange witty quick fire verses in a manner of friendly competition; each verse leading off so swiftly from the last. Spawning many a humorous line like “Peanut butter seats, have seat girl my peanut butter needs jelly“.

Trunk Muzik Returns‘, surfacing three years later in 2013 re-stoked the fire so well it was a gleaming beacon of insistence that would burn the most flame retardant material you could find without even trying to. The magic of mixtape opener ‘Firestarter‘ had the perfect mix of candidness with bravado, a beat to make the trunk bump with swell and cooling backing vocals, tempo switches of both the instrumentation and verbal delivery; the track effectively takes you from a granny-paced first gear up through the motions without missing anything, and right back down to a kind of safe static stop at the climax.

Rhyme Room II‘ is one of my all-time favourite Yelawolf cuts. From the dreamy effervescent synth through the rattling light-drum-laden beat as the track goes on to Raekwon’s vintage, illuminating introductory verse, Killer Mike’s killing of the mic leading up to an extremely candid Yela offering that jumps various paces with that infectious cadence of perseverance; this track hits me EVERY time.

You do not fuck with ‘Catfish Billy‘ – looming, foreboding production drags along as the Ghetto Cowboy calmly embraces his darker alter-ego, painting the way for an charged up, animated Yela to emit haunting anger-ridden screams that make up a hook in many ways on level-footing with Cancer Bats style vocal aggression, before coming in with a signature spitfire runaway train verse. Somewhere in the midst of this ridiculous delivery, you realise you are in the predicament of being firmly in the palm of Yelawolf’s hand and his unabating lyrical scope.

Comparing the latest (or any) white rappers that surface following the global dominance and microphone prominence of Eminem, to Slim Shady is pretty much a constant fixture that a lot of white hip-hoppers have been overlooked because of – people try to hold them up to the incredibly high standards set by Em; which is unfair for obvious reasons but also a vast majority of said pigmented rappers have massively different styles and some don’t even like Eminem’s music – The late and great Mac Miller for example, is a rapper I loved and is a very different artist than Em, from the aesthetic he presented, the vastly contrasting background and upbringing, his route into the rap scene, the sound of his beats and self-production, the laid back slower tempo rap delivery, his appearance, etc. yet the Eminem comparisons are still blindly pasted on him – “See, I left and they call me shady 
I’m a white rapper, they always call me shady

Yelawolf is however a rapper who shares a lot of similarities and has been regarded as a potential protegee to Marshall Mathers, for some certifiable and undeniable factors. To start with, Yela’s trademark rapid fire delivery is far more alike specifically to the more technical and intricate ‘older’ Eminem who can spit at a pace to makes Usain Bolt quake. Then there’s the fact they both have (and are proud of – Yelawolf extremely so, to the point of being subject to a lot of public dismay) the ‘white trash’ background and questionable upbringings that has shaped their artistry and is a driving factor for the fact they even pursued music. Yelawolf is more country and redneck than Em, but this is perceived as an extension of a lot of the pictures Em painted in works of attempting to make the public at least understand ‘his type’ of folks, if you will.

The protegee suggestions were most solidly bolstered by the fact Eminem signed Yelawolf to his label, Shady Records.

However, this has unfortunately and somewhat strangely proven to be a cursed blessing – the major-label debut project ‘Radioactive‘ was full of a lack of what made ‘Trunk Muzik 0-60‘ so appealing, refreshing and listenable and large chunks of this blame have been lamented at Shady who handled the majority of the ‘Radioactive‘ production – to the extent of Yela addressing this on superb ‘Trunk Muzik Returns‘ track ‘Rhyme Room II‘:

So, Radioactive had a couple of radio-attempts
But, I don’t wanna be radio-active anymore now
Than I wanna jump off a cliff
This I promise
Catfish Billy, you can put Trunk Muzik in a picture frame!

I would never diminish Yela to being branded a ‘mixtape rapper’, but personally there is no doubt his mixtapes have been leaps and bounds ahead of his albums; not that his albums have been terrible – Radioactive aside, Love Story was a solid effort littered with a couple of timeless gems (namely ‘Till It’s Gone‘ and the chilling ‘Best Friend‘ that draws out a five star Eminem verse – this begged the question for me of why they don’t coerce musically more often – the answer lies in the following paragraphs) and most recently ‘Trial By Fire‘ is a commendable project however, was overshadowed by Kid Rock’s controversial confederate flag press bonanza – simply poor timing is the biggest fault here – and the hit Yelawolf‘s public image took with being admitted to a psych ward towards the end of 2016 (after a string of erratic and unstable incidents onstage that brought shows to an early end) where he announced changing his artist moniker to MWA (birth name initials and slight alteration of classic rap group NWA) which didn’t stick long, as by the release of ‘Trial By Fire‘ in October 2017 he was again going by Yelawolf.

Yelawolf is in some eyes a remainder of a dying breed, an old school rockstar – if his career had taken place for the most part before the mass integration of social media, he’d probably even be heralded as a musical idol. Instead we know all too well he has his fair share of demons. Self-admitted throughout his career via lyrics; songs such as ‘Whiskey in a Bottle‘ & ‘Empty Bottles‘ illustrate this well, social media and interviews, his demons primarily go by the name of Jack and Daniels. Yela has admitted his alcoholism, responding as such when an interviewer posed the question of how Eminem wanted Yela to steady his drinking habits:

“No one controls my drinking, but me. I’m the only person that can control that. God himself could not control my drinking. I’m admittedly an alcoholic and it’s a problem. I wrote a song about it called “Empty Bottles” on Love Story. You know, I’m not proud of it but it’s in my genes. I do take breaks. I was sober for five months. That was my last sober streak. I’m back drinking again. It is what it is.

“I can’t deal with sober. It just sucks. I’m not a role model. I’m just doing me, and if I wanna drink I’m gonna drink. If I wanna party, I’m gonna party. That’s it. Drinking is my vice. When I’m done working, I’m gonna have a drink, that’s what I’m gonna do.”

These days, whether still drinking or doing slightly better at combating his demons, Yela seems like he’s doing much better – getting active musically again – his features on The Fever333‘s 2017 debut ‘Made An America‘ track ‘(The First Stone) Changes‘ and on ‘PRhyme‘ number ‘W.O.W (Without Warning)‘ from ther 2018 sophomore ‘PRhyme 2‘  were classic Yela, both stellar contributions and is reassuring him to be working again with much revered and (in typical Yelawolf fashion) diverse artists such as Royce Da 5’9 & DJ Premier, Jason Aalon Butler and his Fever333 gang – plus the announcement of the ‘Trunk Muzik 3‘ tour more than certifies that from my viewpoint. Given the phenomenal quality of both previous ‘Trunk Muzik‘ projects (as already mentioned) you should not be surprised to read me state how damn excited I am to hear what he has in store for us – especially considering his self-excitedly teasing of having a very special guest on the tape. Given the quality plethora of artists Yela has worked with down the line, this is quite the endorsement from Catfish Billy!

The release date for ‘Trunk Muzik 3‘ is yet to be announced (‘Catfish Billy‘ pt.2 has been confirmed as the first offering though!), which accurately translates to me having post notifications for all his socials turned on, and am completely unashamed of this. TM3 is huge news in my eyes – you best believe we will be all over that project when it does surface. In the meantime, we suggest you listen to our ‘All Killer, No Filler’ Yelawolf playlist – note ‘Trunk Muzik Returns‘ isn’t on Spotify so I couldn’t include a number of great cuts but alas you can find ’em all on YouTube!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.