It’s been a while since the All-American hip-hop hybrid Yelawolf has graced UK soil.
The last few years have been exceptionally busy for this self-processed redneck. In 2010, he dropped the hard-hitting mixtape Trunk Muzik 0-60, and released the refined Radioactive album only a year later. He hangs out with drum aficionado Travis Barker and was handpicked by Eminem himself to join Shady Records. Never one to be complacent on his success, Yelawolf upped the anti on touring with the Yelawolf Pack tour which saw artist and crew drive across his homeland on motorcycles and released his second studio album Love Story earlier this year. A lot was expected of this Alabama born rapper on his return, so here’s what went down…
Rock and hip-hop, some say it shouldn’t work but it does.
The world has seen hip-hop and rock share the stage before – see Limp Bizkit, Deftones etc but a country-twist? No. Surely not. The sociohistorical origins of both genres are so far apart it’s uncomfortable to imagine the two existing in the same three and a half minutes. Yelawolf blows these preconceptions out of the water by launching into Outer Space as he welcomes London to the Wolf Pack. The country vibes are loaded from guitarist Bones Owens and DJ Klevers’ slick mixes reinforce Yelawolf’s barbed verses. This brash introduction to the show does more than set the tone for the evening, as Yelawolf makes a statement about combining the two genres throughout the whole set. Unashamedly, Yelawolf drops the track I Wish on the Electric’s audience complete with freestyles over Led Zepplin’s Whole Lotta Love, Black Sabbath’s War Pigs and Metallica’s Enter Sandman. Where the audience is divided between their personal preference of either hip-hop or rock music, Yelawolf gives the crowd an introduction to how he uses both genres.
Freestyle is an art.
When it comes to freestyles and quick verse, there are only a few names that are even worth discussing. Chicago rap legend Twista is undoubtedly the King of Verse with his famous chopped style on Kanye’s West’s infallible 2004 Slow Jamz single. Skip forward a decade and Yelawolf is a strong contender for Twista’s title. Yelawolf has proved himself time and time again with jagged freestyles over pop instrumentals but to bear witness to an artist challenging the both the speed of light and sound in one room is a spectacle to say the least. Ripping through tracks Good To Go and Box Chevy V’, the latest instalment of Yela’s love affair with the classic American vehicle, it seems more than fair to claim that Yelawolf could probably recite Shakespeare faster than any human could recite their own name.
An artist is only as good as their crowd.
Throughout his musical career, Yelawolf has racked up a mass amount of collaborations and celebrity fans. Among the urban world, he’s worked with Gucci Mane, Ritz the Rapper and Eminem, even recording an experimental EP with UK’s own Ed Sheeran. Considering this attention, it’s fair to wonder how an artist keeps himself grounded. Well, if you’re Yelawolf, you push yourself outside of your comfort zone and collaborate with punk-rock veteran Tim Armstrong and Travis Barker. Yelawolf knows that a live show is only as good as its audience and tapping into his underdog spirit, he explodes with Push ‘Em -one of the first songs released by rapper and Travis Barker. Assuming that the majority of audience is familiar with hip-hop, Yelawolf coaxes the crowd into paying homage to Barker’s histoy by “going 300 in here” and adopting a wall death. Who knew a standard metal move could be pulled off by an American rapper?
There is no reason for an artist to abandon their background.
There are few artists who will proclaim their love for their home country as much as Yelawolf. The Love Story album is dripping with southern melody and this transfers perfectly into a live setting where the trio adapt their forcible performance into a softer ballad-esque recital for Heartbreak where pianos take centre stage. During his set, Yelawolf harrowingly introduces the audience into his background. Using his southern heritage, Yela breaks into an old country song and in realising that the audience before him knows very little about the songs history he pauses the set to explain himself. He bravely proclaims, “I love America but I don’t like all the thing America does, so I’m Slumerican” and further explores the working class struggle that even UK audiences can identify with; the centered and compassionate view of the country he loves goes down well on international ground without being overwhelming.
A near-perfect set-list is possible.
Despite being a force to be reckoned with in America, at Brixton Electric Yelawolf showed his modesty with success by catering to fans old and new. For an artist who provided the soundtrack for the finale of TV show Sons Of Anarchy and has showcased his latest work on Conan, the southern gentleman treated his international fans to mixed set-list featuring a handful of songs from aforementioned mixtape Trunk Muzik 0-60 as well as debuting songs from his latest album. When pieced together both albums gel incredibly well with his older material providing an underdog edge and tracks such as Whiskey In A Bottle and Devil In My Veins featuring vocals from his sweetheart FeFe Dobson, assuring the audience of a more confident and sophisticated version of Yelawolf. Although it was slightly disappointing that Daddy’s Lambo wasn’t featured, I doubt many will be losing sleep.
Yelawolf, Electric Brixton, 4/11/15
Words: Siobhan Connor
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