Yelawolf’s busted mullet, crusty grill, and random animal tats invoke trailer parks, meth labs, and the lyrics of “Sweet Home Alabama.” Dude looks like he got lost on his way to Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory, randomly happened upon hip-hop, and forgot his way home. Yeah, the lone wolf looks a bit out of place – but maybe we hip-hoppers are all a bit too quick to pin artists with stereotypes before checking their shit? With slick-witted, rapidly flipped spit, Yela sounds native as Tip over dark 808 rattlers and arena themed rockers alike. Trunk Muzik is only 12 tracks deep but it’s as solid lyrically as it is diverse sonically. Despite being 30, and making a second go at major label fame after being dropped from Columbia by Rick Rubin (oops), Michael Wayne Atha comes hard, ultimately sounding like one of the freshest emcees this side of Dixie.If you haven’t seen the video for “Pop The Trunk,” do so immediately. It’s one of the best rap vids in years and its gritty depiction of southern violence, as well as the mindset of the dark and marginalized, is exactly what infuses Yelawolf’s music with a crucial authenticity. Sure he’s been unofficially endorsed by Eminem (he often raps double time with the same ferocity as his Detroit brethren), and songs about slinging, like “Billy Crystal,” might even engender hasty Mickey Avalon comparisons, but Yela’s shit is different – it’s more Three 6 than Twista, and more redneck than Hollywood Boulevard.
Listeners may recognize Yelawolf as the guest vocalist from Big Boi’s “Ain’t No DJ.” After hanging tough with Sir Lucious, Yela enlists the help of some heavyweight vets for his major debut; Bun B rolls thru for “Good To Go,” Gucci Mane rides on “I Just Wanna Party,” and Raekwon gets his chef on with “I Wish.” All three tracks stand out on sheer dopeness, but impress more for Yela’s ability to hang with the big dogs, even inspiring them to elevate their game in some cases – see Gucci.
In the end, some might point to rah-rah jams like “Marijuana” and “Get The Fuck Up” as Kid Rock derivative major label trappings, but when Yela kills ‘em, especially on the later, it points more to his dexterity and ability to relate on different frequencies. The man says it best himself on “That’s What We On Now;” New shoes, thrifty, Bill Cosby sweater, drink it out the keg, no Greek frat letters, bumpin’ Skinny Pimp, Petty and Eddie Vedder, ain’t no Eddie Bauer, no scary cowards you better – check the Y-E-L-A-W-O-L-F, buddy I’m in your ashtray like a toe nail clip. The alchemy might sound toxic, but Trunk Muzik achieves rough and tumble intoxication by staying righteously true to its diverse southern roots. So git familiar, buddeh.