December 7, 2011

A few weeks ago, I spent 24 hours in Vegas with Yelawolf for a piece in the latest Rolling Stone (it’s not available online, so pick it up, pick it up). It’s a uniquely weird phenomena to shadow a rapper on the verge of dropping an album that you haven’t heard, but have insanely high hopes for. In the days leading up to an album release, every rapper and his camp have an air of triumphalism. This album will be a “game changer,” incite a “paradigm shift,” or maybe it’s just the perfunctory “classic.” You can’t call bullshit because you want to believe. It’s just the natural impulse.

With the benefit of hindsight and a few awkward listens, it’s clear Radioactive wasn’t what anyone wanted. Too many forced radio plays and bad hooks. Of course, it had it’s fair share of bangers and great rapping because it’s Yelawolf and that’s what he does. I didn’t review it here because of time constraints, but also because I didn’t see the point of lambasting a dude who I respect immensely. That’s what I hate about criticism, this obsessive compulsion to fault every artist for every bad decision. Maybe it’s necessary, but it’s also severe and short-sighted. Sure, I won’t buy Radioactive, but dude made some of my favorite songs of the last two years and continues to murder every verse that doesn’t feature fucking Fefe Dobson. Am I supposed to disown his music? Am I supposed to write another rant at Interscope? I could, but I’d rather save my energy and time for more productive means and memes.

Besides, the experience left me with a greater respect for Wolf. It was Halloween weekend in Sin City, but there were no crazy strip club nights or Jim Beam-fueled orgies.  Instead, I saw the most maniacally focused person I’ve ever met. He went straight from arrival to a radio show, to a photo shoot for Thrasher, then dinner at some absurdly swank steakhouse at the Palms where he was playing that night. During dinner, he spoke to no one and instead wrote a verse on his iPhone while picking at a Branzino sea bass.  With 90 minutes left before he had to be in the club for his performance, he opted to rush to a studio to record his verse on the “Hard White” remix.

The studio was a different story altogether. 10 miles out of a town and owned by a shadowy Egyptian dude named Jamal (Gamal?), who had 2Pac, Mac Dre, Biggie, and Scarface murals everywhere. Plus, two wild Timberwolves roaming the property. and a masturbating pet spider monkey in a diaper. There was also Wolf’s hook man Pooh Bear, who greets everyone by saying “Happy Birthday.” If you say it’s not your birthday, he will tell you that “every day is your birthday.” Somehow, amidst the confusion, Wolf manages to entirely re-write the verse he just typed at dinner, lay it down, and well, you can hear the “Hard White Remix.” It’s intricate and tangled and does not seem like it was banged out in an hour. And it’s pretty great.

From the studio, he headed straight to the club, rocked his show, got paid, kissed babies, and promptly disappeared. We did the interview at 3:30 a.m. inside a hotel suite so large it had a door bell.  He was drunk and shadowed by a dozen people, but remained lucid and totally honest. The second the interview was over, he was rushed to the airport to hop on a plane to go play Dartmouth that night. No sleep till Hanover.

So when I finally heard the Interscope debut, I was disappointed. How could I not have been? But it’s alright. Only a few weeks later, “Empty Town” drops, in which GLC and Cold Hard of Crucial Conflict remind us that they’re still alive, and Yelawolf makes us forget about his Radioactive bomb. This is the Internet and there’s no point in bitching about a mediocre record that you won’t buy, when you know that there will be a whole lot great ones coming down the pipeline. Besides, have you heard that new Lupe mixtape? It can always be worse.

Download:
MP3: Yelawolf ft. Lil Jon, Trouble, T.I. & Slaughterhouse-“Hard White Remix”
MP3: GLC ft. Cold Hard & Yelawolf-“Empty Town”

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