Yelawolf’s Love Story is a long time coming. After Yela’s initial announcement of his sophomore album in 2012, he was sidelined for a few weeks due to a ruptured spleen after a stage-diving accident at a concert in Madison, Wis. He used the lengthy amount of time during his recovery to focus on crafting Love Story, combining his interests of rap, rock, and country into a sound that’s become recognizably his. He’s publicly announced his dissatisfaction with his Shady Records debut, Radioactive, promising fans that this time around he’s going back to his Southern roots to make up for the lackluster effort. So far, he’s stayed on track with “Till It’s Gone”—a melodic number that features Yela’s patented rapid-fire delivery and premiered on Sons of Anarchy. Love Story does sound like an album that’s going to change things for Yelawolf and will finally see him deliver on his potential.
Behind every rapper is a go-to producer he or she can count on, and for Yelawolf, that person is WLPWR. While the two don’t claim to be a producer-rapper duo, they certainly have years of experience working together. WLPWR, whose real name is William Washington, met Yelawolf in 2001 when the two were in New York recording at the now-defunct Sugar Hill studio. Since Yela is from Alabama and WLPWR is from South Carolina, the two instantly bonded over their Southern connection. The producer is responsible for Yela’s 2010 breakout mixtape, Trunk Muzik, and has worked with him on a sizable amount of songs in Yela’s catalog ever since. “We really got a cold ass chemistry,” says WLPWR. “Every time we set a goal, it’s a challenge for me. And so far, just about every project, I met the challenge.”
The veteran producer is credited with 10 songs on Love Story including the dark, Johnny Cash-inspired “Best Friend” featuring label head Eminem. We spoke to WLPWR about his early beginnings with Yelawolf, how “Best Friend” came together, and what’s next for his budding career.
Eric Diep is a writer living in New York. Follow him @E_Diep.
Who first inspired you to make beats?
For me, I just wanted to make my own music. I had a producer when I was younger. That’s who kind of introduced me to it. His name was Bryon Counts. We used to go to his house, and he had a setup in there. It really got me excited about the process of making music. Sooner or later I just got into it myself. Once I got my first MPC and got a little keyboard to go along with it, it was history from there.
When I went to New York, I hooked up with a guy named K-Def, who is a classic hip-hop producer. He produced for Lords of the Underground. He came up in the Marley Marl camp. He was my true mentor as far as teaching hip-hop and how to produce hip-hop. From there, that’s when it really grew. I think what really turned it on for me was hooking up with somebody who really understood it and really taught me the ropes of hip-hop. After that, it was a love affair.
Now you’ve been producing for over 10 years.
I started from being a rapper and a singer and wanting to make my own music. Back in 2001, I took off and went to New York to try and get on. Once I got out there, that’s when I met Yela. We just kind of been working together ever since.
You met Yelawolf in New York? Not in South Carolina?
I met him in New York. He was out there trying to get on himself. He was from Alabama, I was from South Carolina. We met each other like in the kitchen lobby type of area at Sugar Hill studio where I was working at. We spoke to each other and recognized each other’s Southern dialect. It was kinda like, “Yo, what’s up?” We were here in New York so we didn’t hear that type of Southern drawl. Immediately, we started working together and started kicking it.
What was your initial reaction when you heard his music?
I just thought he was dope. Honestly I was like, “Who is this white kid spitting like this?” It was real crazy because I certainly wasn’t expecting it, but he just had this really eerie vibe to him with his rhymes. You know, his technique was real dope. He had these crazy cadences. I knew he was from the South. I could tell who he was listening to and everything. He just had a skill set that was really wicked.
You two were both on Ghet-O-Vison together. How did that situation happen?
Yela ended up on Ghet-O-Vison before I did. For a short period of time between ’05 and ’07, Yela and I were kind of just doing our own thing. We both live in Atlanta, but we were on different paths. He was working with a group called Battery 5 and he ended up making this dope project. He ended up signing with Kawan Prather from Ghet-O-Vision. So he had got a deal with Columbia Records for a little while and it fell through. KP at the time was the vice president over there. So he left and Yela left with him, so it was a little period of time where it was like we were trying to figure it out.
And one day when I was at the crib, Yela got my back since and came to the door and was like, “Yo, I want to do a rap record. I got this concept called Trunk Muzik.” He asked me to pack my stuff and come back to Alabama with him because at the time, he was married. His family was going out of town for a week; his wife was going of town. We went down there and did Trunk Muzik and after that, that’s when I ended up joining Ghet-O-Vision. Because once I did Trunk Muzik, it kind of sparked interest to KP I guess and those guys. That’s how I got into it.
I’m certainly like Yelawolf’s go-to guy. I’m the guy that kind of puts together the meat and cheese of the project.
Seems like that relationship developed very organically.
One thing I know is we are really comfortable together as far as making music. I think that’s the most important part of our relationship. I don’t know if he’s into the whole producer, artist team type thing. We never really approached it like that. I’m certainly like his go-to guy. I think I’m someone that he’s completely comfortable formatting an idea with. In all of his projects, I got like nine or 10 records each project. I’m the guy that kind of puts together the meat and cheese of the project. And really, Love Story is the first album where they were no ARs. There was nobody there to say, “That’s not the single. I got a guy that’s gonna do the single.” That’s kind of been my dilemma every situation. Every time we do a project, somebody else gets actually picked to do the radio record or the single or whatever they call it.
What’s crazy with the record is that they always were overlooked and we already told them it would be huge. They overlooked what “Pop the Trunk” was. Like, this is a huge record. I know it’s not commercially crazy, but it’s a huge record. Everybody is gonna know this record. Turns out it is one of his biggest records.
What was it like for you to hear “Box Chevy” and “Pop the Trunk” pop off?
It’s a great feeling. It seems like every time Yela and I get together, I know when we finally found it. “Pop the Trunk” and “Till It’s Gone,” a lot of the big records we have together, they had the same feeling. Once it was done, before the mix, before the completion of it, you know it. This is it. That was jamming. We got kind of a dark energy to our music too with the sound and the storytelling and things of that nature. We just know man. It’s hard to explain to you and I don’t know if I have a word for it. When it is done, it’s done.
With Love Story, we didn’t really start shaping the album until we finished “Till It’s Gone.” Once that record was done, then it was like, “OK, this is what we are going with this.” It’s like OutKast meets Johnny Cash-type stuff. We couldn’t name it before that. We couldn’t give it a title. We couldn’t even do anything at first because it was still taking form.
How did you get the creative freedom to make Love Story? It seems you guys went back to the basics after the mixed reception of Radioactive.
This freedom was really because of Yelawolf. With the Radioactive album, the problem that we ran into was we did what the label wanted us to do and it didn’t work for us. It is kinda like you’re telling me to do a certain thing and I’ll make it what it is supposed to be, but then I don’t do my part. I’m not so much blaming the label because I think that’s lame, but at the end of the day, what we ended up turning in is not really what we do. We did what we felt we needed to do in order to get into the record label business. And this time Yelawolf is like, “Nah. No. Don’t send me no pre-written hooks. Don’t send me no artists. Don’t send me no features. Don’t send me none of that shit. Just put me and my producer in the room and leave us alone.”
Just Yela and I, we worked for six months in Nashville. For the first two months, we didn’t have any records done. The first two months was us just in there totally just trying to feel it out. What is it? What are we going for? Do we bring in musicians? Do we sample? What do we do? We threw away just as many records as we ended up keeping.
There’s a significance about you two working in the studio in Nashville, right?
Yeah, the studio is called Blackbird Studio. It’s world class. It’s a studio where it is worth about 40 million dollars. We cut some of his vocals on a 40-year-old microphone that was vintage [sounding]. Some of the sounds we were getting and some of the tones, the production quality of this album are outstanding.
I noticed he’s been singing a lot, especially on this new record “Best Friend.” You also did the Em collabo from the last project too, “Throw It Up.” Why do you think Yelawolf has maintained his loyalty to Eminem for so long?
I just think that they have something in common. It’s not ’cause of a skin color thing. It’s not because they white boys. I think they are both naturally gifted at this. When you have people who are really that talented, they have to get along. It just makes sense. I think they just click. One thing that I noticed about it is Eminem really shows just as much respect to Yela for his craft as Yela does to his singing. At the end of the day, he gives them the space to do what he has to do and he’ll come in.
The tracklist also features another “Box Chevy” song. How do you feel about part five and where the series stands now in hip-hop?
I love it. I think that it is different. I do think they dropped it too early. I felt that they let the people have it before we had developed our new story. It kind of got missed because it is like all of sudden Yelawolf is on a record with a guitar on this. I just thought it was a little early. But, nonetheless, once people get the album and they hear it in context with everything else, I think it’s gonna be a record that’s gonna become a fan favorite again.
But what I like about it is the concept is not changing yet. The vibe of it changes. It’s really like riding in a Box Chevy on a sunny day or rainy day or in the winter or whatever. Whatever the environment is, that’s what the Box Chevy is. This time the environment is bluesy, outlaw country shit, and hip-hop. That’s exactly what the Box Chevy is this time. If he decides to come out with the next album, it’s on some whatever it could be on. Hopefully, the Box Chevy still with us. I think he got something with that man. It’d be dope to drop a Box Chevy album with all of them. [Laughs.]
What else are you working on right now?
Right now, I’ve been in the studio with Travis Barker. He’s working on his album. I’m just partaking in that. I got my own artist right now that I am working on. I signed a producer named Myke "Murda" Stallone to my production company. So right now, nothing major, just trying to get ready for the majors. I’m hoping that this album will do enough to at least get me more work. I’ve done quite a bit of work, but I think it’s time for me to start branding and jumping out there in this business as a solidified producer.