Prior to recording “Let’s Roll,” the second single off the album, Yelawolf drove to Kid Rock’s house near Detroit with Eminem, KP, and Shady Records co-founder, Paul Rosenberg.
“We were all joking around, like, ‘You know how much white rap is in this room right now?” Yelawolf recalls. Kid Rock gave them a tour of his property, including the warehouse where he keeps his cars—including the original General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard, Hank Williams Senior’s Cadillac, and the first Cadillac ever to roll off the line in Detroit. “I felt like I was being sworn into the elite of white rap,” Yelawolf says with a laugh.
Those two are the world’s biggest...I’m cut from both of those pieces. The Americana of Kid Rock, the country, the rock. The hip-hop, the lyricism, the pain, the struggle of Marshall. I kinda married those two feelings in one.
“Those two are the world’s biggest,” Wolf adds, noting that he didn’t feel the least bit intimidated chopping it up with the two veterans—perhaps because he shared so much in common with them. “I’m cut from both of those pieces. The Americana of Kid Rock, the country, the rock. The hip-hop, the lyricism, the pain, the struggle of Marshall. I kinda married those two feelings in one.”
Yelawolf’s southern redneck pride is just as important as his commitment to hip-hop, and he’s made it his personal mission never to compromise either one. But don’t get it twisted: he’s not one of these white rappers who thinks it cute to drop the N-word. Way back on Creek Water he was a white boy putting “the truth in my rhymes,” like on the moody title track: “In New Orleans they got them gators that will bite you / In Alabama we got moccasins that strike you / Sometimes they wear white hoods, even the cops do.”
“He’s guarding a couple cultures at the same time,” KP says. “He will correct any fan who steps to him the wrong way.”
One of the stand-out songs on Radioactive features Yelawolf’s friend Killer Mike. “This ain’t even about race,” the Dungeon Family affiliate spits, “If I’m on the bottom, and you on the bottom, we the same color.” The point rings true, considering Yelawolf’s place in society. If hip-hop in its essence is an art form about overcoming adversity, then Wolf’s as real as they come. The white kid who came up playing black clubs in Alabama and Georgia now headlines all across Europe, and holds down the main stage on Warped Tour.
He’s looking a bit warped right now as he tinkers with a makeshift chemistry set on the Rose Tavern bar. Star-spangled bandana wrapped over his face, a maniacal gleam in his eyes, Wolf seems to have caught a second wind. “We need more funk!” Yelawolf shouts, as a beaker of gurgling green liquid belches smoke all over the bar.
This side of Yelawolf is magnetic. Watching him come to life like this, you can see why he’s a star. He’s having fun with it. Not taking things too seriously, and always showing tremendous amount of respect for all kinds of people.
“I’m a hard motherfucker, man,” he says after the shoot is wrapped. “I’m down for the fight. I grew up in ill situations that made me tough. I cuss a lot. I’ve seen a lot of really horrible things, and experienced a lot of really horrible things. I’ve seen some motherfuckers pop the trunk, and I’ve also seen people being pulled out of a car by complete strangers, their lives having been saved. But I love people.”
The catchy country rap song “Made in the USA,” is Wolf’s ode to the American working man, sung in the first-person plural. “I just wanted to be ‘we, we, we instead of ‘me’,” he says. “Look at us, here we are. It’s not so easy to have it ‘Made in USA.’ It takes a lot of hard work.”
And he should know.
The DIY chemsitry set is running out of funk, time is running over, and Yelawolf’s manager, “J-Dot” Jones is getting anxious. Yelawolf is already late for his next show in Baltimore.