40. Yelawolf, Trunk Muzik (2010)
Image is a powerful commodity that can breed success in the music industry. Enter Michael Wayne Atha, a lanky, tatted-up white boy from Alabama who looked more like the lead singer of a punk band than your neighborhood street poet. After quietly bubbling for a few years in the South (and appearing on TV in The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott), Yelawolf spent a week recording a mixtape that revealed he was an individual with a gritty story to tell.
Wolf covered a spectrum of topics, with ruthless etiquette ("Pop the Trunk"), drug exploitation ("Mixin' Up the Medicine (Remix)") and broken relationships ("Love Is Not Enough") being his forte. In each instance, Catfish Billy encompassed an intensity and authenticity that couldn't be denied.
While pairings with Bun B and Juelz Santana augmented Yelawolf's profile, it was his unexpected collaboration with Raekwon that really won over the East Coast holdouts. This was all tied together by producer WillPower, who still remains a driving force in the Alabama MC's career.
Yela's since released a handful of projects that have succeeded to various degrees, but Trunk Muzik remains the must-listen for anyone looking to dive into his catalog. —Edwin Ortiz