Yelawolf: Breaking Bad (2011 Online Cover Story)

Yelawolf: Breaking Bad (2011 Online Cover Story)Story by Noah Johnson (@noahvjohnson); Photography by F. Scott Schafer; Shirt by Acapulco Gold

Joining us on the tour bus for the ride to Baltimore are various friends and stagehands, three-time DMC Champion DJ Craze, and Wolf’s signee Rittz, and Fefe Dobson, a cute Canadian pop singer with her own burgeoning career. She is featured on one of Radioactive’s strongest songs, “Animal,” a ferocious lyrical blitz from Yelawolf, with a throbbing dub-step beat courtesy of Diplo and Fefe providing the cool melodic hook.

 

I know that my days of trying to get on are over. It’s time to rock. I don’t have to prove I can rap anymore. I don’t have to try to get a deal. Now its time to write songs and make great albums.

 

Yelawolf’s spirits are high after the shoot, thanks in part to the half bottle of moonshine he’s brought along from Complex’s Southern booze tasting. I’m trying to persuade him to sit down for a quick interview, but first he piles some cold cuts onto a couple pieces of bread and retires to the back of the bus.

“He’ll be much better after,” J-Dot tells me. A big, sleepy-eyed black dude from Atlanta, J-Dot treats Yelawolf with a mixture of professional respect and “this dude is crazy” bewilderment, nudging him along his career path and reminding him of his schedule when necessary—which can be often.

Yelawolf appears back in the doorframe.

“Talk to this dude,” he tells me. “That’s Rittz. If I don’t make it, he’s not gonna make it either.”

Everyone laughs as Yelawolf returns to his bunk.

Rittz looks a little sheepish, like he might have gotten into some unsavory activity the night before. In fact, everyone on the bus that hazy, “last night was mad real” vibe about them. No one has slept much. Even Rittz needs a little time before he agrees to an interview. But after a shot of moonshine and a sandwich he’s ready to talk.

Trollish, with long frizzy red hair tucked under a black beanie, Rittz is one of Yelawolf’s closest collaborators. They met through mutual friends in Rittz’s native Atlanta. “When we first met we were two rappers doing the same thing,” Rittz says. “And as time went by, he became somebody I look up to and learn from.” He praises Wolf for “His passion, the way he writes, and how creative he is, just the energy he has to put into it, I admire his shit. I definitely learn from him all the time. I’m always taking notes.” His long gold chain with a diamond medallion and his big gold watch indicate that Rittz is a quick study.

By the time the bus arrives in Baltimore, the doors are already open. DJ Craze runs off the bus with his gear to get on stage. Yelawolf hasn’t reappeared since he went to the back of the bus. J Dot goes to the back to wake him, then leaves.

When Wolf finally emerges he’s groggy, but amiable. He may be due onstage within the hour, but he remains calm. Sprawled across the seats, he speaks slowly, carefully. There’s no one on the bus now. Windows closed, shades down, we can hear the thump of DJ Craze’s opening set.

Radioactive is like waking up in the morning,” he says, he stretches his arms out wide. “Walking out like, ‘Ah, yeah, motherfuckers—here we go.’ Because I know that my days of trying to get on are over, man. It’s over, no more, and that’s a huge thing. I was trying to get a career, and it’s done. It’s time to rock. I don’t have to prove I can rap anymore. I don’t have to try to get a deal. Now its time to write songs and make great albums.”

He seems genuinely satisfied with his current place in life. And why not? He’s a kid who escaped from the gutter and now he's reaching for the stars.

“In the grand scheme of things I’ve been doing this for a long time,” he says before stepping off the bus to take the stage once again. “But I’m just getting started.”

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Tags: yelawolf, complex-cover-stories, yelawolf-week
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