Yelawolf Warehouse Live February 16, 2012
My ears salute the kid who told Yelawolf he wasn't hip-hop. Must have been a high-school bully, one of those corny jocks with well defined biceps.
We'll call him D'Angelo. D'Angelo probably teased Yelawolf, smacked him around in the bathroom, lol'd when he saw the skinny white kid trying to bust rhymes.
Now Yelawolf spends a good chunk of his career proving all the D'Angelo's wrong. He twists words with the best of 'em and performs before sold-out crowds. Oh, and he's backed by one of the greatest hip-hoppers ever -- Eminem.
"I come back to Texas reppin' Shady Records," he bragged Thursday night, hooded up like Eminem in 8 Mile. "Make some noise for my boy Eminem." You could hear all his mental parts jingling with glee.
Yelawolf is hip-hop. A generously tattooed, mullet-rocking, octane-tongued emcee with a punk attitude. Mosh pits erupt when "Trunk Muzik" comes on. A group of 15-20 kids slamdance round and round and round, moshing everything in the way. On stage, Yela does the stiffest robot I've ever witnessed. Girls squeal.
There's a Texas-sized boulder on his shoulder; you can see this when he performs "I Wish." The mixtape version featured Wu-Tang Clansman Raekwon the Chef. What's more hip-hop than Wu-Tang?
"I wish a muthafucka would tell me that I ain't hip-hop. Bitch, you ain't hip-hop," Yela yells, pulling back his hoodie and whipping his mullet around with gusto. It's the equivalent of -- if you can visualize this for just a second -- Lil Wayne whipping dreads at a country crowd while yelling, "Bitch, you ain't country."
Yela can rap his ass off, too. He uses pauses to great effect. He can slow it down, speed it up. And like his boss, he can speed-rap an entire track without running out of breath. He can rap any combination of words and make it sound dumb fresh.
And did you know that hip-hop's recreational drug of choice, marijuana, grows in Yelawolf's backyard? "It's illegal in Alabama, but my mama still grows it. Shout-out to mama." The show coincided with Mama Wolf's birthday, so Yela led the crowd in a "Happy Birthday" chant.
Mama would be proud to know that her boy is also a student of his craft. Midway into the show, he further asserted his hip-hopness by giving the young crowd a musical tour of his influences. Johnny Cash. OutKast. Eazy-E. Eminem. "The OG white boys," the Beastie Boys.
Yela rhymed along, word for word. He also paid dues to his Southern heritage, bringing out Trae tha Truth and Bun B.
He shines brightest when the rhymes pay homage to his Southern roots. His most compelling songs are the ones that paint portraits of the pill-popping trailer parks in Alabama.
And at Warehouse Live, he favored those superior Trunk Muzik mixtape jams over his so-so Shady debut, Radioactive.
His essence is his greatest asset. Watching Yelawolf live for an hour was like hitching a ride to dirt roads in a '64 Chevy wearing rolled-up cargo pants. There's a particular authenticity to his style.
As he succinctly puts it, "this ain't a figment of my imagination, buddy, this is where I live: 'Bama."
After about 60 minutes of trunk music, Yelawolf sent us home with the Kid Rock-aided country-rap anthem, "Let's Roll."
The show was hip-hop enough to sate even the staunchest purist; Yelawolf did everything except spin on his head. Egg in your face, D'Angelo.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Go get me Yelawolf, I want to eat him."
The Crowd: Young enough to remember Bubba Sparxxx.
Random Notebook Dump: Parking Lot Sighting: A girl splayed across the hood of an SUV calling out, "Mike! Mike!!" for like five minutes. Mike is either a really awesome guy or a certified bag of douche.
"Daddy's Lambo" "Trunk Muzik" "In This Club" "BET Cypher Freestyle" "You Ain't No DJ" "Hard White (Up in the Club)" "I Wish" "Pop the Trunk" "Marijuana" "Love is Not Enough" "Good to Go" (with Bun B) "Let's Roll"