When it comes to conversations in hip-hop, Yelawolf continues to make his mark. Hailing from Gadsden, Alabama, the rapper, songwriter, performer, and entrepreneur exploded onto the scene back in 2005, and he’s been feeding his fans with the hardest rhymes since. His spitfire flow and impeccable wordplay does not go unnoticed, and his love for the art shines through with each release.
Real name Michael Wayne Atha had the pleasure of signing with Eminem’s Shady Records back in 2011. Yelawolf’s collaborations to date include everyone from Eminem, Ed Sherran, Travis Barker, to Gucci Mane, and his work ethic has not faltered in the slightest.
With the recent release of his most recent full-length studio album Mud Mouth, Yelawolf makes the announcement that this will be his last rap project to date, teasing his forthcoming rock album titled Sometimes Y arriving sometime in 2022. And still, he finds time to push his own lifestyle brand called Slumerican, as he’s sighted creating the denim vests himself in his warehouse in Nashville, Tennessee.
Flaunt caught up with Yelawolf via FaceTime to discuss the meaning behind his brand Slumerican, having his own whiskey, Mud Mouth being the last of his rap projects, the feature film to coincide, collaborating with Riff Raff, his forthcoming rock album, goals, and more!
How did you come up with the concept for Slumerican?
Slumerican was first a play on words: slum American. When the word popped up 13 years ago, I immediately went to the tattoo shop and got it tattooed on the back of my legs because I thought it’s a perfect description of who I was. Over the years, we started tagging it with things we were into. The crew started getting familiar, family started getting familiar, fans started getting familiar with what Slumerican represented. At one point in time, we had more people with Slumerican tattoos around the world than we had shirts.
Way before I recorded any music, I had a little brand called Alabama Slanguage that was pre-print mesh hats and t-shirts. Slang them out of the truck of my Chevy out of Alabama, so it’s always been a passion. It’s become a real good pastime for me to come in when I’m not making music, I’m making clothes. It’s turned into a serious company now, it’s massive. I’m very fortunate.
It’s a label too, right?
We dipped our hands with the label, we signed a few artists about 4 years ago. It was more of a production deal. We gave them time in the studio, got their album together, produced it. Helped to get their merch together, helped out with the tour situation. I’m all about supporting artists, but a label can be a lot to handle. [laughs] The label of having a label is too much weight, I have enough trouble keeping up with my own shit. But it was a good platform for a few artists to come, they did really well with it. I want to focus on the brand and our whiskey.
What’s special about that whiskey?
It’s 100 proof for $24.99, that’s special. It’s distilled in South Carolina. Our distillery process is patented, we’re the only distillery in the world that distills whiskey like this. We have a technology that allows us to distill whiskey in what would take 5 years in under a few hours.
New album Mud Mouth out now, how are you feeling?
I’m feeling relieved, I’m happy that all the music’s out finally. Over 2020, 2021, I had a master collection of unreleased music, so it was crucial that we got all the music out in April. I saw and heard through the grapevine a few comments and opinions about why we released so much music, because we put out 5 records. We had to. We actually were going to put out everything in one day, but the team said “no no no! That’s insane, you can’t do that.” We decided to spread it out: drop an album once a week the month of April. I’m stoked. I’ve got some classic projects out there with DJ Muggs, DJ Paul, and the Turquoise Tornado album with Riff Raff.
How did the collaboration with Riff Raff happen?
When I did a video shoot with Riff, “MiLLiON DOLLAR MULLET” was the song. After the video, he said “come by the crib, I’ve got a studio.” I said “Aw, here we go.” He drove me out to the studio, recorded one song. Recorded 2, 3, 4, 5. Next thing you know, we had 6 songs at the end of the night. I said “I’m gonna turn this into an EP,” he said “Alright, let’s go.” That ended up being TURQUOiSE TORNADO. We‘re able to squeeze it in for release in April. Riff’s the best, man.
Talk about your work ethic, dropping a project every Friday leading up to your album. What drives you?
That comes natural. I’m a little bit bored and sitting still gives me anxiety. I do well with working and staying busy. I’ve been moving for so many years nonstop that it’s harder for me to sit down than it is to move. I feel way more comfortable in motion, so quarantine was the perfect cocktail for me to produce and create. That’s my comfort zone. It sat me down somewhere and forced me to sit still. The only thing I had to do was make music, art, whatever. I started writing and producing records, it happened that way. My years in a major label system, every single record that I wrote and turned in was basically shelved for a year.
Oh right, you were with Shady/Interscope Records.
They weren’t used to that workflow. The first time I pulled up on Marshall [Eminem], he was in LA randomly doing his Brisk iced tea Super Bowl party. It was him, Dre, and Ross at the table, and I’d just left Vegas. I’d finished Radioactive, he said “How’s that going?” I said “Yo, I got an album.” He just signed me off Trunk Muzik. He couldn’t believe it, so we went to the studio the
next day and that was the beginning of my freshman album. Then it went from Radioactive toLove Story. I wrapped Love Story pretty quickly, they rode on that for about a year. I’ve always had a quick workflow. The release of music has never been up to me up to this point. Now I get to put shit out when I want to.
Do you get to re-release those records?
Everything I’ve created and released with Interscope/Shady is Interscope/Shady real estate. That’s the double-edged sword, they keep the rights to continue to sell that music. Maybe one day, I might buy my masters back. That’s a possibility, but it’s nothing I’m thinking about right now. I’m focused on music I’m releasing independently.
Why did you name it Mud Mouth?
It was a great name. All of my albums start with a title. I’ve never put an album together that started with a song. A lot of the time, it’ll start with a title and even the artwork. I’ll visualize what the album is supposed to look like from the outside, then I’ll fill the pages in. That’s how I create albums, so Mud Mouth made sense to me. It’s something about the word. Mud Mouth became the actual name for the brand of LSD in the Mud Mouth Movie which is based on an LSD trip. Life and death, but more a spiritual life and death.
Throughout that, I hit on most of my career. In one way, shape, or form. Mud Mouth hits on the past 10 years of my career, from the beginning till now. The 4 records that dropped before Mud Mouth is a portfolio of styles. I called it Mile Zero because it was back to the beginning, back to 1993, ‘97 lo-fi hip-hop beats. That’s where I started to write. That’s why Muggs and I made the album that way.
On “Light As A Feather,” you said you’re feeling better than before. What songs mean the most to you & why?
That depends on the mood that I’m in. There’s some days where I feel like “Rocks At Your Window,” other days it may be “Light As A Feather.” It varies, I wouldn’t say there’s one particular record that means more to me than the others. The album itself is my best work, as far as a final piece to hip-hop. I closed the chapter correctly. The album’s meant to be digested front-to-back, so it’s hard to pick from a sea of the movie itself. It ties all together.
You’re releasing a rock album next, why the move from hip-hop?
I’m bored, and I never really felt like I was all the way in. I carved out such a particular space with my music and my fanbase. The past few years when I turn on the radio or tune into some shit that’s poppin’, it’s so different from the music and hip-hop that I make that I felt I had to step away from it and do something for myself that’s more challenging. Because I can write bars and songs for infinity.
For me, singing and songwriting with a rock and roll band, mainly with Shooter Jennings, gave me a breath of fresh air. It really has revived my love for making music. I will always love hip-hop, but this gives me an opportunity to stretch out something new. People will be surprised at the album forreal. It’s nothing like anyone’s expecting for sure. For the core fans who have
been following, they’re expecting it. Most of my core fans are rock and roll fans anyway, so they’ve been waiting for this record. That’s another huge reason why I’m choosing to do this because I know there’s a swell of people waiting on this record. Dying for those hip hop fans to say “What the fuck?” [laughs] I’m excited for rock and roll fans to discover this album and to look back on the earlier hip-hop shit. That’s the fan I am, I’ll go from Future to Muggs to Metallica or Smashing Pumpkins. My taste in music is that.
What’re your favorite pieces in the Slumerican line right now?
Right now, this. [points to denim vests] We’ve got a lot of rad shit coming out. We’ve got both these denim pieces and a collection of one-off Hawaiian shirts. Fuck man, iIt’s all kinds of shit. At this point, there’s so much going on that I forget. Go to Slumerican.com.
Do you have any goals for yourself?
Of course, I always have goals. Once you run out of goals, it’s time to retire, so that’s nowhere in my scope. What’s most important to me right now is continuing to help my brand grow. Keep putting out lines, making clothes. Doing projects with my homies: my boy Alex whether it’s collabing with him to paint the truck, or with my boy Smurf to do a bike. For me, it’s about continuing to connect the dots and growing with the family. Musically, it’s all about Sometimes Y right now. I’m glad Mud Mouth’s out, there’s a movie about to drop.
What can we expect from the movie?
It’s a full-length feature film. 100 person crew for 40 days, 20 hour days. To put it in perspective, an actual feature film. The best DPs, the best director, the best squad. It’s a visual journey through the album. The movie was written to the music. We pitched it, got the green light to shoot it, went out to Mexico and got it done. Expect drama, real fucking drama. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. Every vibe of the record is in that movie, it’s taken to the extreme. I did all my own stunts. It’s real fucking stunts, balls to the wall.