The last six months have seen writers rush to reify the cult of the new weird rapper, but few immured Yelawolf into that minimum security prison. Admittedly, Odd Future may have gotten the youth of America to tear down pictures of Polow Da Don’s dick on their walls and replace them with Grizzly Bear paraphernalia, while Wolf’s Stereo tackled more trad rock influences (Pink Floyd, The Doors, Led Zep). But I maintain that Michael Wayne Atha is as eccentric as them and the other famous Wayne, and he doesn’t even smoke anymore.
Momentarily forget the shotgun shack rap of Trunk Muzik. That’s one side of the Gadsden product –legitimate but intended to build mythology and aesthetic. There is the skateboarding Hiero head and the Alaska fisherman, the homeless rambler and the boom-bap devotee ,and the Three Six Mafia-memorizing kid who lived in Antioch for his formative years. There is also the abstract poetic tip of “Looking for Alien Love,” this website’s top song of 2010, a song with schemes and themes so hieroglyphic and ethereal that Wolf will probably next his first born son, Mulder.
In the interim, he’s signing guys named Ethereal, whose debut ▲ B S T R ▲ C T I C ▲ has a name like a witch house record, an album cover like it worships at the alter of Altered Zones, and a sound splitting the difference between spoken word, free jazz, broken beats, drum and bass, Odd Future at their wooziest, and Digable Planets-type boom-rap. Released last month, Ethereal’s Slumamerican debut is a wildly uneven 90 minute crawl that flashes enough innovation to justify his spot on the roster alongside Rittz, himself an unorthodox choice for Wolf’s first artist. After all, the rule of thumb is that white rappers rarely sign white rappers and if they do, they don’t sign white rappers flipping a similar style. But in the words of a Dr. Emmett Brown: where they’re going they don’t need roads. So it goes when you call yourself White Jesus.
The fear of Wolf signing to Shady Records was that he was going to be Skylar Grey’d into submission. Less spaceship more Daddy’s Lambo. But while the media has honed in on superficially flashier personalities, he’s been able to quietly drop YouTube hits. He’s still the one radio smash away from being a star, but without much attention, “I Just Wanna Party” will join “Pop the Trunk” at quintuple YouTube platinum. While “Daddy’s Lambo” has three mill. It’s not “Look at Me Now,” but he’s cultivated a substantial underground fan base that could propel him into the pop realm with the right song, a la his former tourmate Wiz Khadijah. He’s done so by balancing pop concessions with genuinely perverse video concepts and idiosyncratic song structure. He’s just good enough at rapping to make it not seem totally forced.
The latest leak, “Gangsta of Love” is purportedly the first single of this fall’s Radioactive. But Just Blaze claims it that “it’s a skeleton. NOOOwhere near finished. I’m bout to give the internet a fade.” While Yelawolf Twittered that he would risk the prospect of jail time to beat down whoever leaked the track. He also said it’s not his first single. But it’s out now and for an ostensibly bleached bone outline of a Yelawolf album track, it’s excellent. Between the purposely goofy titular Steve Miller reference, police wire intro, threats to “imitation white boys,” and Slim Shady shout outs, this appears intended to be his “My Name Is,” (shouting out Slim Shady is apparently the new shouting out Dr. Dre).
In typical atypical Catfish Billy fashion, he employs a Delta blues hook and an outro that balances out Blaze’s supernatural bounce. Lyrically, Wolf loses shoestring belts in the cracks on his couch, keeps his head in the sky, stays rock n roll, casts idle threats, rolls out in T-Top 2 seaters, waits at funerals walking with a rose like Wiz Khalifa. Or as he says in a seemingly throwaway line, there’s so many styles I can pick from…fuck that just give me kick drum. Sound advice if you can stay away from Alex Da Kid.
MP3: Yelawolf-“Gangsta of Love”