This feature is a part of Complex's Yelawolf Week.
This week, Yelawolf dropped his debut album Radioactive. His album mixes and matches hip-hop with a variety of styles of music including rock, dubstep, and even country. In our continuing coverage of Yelawolf Week here at Complex, we got on the horn with Catfish Billy to talk about his favorite albums and found out his musical tastes are just as diverse as his debut album.
Although he declined to rank the albums, he went on to tell us about the album that terrified him as a kid, what Lynyrd Skynyrd song he molds himself after, and which album reminds him of the days he used to sniff brown paper bags full of airplane glue.
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
Live at Folsom Prison
Johnny Cash, Live at Folsom Prison (1968)
Yelawolf: “Culturally, Johnny Cash represented something bigger than music, even as brilliant as he was as a person. As an artist, he represented something bigger than he even knew at the time. The people that he represented and the music that he represented, he just kind of bridged gaps.”
Black Sabbath, Paranoid (1970)
Yelawolf: “With the ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Iron Man,’ this was the scariest time of my life ever. The worst, scariest parts of your life tend to be the most impactful. I remember being left alone with strange people [while hearing this].
My mom would be off partying and her friend’s sons—they were 15 and 17 years old—would be listening to Black Sabbath. I was [a little kid] and I would be stuck in the attic with these motherfuckers listening to this shit while they played with their ouija board.
"My mom would be off partying and her friend’s sons—they were 15 and 17 years old—would be listening to Black Sabbath. I was [a little kid] and I would be stuck in the attic with these motherfuckers listening to this shit while they played with their ouija board.
“As I got older, I started loving their music. That album, Ozzy Osbourne, and Black Sabbath as a whole just scared me. But it was a healthy fear; it’s not even bad. It was a healthy fear that made me appreciate a different side of everything.
"I’ll never forget that fucking poster with Ozzy and that long white hair growing out of his skin and crawling through the woods like a fucking albino werewolf.”
The Doors, Morrison Hotel (1970)
Yelawolf: “That’s another album that [reminds me of] parties at my house; Harley Davidsons and fucking people walking around in Grim Reaper costumes. My mom used to throw Halloween parties and have big old Halloween cakes and shit. It was fucking scary. It fucking sucked. It was awesome, but it sucked when I was a baby.”
Stevie Wonder, Innervisions (1973)
Yelawolf: “You can’t really put a top 25 without mentioning Stevie Wonder. It almost goes without saying, he’s just a genius of our time, we are lucky to have him in our life. The music he’s put out has influenced everyone.
“Melodically he’s arguably the most brilliant melodic person to ever live. Funk, soul, the smoothness, the delivery, the lyrics, everything matters in his musicianship. He’s brilliant, period. He’s got so many great works, but I just decided to put that in there.”
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Second Helping (1974)
Yelawolf: “I think a lot of the albums I picked were honestly off of particular records that meant the most to me. ‘Simple Man’ was something that stuck with me for a long time. I molded myself in a way after this song. I’ve listened to this song since I was fucking four years old. If you listen to a song 300 or 400 times, it starts to [effect] the way you see things. [It made me want] to be a simple man, who kind of sees things in a way that’s not so complex. Like don’t get so caught up in anything in life. Just try, you know?”
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (1977)
Label: Warner Bros.
Yelawolf: “This album is reminiscent of me and my mom. A lot of these albums I picked are just reminiscent of my childhood. Two records that are important to me is ‘Songbird’ and ‘Break the Chain.’ Fleetwood Mac is just [reminds me] of my childhood.”
Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express (1977)
Label: Kling Klang
Yelawolf: “I put Kraftwerk in there because of the influence it’s had on hip-hop. Kraftwerk was one the first groups that Afrika Bambaataa sampled. Kraftwerk was so super early on electronic programming. Anyone that far ahead of their time needs to be honored.”
Michael Jackson, Thriller (1982)
Yelawolf: “Can’t say enough about Thriller, can’t say enough about Michael Jackson. Who didn’t want to be Michael Jackson? I fully had the red jacket with the zippers. I remember I was in Franklin, Tennessee when I got it. Everybody wanted to be a part of that movement. Michael changed the world. I cant even have a top 25 without having Thriller in there.”
Prince, Purple Rain (1984)
Label: Warner Bros.
Yelawolf: “I chose Purple Rain from Prince because of my mom. I remember Purple Rain the movie. My mom was so in love with Prince so I had to listen to his shit every single day until I appreciated it. I was actually too young to really understand what kind of music I was listening to. So I got older and [now] looking back I realize how brilliant that album was.”
Licensed to Ill
Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill (1986)
Label: Def Jam/Columbia
Yelawolf: “‘Paul Revere’ was one of the first records in hip-hop that made me go absolutely bonkers. If you could imagine me listening to Journey or Chicago when mom was smoking weed and then walking outside and throwing in this tape in my boy’s car.
“I was just blown away by it, just being so intrigued by this music and not even knowing that it was hip-hop. I had no definition for it. I just knew it was something about this sound that was crazy to me.”
Master of Puppets
Metallica, Master of Puppets (1986)
Label: Elektra/Music For Nations/Vertigo
Yelawolf: “I chose Master of Puppets because it’s a musically brilliant album. As far as metal goes, Master of Puppets is arguably one of the best metal records ever written. I’m more connected with Metallica and Master of Puppets with the time [I was] filling ten-gallon black hefty trash bags full of freon and helium and huffing brown [paper] bags of airplane glue.”
Appetite For Destruction
Guns N’ Roses, Appetite For Destruction (1987)
Yelawolf: “I wanted to be Axl Rose. I got a pair of skin-tight pants. I got a fucking ten-gallon hat like Slash. I had a pair of Airwalk 540 high-tops. I had a fucking tie-dye tank top. I wanted to be Axl Rose. I had a fucking spike belt!
“I wanted to be him. He was the meanest, baddest, most bad-ass fucking rock album I’ve ever heard in my life. Everybody wanted to be like Axl Rose. Any band coming out of anywhere wanted to be like Axl Rose. Just one of the most influential rock albums ever.”
Straight Outta Compton
N.W.A, Straight Outta Compton (1988)
Label: Ruthless/Priority/EMI Records
Yelawolf: “What music, what artist of any culture, of any genre has N.W.A not influenced? N.W.A came out during one of the most controversial times of artistic racial issues. Like you had the collabo record with all the artists with ‘All in the Same Gang’ and all these conscious records coming out. And then you had this N.W.A group who just didn’t give a fuck about nothing.
I was getting bussed from the suburbs and the apartment homes in Antioch, Tennessee downtown to the projects. So I was dealing with this real life paradox and N.W.A just gave me some sense of... I don’t know, they just made me want to be a part of it. I ain’t going to lie I ended up buying a Raiders jacket.
“To come up from Alabama, and living in Tennessee and Georgia at the time... You have to kind of understand how that would look. I was getting bussed from the suburbs and the apartment homes in Antioch, Tennessee downtown to the projects.
"So I was dealing with this real life paradox and N.W.A just gave me some sense of... I don’t know, they just made me want to be a part of it. I ain’t going to lie I ended up buying a Raiders jacket, a Raiders starter coat. I wanted to be a part of that, I wanted to feel that. It was like this new sense of punk rock, this new sense of this place to rage.
“I remember I was [a little kid], me and my boy used to dress head to toe in matching Dickie suits, Bo Jackson cross trainers, everything. I used to rock a beeper in my Dickies because of that album. We wanted to be that. Just ridiculousness.”
Garth Brooks, No Fences (1990)
Label: Capitol Nashville
Yelawolf: “I’m a huge fan of country music and I love a lot of old-school country like Hank Williams, Charlie Daniels, Travis Tritt, and George Straight. But the reason I put Garth Brooks' No Fences is because it’s one of the best country albums ever written with ‘Thunder Rolls,’ ‘Rodeo,’ ‘Friends in Low Places.’
“I love this album. I can’t say enough about this album. I’ve listened to country music most of my life but there’s not an album out there that really touches base like this album. Johnny Cash doesn’t really count because Johnny Cash is country but he’s more punk rock/rock and roll outlaw country.
"Garth Brooks is like country country. I hated that he sold out to do some R&B shit, but the No Fences album is amazing. I don’t give a fuck what he’s done after or whatever, all I know is that No Fences is incredible.”
Nirvana, Nevermind (1991)
Yelawolf: “I mean, it kind of goes without saying. Kurt Cobain and David Grohl created a brilliant album—and Grohl went on to be one of the biggest, most influential rock stars of our time with Foo Fighters. Nevermind was just a part of my childhood that I’ll never forget. I was doing a lot of drugs around that time.”
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
Label: Warner Bros.
Yelawolf: “Anthony Kiedis is one of my favorite artists of all time and is one of the original MCs of rock and roll. One of the first rappers to bridge rock and roll and hip-hop into one. I love Anthony Kiedis and Blood Sugar Sex Magik is one of my favorite albums.”
Dr. Dre, The Chronic (1992)
Label: Death Row/Interscope/Priority
Yelawolf: “The Chronic was a hip-hop album that influenced every hip-hop head in the world, whether you’re backpacker hip-hop, super underground shit, or whether you was mainstream or this, that, and the third. Dre was able to capture a sound that made you appreciate everything. The Chronic is an album that made everybody want to put on a fucking head-to-toe Dickies suit and some Bo Jackson cross trainers and a Raiders starter hat. It influenced everybody.”
Primus, Pork Soda (1993)
Yelawolf: “It had songs like ‘What’s the Race Car Driver’ and ‘Let’s Play Pool.’ If you listen to the Catfish Billy—all the articulate Southern rhymes that I kick—a lot can be pulled from where Les Claypool delivered his rhymes and delivered his music. It’s very exaggerated, it’s very to the syllable, to the beat, to the snare, to the high hat, very articulate. So I chose Pork Soda.”
Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space)
Digable Planets, Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) (1993)
Label: Pendulum/Elektra Records
Yelawolf: “When Nirvana’s Nevermind was playing, it was Nirvana and this album [that I was playing]. In Tennessee and in the South period we didn’t even understand that style. That approach to hip-hop—that fully jazz influenced, spoken-word hip-hop shit—we had no clue about.
“We couldn’t even begin to think of something like that, because we weren’t surrounded by that musical influence. We just weren’t. The South was influenced by bounce. So when that came out, I felt I was the coolest person on Earth for even knowing about it. Lyrically, I felt like I was listening to fucking Pink Floyd or some shit. That’s how it made you feel.”
Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers
Wu-Tang Clan, Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers (1993)
Yelawolf: “36 Chambers took over everybody’s life when we were all just a bunch of skate rats in the streets of Nashville to Atlanta. There is nothing in hip-hop ever that felt more hardcore than Wu-Tang Clan. Never.
“Usually you would listen to Slayer or Sepultura to get hyped to go skate. If you want to throw yourself down a 12-stair hand rail, or get ready to jump down a china door, or tre flip down a ten-stair or some shit, you would throw on heavy metal. Wu-Tang was able to capture that energy. It was the first hip-hop group that we had ever heard that captured the darkness, just the illest darkness ever.”
Portishead, Dummy (1994)
Label: Go! Beat
Yelawolf: “I slept on this album when I first got Dummy. My aunt gave me Dummy for Christmas. I was too young to appreciate what I was listening to. Then the older I got...Oh my God, man. I just started falling in love with this album. The way they intertwined jazz, rock and roll, and hip-hop drum breaks, and this woman with this beautiful voice.”
Group Home, Living Proof (1995)
Label: Payday/FFRR/PolyGram Records
Yelawolf: “There’s not many albums I can recite most words to, front to back. Living Proof is one of them. When Group Home dropped Living Proof I was living with my mom in a single-bedroom apartment in Nashville. Nobody understood why the fuck I was listening to Group Home.
“Everybody else was listening to Skinny Pimp, Three 6 Mafia, 8Ball & MJG, and Cash Money, but I was up on Group Home. That’s all I was listening to. I don’t know why I made the connection that I did, but it was something about Premier’s production. I just felt such a connection to it. To this day it’s one of my favorite hip-hop albums of all time.”
Outkast, Aquemini (1998)
Yelawolf: “Can’t say enough about Outkast. Outkast is the greatest rap group that ever lived. Most creative, most influential. Outkast of course made a huge impact on everybody, even when they dropped Southernplayastic. But Aquemini was the album that changed my perspective on where hip-hop could go, especially from the South.
“‘SpottieOttieDopaliscious’ was a record on Aquemini that was just a moment in music and a moment in hip-hop that made everybody check themselves on what was possible. It brought everybody back down to ground roots.”
The Marshall Mathers LP
Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
Yelawolf: “With this particular project I think Marshall broadened where people thought he could go. As a songwriter and as an MC he exemplified the difference between the MC and a worldwide voice. He did records on that particular album that pulled you outside of the Slim Shady LP. It took you somewhere else, and I think that’s really hard to do for any MC—to make that bridge. He did it perfectly.”
American VI: Ain’t No Grave
Johnny Cash, American VI: Ain’t No Grave (2010)
Label: American/Lost Highway
Yelawolf: “That was the last album he put out. I picked that album because it’s the last album that he put out. It was produced by Rick Rubin. I was just so touched by it. We all hope to live long lives and to put out records as adults, and if we are so fortunate we can put out records as seniors and really put our heart and soul into a song.”