Yelawolf on Mixing Hip-Hop with Mainstream Country: “It’s Bad Man.”
What would motivate a Nashville-based hip-hop artist to criticize mainstream country rap and the encroachment of hip-hop influences into country, especially when that very same artist could be considered partly to blame for the trend, or could potentially benefit from it? That’s the interesting paradigm Yelawolf is presenting with the release of his new album Love Story, which includes numerous country music influences and references, but unlike most country rap, still remains very much a hip-hop record.
His first album in nearly four years, the Nashville resident is looking to make a statement with Love Story, and just like Saving Country Music hypothesized in the review of the album, Yelawolf wants to do battle with the terrible rap-infused country that has made it to the very top levels of the mainstream. Or at least offer a better alternative.
“I feel somewhat responsible to be in Nashville because I know that arena rap, and the little bits of meshing up country music with hip-hop has now made its way up to mainstream country. Country music artists talking about, ‘I’m in VIP. Shake it for me.’ Shit like that. It’s bad man.”
Beats featured Yelawolf and his song “Till It’s Gone” in a promotional video recently (see below), and the rapper had some interesting things to say about what’s happening in mainstream country and how hip-hop continues to play an increasing role in the genre. Yelawolf also said he feels an obligation to to Nashville and country music.
“Nashville needs me. If you guys are going to do this, just please, open a door and let me have a space in this. After all, I did help fucking create it.”
The issue with country rap, and artists like Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, and even Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, and Blake Shelton dabbling with the genre bending style is not just about the two art forms naturally being polar opposites. By the time country and rap make it to the mainstream, they present such watered down versions of both, it’s just bad music regardless of the misguided notions of blending country and rap together.
“If I take this record that does have this blues riff in it, and if I can’t take this and play it for a country music artist that does this for a living, and if I can’t take that same record and play it on the hip-hop side, then I did it wrong,” Yelawolf says.
The 35-year-old rapper who is signed to Eminem’s Interscope Records imprint spent part of his youth in Nashville.
“I wrote my first rap in the fifth grade here in Nashville. Actually I got suspended for it,” Yelawolf says in the Beats interview. “I took it to the office to make copies for it. This toupee-wearing, mustached geek, this principal come into the office. He’s like, ‘What you making copies of Mr. Atha?’ I was like, ‘It’s my rap.’ He pulled it up and started reciting it. It was terrible, like just wanted to be like Ice Cube, like all the worst shit that you could say. And he was like, ‘Well, this is going to get you five days suspension right here.’ So he called my mama up. My mom, hot head, 25-years-old, just straight from the bar come up in there. She just laid him out, cussed him out in front of the whole school and told me to go back to class. She put my rap back in my pocket, and she said, ‘You write whatever you want.'”
Though the country music world has yet to recognize Love Story (it was released on April 21st and debuted at #3 overall on Billboard), the album could end up being a very important release in the space between country and hip-hop. Considered a career effort by many fans and critics, Love Story could eat away at some of the support hip-hop influences in mainstream country receive by exposing the shallowness and creatively bankrupt nature of the music compared to an inspired effort like Yelawolf’s latest.
READ: Why Yelawolf’s “Love Story” Is Important to Country Music
May 11, 2015 @ 9:48 am
As I said in the Yelawolf review, Saving Country Music is not “promoting” rap or hip-hop music. Saving Country Music is not condoning rap or hip-hop music. Posting this article does not illustrate some change in philosophy or calamitous development in the evolution of Saving Country Music. It is simply Yelawolf’s album could have very significant impacts on country music moving forward, and it would be irresponsible taking into consideration this site”™s charge and mission to ignore this release. Saving Country Music takes no responsibility for anyone too lazy to understand the purpose of this coverage, and that resorts to either wild-eyed assumptions, or uses the Yelawolf coverage for opportunistic propaganda against Saving Country Music, primarily on Facebook.
May 11, 2015 @ 9:53 am
“By the time country and rap make it to the mainstream, they present such watered down versions of both, it”™s just bad music regardless of the misguided notions of blending country and rap together”.
Not necessarily. Country and rap (or any two genres in general) can blend with each other, in theory, at least. Just because most of the time this blending is badly executed, that doesn’t mean that blending them “presents watered down versions of both” by default.
May 11, 2015 @ 10:02 am
It think we’re both saying the same things Ahmed, we just said it in different ways. I’ve always said that blending country and rap could work, but only if it was done with quality, inspiration, and respect for the roots of both art forms. Obviously, finding all of those qualities in country rap is very rare. The reason I think Yelawolf’s album works is because it’s NOT country rap. It’s hip hop, with country influences added in with respects and understanding of the roots of country.
May 11, 2015 @ 9:53 am
So lemme see if I’ve got this straight…. The principal suspends him but his mother leaves the bar she’s at, comes to the school, admonishes the principal and tells her son to return to class. On what planet do things actually happen that way?
May 11, 2015 @ 10:05 am
They prob happen in the state of Florida…
May 11, 2015 @ 10:08 am
The story begins, “I wrote my first rap in the fifth grade here in Nashville.”
May 12, 2015 @ 10:41 pm
There’s people like that in every state beer and drugs has done a lot to society.
I just don’t understand why you chose to put down Florida. There’s a lot of southerners down here and a lot have been here for generations that hunt and fish just like our neighbors. We can’t control who moves down here or the tourist industry. Farming and cattle are still one of our top grossing industries. This sums it up for me: deepsouthmag.com/2012/12/floridas-identity-crisis/ (If you can’t click it copy and paste) thank you and God bless hopefully country music gets saved. *replying to Russ goldman*
January 5, 2022 @ 12:18 pm
Butthurt,That’s not the point stay on point….;Kindly there bud.🙄
May 11, 2015 @ 10:05 am
I think that was the point of Yelawolf telling the story, to convey the type of unique upbringing he had in the South. I thought it was important in relating because it illustrates the dichotomy of his upbringing well. He was a kid who was really into hip-hop, but was surrounded by traditional Southern customs.
May 11, 2015 @ 10:42 am
While I am no expert on rap, if does seem that hyperbole is one of the genre’s hallmarks. I was trying to determine if the mom story was meant to be taken literally or was some sort of object lesson. If it is indeed the latter, then I can see the things-are-different-down-South angle.
May 11, 2015 @ 11:42 am
Sounds like a complete lack of respect for authority to me. Not to say that authority shouldn’t be challenged if it’s abused. I’m only inferring here and probably profiling, but based off of the little information I gathered from Yelawolf’s comments about his mother, I’d say she seems like the kind of person who has total disregard for authority. It’s sad to say but I know a few young women and men, some of them parents, with this mentality.
It just irritates me because the threshold for decency, respect, and responsibility seems to get lower while this mentality of entitlement is snowballing and growing with every subsequent generation. These parents exhibit those behaviors, then there children usually imitate them, thinking this should be the norm, and push the limit even further.
The attitude of entitlement really makes me bristle.
May 11, 2015 @ 11:59 am
He’s said that his mother had him at a very young age and, by his own admission, was a hard-partier and in her younger days was known for her rampant drug use. Just to throw a little context out there.
May 11, 2015 @ 12:28 pm
I took a few things from this Yelawolf story:
First off, Yelawolf was trying to portray just how strange his upbringing was. His mother had him when she was 15 (if my math is right), and she was hanging out at a bar in the middle of the day when he was at school. That gives you some insight into his upbringing. I don’t know if he was glorifying the incident, or simply telling a story.
I read an article maybe a week or two ago about in school suspensions, and how they just feed behavioral problems by putting all the bad kids in one place, and taking kids out of a learning environment, and putting them in an institutionalized environment. In most cases, it doesn’t scare kids straight, it sets them up for a life of being institutionalized and defying authority.
Yelawolf’s mom, in whatever state of disrepair she may have been in, had the insight to see that her son was attempting to express himself, and that the school was wrong in their assessment to suspend him. Yelawolf is now a professional rapper who has nearly 2 million followers on Facebook, and probably makes more money than any of us. If the public school was allowed to quash his passion, none of that may have ever happened, and who knows where he would be. You may not like the fact that he’s a hip-hop artist, but I think we all agree it’s better than him being a criminal. I understand that in classrooms, there has to be a level of decorum to keep things in line. But that is also what institutionalizes the succumbing of individuals to authority. In certain countries, Yelawolf’s passion for musical expression would have been recognized, and he would have been put on a path to succeed in that pursuit. In the United States, that passion is many times systemically bred out of young people, not just creative passions, but all kinds of passions, in lieu of a cookie cutter educational system that stifles creativity and individual expression. Some kids thrive in a strict environment. Others suffocate, and unfortunately too often become the criminals or castaways of the future.
Yelawolf’s mom, in whatever state of inebriation and compromised principles, saw how important it was to defend her son’s right to express himself.
May 11, 2015 @ 1:27 pm
Through his trials and tribulations he still grew up and managed to have atleast 7 pieces of ‘flare’ on his leather jacket. Good job Mom!
His Mom also nicknamed him, ‘Rabbit’, I’m guessing.
May 11, 2015 @ 3:24 pm
Yes, every subsequent generation moves toward a progressively stronger belief in personal liberty and expression as opposed to authoritarian and bigoted traditions. Part of this is the idea that a student should not be suspended for practicing his or her right to free speech. It’s not an attitude of “entitlement”, it is the promise of America and its Enlightenment principles.
May 11, 2015 @ 4:06 pm
I believe you’re misinterpreting my comment. Entitlement and personal liberty are not the same thing. What I meant by entitlement is a selfish and narcissistic mentality.
It’d be hard for you to find a bigger proponent of personal liberty than myself.
May 11, 2015 @ 11:42 am
Sorry for ranting.
May 11, 2015 @ 3:55 pm
“I read an article maybe a week or two ago about in school suspensions, and how they just feed behavioral problems by putting all the bad kids in one place, and taking kids out of a learning environment, and putting them in an institutionalized environment. In most cases, it doesn”™t scare kids straight, it sets them up for a life of being institutionalized and defying authority.”
I don’t disagree with this.
I suffered from the strict structured environment of school and did poorly, but I don’t believe in the least bit that I’m an unintelligent person. And I also agree that the US public school system is an institutionalized mess that in many ways hinders creativity and learning.
Regarding the incident involving Yelawolf’s mother in the story that he told, I agree that the way the principle handled the situation wasn’t ideal. Suspending or putting in detention a child because they created art that they’re passionate about is unfair. If the contents of the art contain things that are inappropriate for a school environment, like Yelawolf seems to indicate, then the principle should’ve focused on directing that passion in a more positive direction. However, my main point was the way in which his mother responded was classless, regardless of whether or not she was defending his creative freedom. There are far more appropriate ways to express this concern. Although, considering what little I know about her, it doesn’t seem likely that she’d be the type of person to express her concerns civilly.
The other elements of the situation that I was insinuating at were the possibilities that:
1: His mother wasn’t as concerned about defending her son’s creative freedom as much as she was bucking authority; because it’s a mentality, not because there was any logical reason pertaining to that particular situation. Defending her son’s creative freedom was only a side effect of her bucking authority. (I’m inclined to believe this one, but again, I’m only inferring.)
2: That she believes that her child is a special little snowflake that doesn’t have to comply to the rules and regulations that everyone else does and likely has the same entitled sentiment regarding herself.
3: Some combination of the previous two points.
May 11, 2015 @ 2:09 pm
I don’t like rap, but that sounds like a modern day Harper Valley PTA to me. Partying druggie or not, his mom did a pretty badass thing.
May 11, 2015 @ 10:44 am
no no no. Nashville doesnt need you Yelawolf. Country music doesnt need hip hop. it has and will always sound fucking retarded. you need Nashville just like every other pop star carpet bagger though. i had no idea this dude was 35 either. did a Neti Pot and One-A-Day vitamin endorsement come with that signing to Shady?
the track he did with Prof is still my jam though.
May 11, 2015 @ 2:17 pm
In 2011, I puffed my chest out, crossed my arms, stared down country rap and swore it would only become relevant in the mainstream of country over my dead body. And then I unceremoniously got trucked by “Dirt Road Anthem” that went on to be the best selling “country” song of 2011.
That was four years ago, FOUR of them, and now hip-hop influences in mainstream country have become institutionalized. There are more hip-hop influences than there are country influences in country music. So it’s no longer an issue of putting your foot down and taking a stand against country rap, it’s about trying to figure out how to extricate rap from mainstream country.
What I think is interesting about Yelawolf is he’s attempting to do this not by releasing a country or a country rap album, but by releasing a hip-hop album, and therefore extracting himself from the natural adversity to country rap itself. I’m telling you, a lot of these disenfranchised rural types, and bored suburbanites who find country rap appealing, one whiff of Yelawolf’s music, and acts like Florida Georgia Line and Colt Ford will feel so watered down and contrived they’ll never listen again. That in my opinion is what Yelawolf is trying to do. He didn’t say he needed Nashville, he said Nashville needs him. Yelawolf needs Eminem and Detroit. Yelawolf needs New York and LA. But Yelawolf has chosen Nashville because he feels partly responsible for what modern country has become, and obligated to do something about it.
Yelawolf will be one of the big narratives for country music in 2015, just like Sturgill SImpson was in 2014. Country music just doesn’t know it yet.
May 11, 2015 @ 11:04 am
J-Roc and T.
May 11, 2015 @ 12:02 pm
Love Story is in no way “country rap”. Yes it’s a hip-hop album with a country influence but you can also hear influences of blues, rock ‘n roll and various other genres. This isn’t big smo or the jawga boyz or Sam hunt or any other garbage like that. Say what you will about Yelawolf, this is a good album, plain & simple.
May 11, 2015 @ 1:32 pm
3-4 years back, Jamey Johnson and Kristofferson recorded an incredible country/hip hop song with underground hip hop artist Alexander King. The song was called “Orange Man” and it’s awesome. Google it. I bet you’ll love it.
May 14, 2015 @ 5:41 pm
Thanks for recommending! I enjoyed “Orangeman.” Definitely has that storytelling element that much of current mainstream country does not.
Thanks again for sharing! I’d be curious to know how this collaboration came about.
Toby in AK
May 12, 2015 @ 10:57 am
I’ve always thought that if country and hip-hop are mixed, it would make more sense in a hip-hop format. Sampling other genres is a staple in hip-hop, and they’ve already dipped into the country-rock pool. Beastie Boys sampled from western movies, many artists have sampled the Eagles and Buffalo Springsteen among others.
May 26, 2015 @ 5:39 pm
This is off the topic of Yelawolf, but have you ever checked out any of Everlast’s albums that are country/folk/blues-influenced hip-hop? I guess they could be categorized as country rap, but they were released long before I think the term was even created. I’m specifically referring to the albums “Whitey Ford Sings the Blues”, “Eat at Whiteys”, and “White Trash Beautiful”.
Also, ever checked out Boondox?
May 26, 2015 @ 6:49 pm
I actually wrote about Everlast back in 2011 in a very similar context as this Yellawolf piece. Unfortunately I think it went over a lot of people’s heads.
I have not checked out Boondox, and I wouldn’t hold out much hope that I’m going to have a hip-hop epiphany just because I look favorably upon Yellawolf. I’m probably a little more versed on hip-hop than a lot of people figure, at least from a historical standpoint. But I still find much of it very elusive. People have been trying to get me into Gangstagrass for years, and I just can’t do it. No offense to the music, but it just doesn’t speak to me. In the end, mixing country and hip hop is still extremely difficult. That is why I think this Yellawolf album is such a marvel.