Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 14, 2011 12:10
In 2007, the Chevy-championing 'Bama rapper Michael Wayne Atha, most notably known as Yelawolf, was signed to Columbia Records but cut less than a year later after Rick Rubin took over the label.
What's one man's loss is another's gain and although it took three years, Yelawolf returned to the Interscope affiliate on which he was first scouted by Columbia, Ghett-O-Vision. Shortly after releasing his mixtape Trunk Musik, the Wolf signed to Eminem's label Shady Records, on which he plans to release his next album, Radioactive, on November 21.
The album had all hands on deck, produced by, among others, Eminem, Jim Jonsin and Travis Barker. Itwill technically be Yelawolf's second full album and first in six years. College Times interviewed Yelawolf a few months ago about the imaginary line between of artist and rapper.
College Times: Do you remember when you went from Catfish Billy to Yelawolf?
Michael Wayne Atha: It's actually the opposite. I've been Yelawolf for a long time, but I was writing a record with Witchdoctor [from the Dungeon Family] with my boy Skatezilla and I wrote a line that said something about Catfish Billy climbing around in a verse and my boys started calling me Catfish and it kind of stuck. Then it became my character, you know what I'm saying, kind of getting off on all that super-country, redneck shit. But, uh, that was '07.
I read that before you started doing rap and hip-hop you considered starting a band with a banjo. Is that correct?
No. [laughs] That is also false. I did a rap project and been rapping, putting mixed tapes out and shit, and I did Creek Water, then I went to ATL, put a demo together for Columbia, I got a deal with Columbia as an emcee, after that I put out a mixed tape called Ball of Flames [:The Ballad of Slick Rick E. Bobby], it's another rap mixed tape, got out of Columbia […] then I put out another mixed tape called Stereo, which was hip-hop signature classic rock. After that, my DJ came out and he started drumming, so we bought him a drum set, and he would jump from the turntables to the drums. Then, we added a guitar, then we added a banjo, then we got my boy Ashanti who can play the fiddle, then my boy Malay who plays slide guitar and we did a project called Arena Rap with that band. We did that for a while, then my team was like, 'Hey, man, do a rap project. Maybe we can get you a deal if you do a rap project.' So, I did. I took my boy WillPower, just me and WillPower, who is like a producer, beat-programmer, 808 genius, and I put together Trunk Musik, the mixtape. After Trunk Musik, the rest is history. Now I'm at Shady [Records]. But, uh, I didn't start as a band. I started rapping, you know, making beats and shit. […]Put it this way, if I do music, I don't play music live that's not made live. I think it's lame when rappers play their music live when it's all 808, programmed, synthesized music. It doesn't sound the same. It's not the same. […] I do whatever I wanna do. I might do a live band record. I might just do two turn tables and a microphone.
Do you play any instruments?
I've been playing guitar for a little while now. I'll learn piano as I go along. I play a little bit, but I play guitar. Maybe in a few years I'll play live, but I've got to get really sharp, you know, before I step out on stage with a guitar.
You use one of my favorite Doors songs, "Waiting for the Sun," on your Stereo mixed tape. Then, when I met you at Warped Tour, I noticed you had "Riders of the Storm" tattooed on your neck. So, why the affinity for The Doors?
Well, I have "Riders of the Storm" because of my trip out to Alaska. I was on a boat for a full season doing deep-sea commercial fishing, like "Deadliest Catch"shit, and we went through some really bad storms. So, instead of "Riders on the Storm," I did "Riders of the Storm" because I actually went through it. But, yeah, I think Morrison – I think there are certain people, man, who come into this world that are just really touched, just very, very special. Poets and artists and those dudes are unreal to me. The style, the soul, the rhythm and his personality offstage and onstage, I just really admire that kind of relentlessness and rebelliousness and, you know, kind of like the middle finger to the world kind of thing.
But, you know, at the same time he was incredibly self-destructive.
Most artists are. […] It's not easy being a muse. You don't really see what comes along with – like, I just now, I had to stop drinking. I'd been really drunk for years, honestly. I might take a day or two, but I had just now in the past week I hadn't drank in like eight days and that's a big, big deal for me because I just find myself hammered and fucking drunk in a club and, like, not really realizing people recognize me as an artist. You know, just forgetting that and not knowing how to ... you just want to disappear. I was pretty fortunate I found hard and heavy drugs at a young age so I got burnt out on acid, cocaine and, fucking, you know anything else I used to do.