Yelawolf talks "Trunk Muzik: 0-60", Rob Zombie and more
Mon, 11 Oct 2010 11:08:15
"I'm rolling down the road Willie Nelson-style," exclaims Yelawolf.
The Alabama MC is cruising across the country right now on tour with Whiz Khalifa, prepping the world for the release of his Interscope Records debut, Trunk Muzik: 0-60. The album is set to hit shelves on November 23, 2010, and it will formally bring everyone into Yelawolf's world.
It's as raw as modern hip hop gets, but Yelawolf infuses a sensibility that's decidedly country and extremely unique. His debut single, "Pop the Trunk," paints a vivid and violent picture of Southern discomfort, built on an infectiously invasive hook and eerie beats. Trunk Muzik: 0-60 is the rap equivalent of Deliverance, and it's bound to be a modern classic because Yelawolf isn't afraid to be real.
Yelawolf sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about his forthcoming album, Trunk Muzik: 0-60, how walking around his neighborhood influenced "Pop the Trunk," The Devil's Rejects and so much more.
You utilize so many different instruments and beats. Do songs usually begin with a thematic idea or does it begin with the music?
We never approach a record the same way—ever. The only time that records are done the same is if someone emails me a beat. Even then, it's usually broken down and re-produced. For example, Will Power [Producer] and I went into the studio the other day, and I started beatboxing in the booth. We looped that, and Will started playing grand piano over the top of that. That's where it stopped. We didn't do anything else, and it became a full song. It can start with an 808 or an acoustic guitar. There's no method; we just go in and make it happen. We try to keep challenging ourselves.
What's the story behind "Pop the Trunk"?
I've known Will for about nine years now. We have this chemistry when we make music because we both come from the same place. I talked him into coming to my crib in Alabama and setting up a studio in the back room so we could soak up the vibe of the neighborhood I was living in, Walnut Park. There's so much information back there in that town. There was this meth lab that blew up behind my house recently, and it had melted this chick's face off. Some chemicals had blown up right in her face. There was still police caution tape wrapped around the property where the house had burned down. "Pop the Trunk" started with the keys, and that just drove me to start writing. I was sketching that first verse as I was walking around the neighborhood with my pad, writing shit I was looking at. When it got around to the hook, it unwrapped itself. Music has a tendency to do that to a writer. Melody will take you crazy places, man. It was Will's keys. There was this eerie and dark Rob Zombie-feeling. I wanted to capture that emotion.
Your songs have a heavy metal connection to darkness.
I'm just raw and human. I have a very dark side, and I've got a very sensitive side. I'll play Three 6 Mafia. I'll play Black Sabbath. I'll play Marilyn Manson. Then I'll flip over and play James Taylor and Steely Dan. I've got many sides. Music pulls that out of me. There are parts of my life that are dark, scary and hard so why not talk about them? That's not to say that I don't have parts of my life that are joyful and happy because I do. I just let the music tell it though.
How important is the vocal delivery itself?
I just picked up delivery through country music and classic rock obviously as well as great hip hop artists before me. I'm really cadence-driven. I'm all about how the syllables wrap around rhythms because I think, more than anything, you're attracted to a person's cadence and melodies. Before you even have a chance to listen to what they're saying, you have to be attracted to the melody and the cadence of the words. Then, it comes around to comprehending and listening to what they're saying. It starts with the melody and the music. Once you figure out your cadence and how to approach a record, the story unfolds. Cadence is the most important thing for a writer.
Is storytelling one of your main goals?
Even if it's a couple bars, I seem to always want to say something. Even if it might not be intentional, I'm sliding in some kind of story or message. "Good to Go" is a regular rap record that is made to just spit on. Hip hop has that freedom to say anything. You can do whatever you want on a record and not really have a point. Somehow, when I'm writing, I'm writing about that type of shit. For instance in "Good to Go," I slide metaphors in there.
Do you feel there's one thread running through Trunk Muzik: 0-60?
With 0-60, we wanted to maintain our sound and not alienate the fans we were getting and building off of Trunk Muzik. We wanted to keep it grimy and 808-driven. We were catching some music with Trunk Muzik. We wanted to take it to the next level musically though. For 0-60, we took five of the fan favorites and added about seven brand new records on there.
If 0-60 were a movie or a combination of movies what would it be?
It'd be The Devil's Rejects meets Hustle and Flow [Laughs]. Just thinking about the intro record and The Devil's Rejects—I love Rob Zombie's imagery. Anybody who can make daytime look scary has got a real talent. His movies are grimy and country-scary.
What records shaped you?
My first performance was "If Heaven Ain't a lot Like Dixie" with my uncle. I was like six-years-old. My uncle held me up on to the mic. He had this band called The New South; and he taught me that song. Even though I didn't know what I was saying at the time, it set that real hardcore southern raw country shit in me subconsciously. "Country Boy Can Survive" by Hank Williams is another one along with Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man." Then there's The Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere." There are so many! "Wild Horses" by The Rolling Stones comes to mind too. There's also Hieroglyphics' 93 til Infinity, Mobb Deep and UGK's "Pocket Full of Stones". I can remember times in my life when all of those records were being played.
Have you heard Yelawolf yet?