We caught up with Alabama rapper Yelawolf before his ‘Slumerican’ tour hit Empire Control Room last night for a brief chat about his breakthrough South By Southwest experience in 2010, his new album and what it means to be ‘Slumerican.’
Austin360: The first time I saw you was at a day party during SXSW 2010. It was at this rooftop club and you were jumping on tables and walls. I remember watching you and thinking ‘This dude is about to blow up.’
Yelawolf: I definitely put a stamp down for myself at Southby. Especially at that point with “Trunk Music” just circulating. My mixtape “Trunk Music” and “Pop the Trunk” was out. I really came to Southby that year in a very competitive mind state. I mean, I’m always competitive with other artists but I came in 2010 to prove a point to other rappers and other performers, to take the show that I had been doing in Atlanta and locally in the South and bring it out here where there was a lot of other artists, a lot of other labels and a lot of other crews. (To show) this is how we do it. It’s just that gutter dive bar show mentality.
I used to play at this place called Lenny’s in Atlanta, Georgia and we wore that place out. We probably performed there every other week. We were just a local group and we promoted our own shows and we brought our own crew. It got to the point where we had a couple kids, just clowning, but (they) would wear helmets to the shows. It was just really, really rowdy. It was a lot of fun. But there was not always a lot of people. So it was like training for me. My manager still, to this day, if we’re about to do a show and it’s kind of suspect, he’ll be like, “Let’s do Lenny’s man, just remember Lenny’s.” And I do. I always come back to that and just remember coming from that empty room, maybe 15-20 people but us just tearing it up as a crew and having fun.
(2010) was definitely a turning point. After SXSW we had a deal with Interscope that Friday, I think.
What does ‘Slumerican’ mean?
Slumerican is just a tag that I threw on a culture that’s been here forever. Slumerican is the kid who listens to Hank Williams and A$ap, Metallica and NWA. The unassuming fan. The people from the tattoo shops with the Dixie flags that are playing Outkast. It’s that dichotomy, that irony of America, the underbelly. (more in the video above)
The fan has made a big turning point in the last five to ten years. Hip hop music in general is becoming more what you make of it. “Til It’s Gone” is a good example of like the cultural representation of what I make of hip-hop. In 2010 I was wearing Jordans, now I’m wearing cowboy boots. My style is ever evolving and growing up but still maintaining the integrity of hip-hop and rock ‘n’ roll and country. That’s what Slumerican is to me, being able to jump on my Harley and ride with my boys just like my dad does and still, at the same time, be able to go to a Three 6 Mafia show.
“Til I’m Gone” has a really stripped down sound. Is that a new direction for you?
The song just kind of happened. It’s not like an attempted direction. It’s kind of a blend of all the styles I’ve played with throughout the years. I’ve done some really country influenced records and I’ve done some really stripped down raw hip hop records. I’ve done a lot of heavily rock ‘n’ roll influenced records so “Til It’s Gone” is just like a stripped down version of all of that. Like a blend really. A simple version of it. It’s just a swampy sounding jam.
When is the new album “Love Story” coming out?
Love Story will be out next year but we’re being careful, I guess, about how we’re releasing this album. We have like five singles we’re gonna be releasing with five videos. (We’re holding) until that last single release then the album will drop. I haven’t honestly been paying attention to that side of (things). It doesn’t concern me because I’m more focused on the next record, the next video, tour, tour, tour, tour, tour.