Yelawolf gets Assessed [Interview]
Vancouver, BC – Yelawolf makes no secret of his shadowy past and traumatic childhood – it shows up everywhere from his lyrics to his branding to inherently in his very demeanor. We decided to dig a little deeper and let HipHopCanada’s Western editor and aspiring therapist Amalia Judith connect the dots between that past, his growth, and how it’s affected his music – and his love life – today.
“[Growing up] I guess there were parties. And we fought a lot so I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
What we found is that for a guy who seems so open, he’s awfully difficult to read. He may let loose on stage but behind the scenes he’s stone-faced and likes to stay in control of the conversation. Yelawolf doesn’t interact with a lot of warmth; he reveals just enough to answer the question, and does it with few emotive indicators. He won’t get within a close physical proximity, either – trust me, we tried to get closer. We can’t help but wonder about all this – there may be some sensory processing issues, as indicated by a need for lots of space and the fact that he’s highly distractable. In our interview environment it’s apparent that the sound of the footsteps upstairs are very distracting for him, he’s “bothered/distracted by background environmental sounds” as the sensory dysfunction check-list puts it, and has “difficulty filtering out other sounds while trying to pay attention to one person talking”
On-stage is another story, and his wild antics are highly typical of a person with sensory integration issues as he “seeks out jumping, bumping, and crashing activities”. Of course these are all generalizations and educated guesses, and the real element of Yelawolf’s pychological profile that is made apparent is his ability to take his frustrations, his distractedness, his childhood experience – positive and negative – and focus these emotions into the creative outlet of music. He’s aware of the effect that his environment has had on him, and addresses these things to a mass audience by being blatantly honest about what the “Slumerican” side of things is really like. Multi-layered, multi-talented and possibly sitting on some attachment issues, we have Yelawolf.
HipHopCanada: I just wanna start off by doing a check-in to find out how your day has been today?
Yelawolf: We did a show in Rochester yesterday, seems like yesterday. Opened up for Snoop in Rochester, NY. I’ve been moving for hours and I’ve been up for like 16 hours. Just been moving around. Been stuck in the border for a long time to get here. I’ve been interrogated so my day has been…
HipHopCanada: So I guess you’re not really feeling the further interrogations from me at this point.
Yelawolf: No I don’t like being interrogated but I don’t mind questions haha.
HipHopCanada: I wanna talk a little bit about your moods and kind of what drives you. Do you ever find you’re easily distracted by things around you and have trouble concentrating and staying on track?
Yelawolf: That’s pretty normal, I think, for me. It’s kind of like in my genes to wonder and I’m always been that way. At school just thinking, if that what you mean. Distracted by long thoughts. Yeah.
HipHopCanada: What are the things you find most distracting, other than your thoughts? What are the concrete things that may keep you off track?
Yelawolf: I mean people, like just random strangers and comments and the floor above my head. Just shit that goes on around me kinda like gets to me everyday.
HipHopCanada: Okay so sensory issues are something that maybe distracts you.
HipHopCanada: You just put out Heart of Dixie and you’ve got Trunk MuziK Returns coming out. How do you find ways to focus on those things, and can you tell me a little bit about those projects as well?
Yelawolf: It’s pretty spontaneous on most projects. Like most of my work has come pretty fast, trying to like, make time to slow it down. Like in 2013 there’s Heart of Dixie coming ahead. When I got hurt, it cut into my recording time and I had time set aside to record my next project and then I got hurt and I had to make up shows. So I had to come back out and make up the shows. It just kind of got all jumbled up so I felt like I just wanted to get something out creatively; really I just wanted to write and the opportunity came up to do something with M16 and DJ Frank White and I called it the Heart of Dixie cause we are all from Alabama and I recorded that on the back of my bus while I was on tour. And just dropped that just to burn up the net and just to put something out for people cause I thought it was time to put something out. My next project is coming up, taking more time to focus. Just taking my time period. Trunk Muzik Returns I brought WillPower out to Los Angeles and we’ve been working on Trunk Muzic the way that we started from the beginning because I felt like it was important to get back to that. It’s been something that I really felt was lost in a way because of distractions from people, business. Dumb shit that I should really never let distract me, I let distract me in a creative way. So, I’m kinda getting back to just the basics of it all. Just getting back to just taking my time and paying more attention to the detail of records so I got Trunk Muzik Returns coming out and Psycho White which is an EP me and Travis Barker did. And that project’s like a collective group of records that we recorded over the past couple of years. Every time that we had time to record we would just do a song and we had songs that we didn’t know what to do with. He gave me a signature line though, with Stars & Straps called Country Fresh and with that we decided to drop the EP.
HipHopCanada: How do you keep these things all going at the same time?
Yelawolf: It’s just a lot going on man, it’s really tough to focus on it all at one time but that’s kind of my own fault. I spread myself thin a lot of times so the goal is to kinda just get all the things that I built up to finish done so that I can focus on one thing which will be my album that is coming out in 2013. Finishing the tour, releasing these projects, and just taking a breath and going back to making the album.
HipHopCanada: Kinda sounds like there are a lot of pressure on you at certain points and music is a bit of a release for that pressure. Were you brought up with music? How did your parents deal with the pressures they were under ?
Yelawolf: It was always around music. My uncle was in a band, he was in a band called “ The New South” early on. My mom was just surrounded by music because of her relationships. She’s a music fan but she kept her boyfriends to be in the business. Roadies, or stage managers so I was in that world, always surrounded by music. Being in studios, in tour buses, on stages. So I was kinda just in that world. As far as like how they used to vent frustration, I guess there were parties. And we fought a lot so I guess it’s kind of apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
HipHopCanada: Do you find that now your adult life and things you’ve experienced as a child are coming back full circle?
Yelawolf: Yeah, it did. I just found a different way of expressing it instead of taking it out on drug abuse, just like, just a complete rebelliousness – I’ve kind of focused it and made art with it and so that’s been my outlet, it is my outlet.
HipHopCanada: You mentioned that your mother was always associated with people in the music industry. What kind of woman do you find yourself attracted to?
Yelawolf: Fefe Dobson, that’s pretty much it seriously.
HipHopCanada: Well what about her attracts you?
Yelawolf: Well I mean, I think that a lot of that is obviously personal between her and I but I’m very like basic though – interest, personality, drive, ambition. I think when two people find a common ground and they love each other there’s always some kind of common thread that connects them…childhood experiences yenno what I’m saying. Situations, good and bad.
HipHopCanada: I want to talk about the term Slumerican because it seems that in a lot of your music and in your branding you’re kind of taking symbols and flipping them over. You’re taking things that maybe would have had a negative connotation and you own that and you’re spinning it around to give it a different kind of connotation. What are the issues in kind of core slum America that you see as being important and how do you feel that you portrayed those issues to the world?
Yelawolf: Well, Slumerican was a just a really ill play on words when I first put the words together just in writing and instead of putting it in rhymes I made it a tattoo that I put in the back of my legs and after I got the tattoo I was in Georgia. I got the tattoo in Alabama at Old School Ink and I went to Georgia and I was showing WillPower the tattoo and we wrote a record about it like on the spot. Then out of that record it became an idea and then it became kind of like definitive of you know what it is I guess that I represent, just the less celebrated side of American culture but at the same time the needed part of it. The hardworking people who make mistakes -sinners, criminals – not bad people in general but just people who have kind of suffered through the problem side of it and then persevered.
HipHopCanada: Are those people who then would respond most strongly to that or do you find a different kind of people responding to that?
Yelawolf: I think that some people definitely respond to it personally and connect to it personally and others live through it like just vicariously the lyrics and just enjoying the idea of it. Either way it’s there for just like transportation of thought and idea or skateboarding or photography or riding, whatever it is you do that kinda celebrates that darker bottom side of our society. And Slumerican, that’s the brand, that’s the family, the crew and obviously famous names Stars & Straps and Slumerican kinda joined forced in a away you know and it’s nothing new under the sun, I just, it’s my take on it yunno?
HipHopCanada: My last question is, you’ve been to Canada several times now, do you notice any cultural differences between the America you know and the Canada that you’ve experienced?
Yelawolf: I don’t think that I’ve had a fair chance to really enjoy Canada the way that obviously the people who live here do. I come up here, everytime I come up here, I’m here for work, I of course go to the border and I’ve had problems. I had one in particular issue ten years ago that has haunted me cause it’s on my record and I didn’t understand the severity of it till I came here to try to work or just to be here. I’m just trying to get that cleared up so that I can come here really in peace. I’m only here to just work and just to hang out.. I’m not here to cause problems or none of that shit. I’m just here to work but I haven’t really had a chance to really just hang out other than you know come up here with Fefe and kickin it with her, that’s random few and far between. So the difference I see culturally is just definitely more open up here as far as y’alls freedom. Healthcare one major thing that is really ultimately the biggest difference and we obviously got more criminal gun issues, guns period in America. So, not to say that it doesn’t go down up here I know that it does and even recently I’ve heard about tragic, tragic situations that’s happened up here but America is just, there’s really more people, more people more problems, more issues you know what I’m saying but uhh it’s beautiful, especially Vancouver you know. Looking out at the landscape, I was looking out at the mountains today out of our hotel like wishing that we could just kinda go see that instead of just the streets you know just to see what’s up there.
Interview conducted by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada
Photos courtesy of Self Hired Productions for HipHopCanada