2011, & Yelawolf releases his debut studio album, “”. An album that showed promise, but was drastically held back by the plethora of features and a weird sound of intrusive beats mixed with empty, pop-influenced lyrics. Forgotten about weeks after its release, it was hard to see where Yelawolf could go next.
4 years, and 4 mixtapes later, Yela follows up with his second attempt, “Love Story”, and it’s fair to say he has finally chosen his direction within hip-hop. However, the albums first track, “Outer Space”, does its best to contradict this. Chosen as a promotional song for Battlefield, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Yelawolf was still struggling to mix country and rap in a way that works. It’s a weird way to begin what is essentially a country-rap album, but thankfully it’s a mere blot on a page of which many will regard as Yela’s magnum opus.
Hailing from, and still residing in, Gadsden, Alabama, Yela is a country boy through and through, and you can tell straight away with the second track, “Changes”, that this album is something that he’s wanted to make but didn’t feel he could. The subtle guitar, eerie background vocals, and soft crooning over the top all come together to create a song that sounds just as poignant being played in a dark room than it does in the blaring sunshine, and things only get better from this point on. Despite being marketed as a rap album, Yela stays true to the tropes of classic country, and hearing him talk about his dealings with music, heartbreak, death, religion, and love is a refreshing look into the soul of a previously-tortured artist who just wants to be heard.
This is no more evident than on “Devil in my Veins”, where he begs for forgiveness for all the sins he has committed in his life. Despite not being known as a hugely religious artist, Yela’s soft vocals, mixed with the dark, depressing lyrics, make it hard to not feel sorry for a man who can’t seem to escape his demons. This is a theme that continues throughout the whole album, and while I doubt many other artists can pull this off, Yela is able to blend these topics into a cohesive project that gets better with each additional listen. Whether it’s the Slumerican lifestyle portrayed on “Box Chevy V”, an ode to his-now fiancé on “Tennessee Love”, or a dedication to his recently deceased Great Grandmother on the hauntingly beautiful “Have a Great Flight”, Yela makes sure that you never get tired of listening to the same thing.
Despite the subject matter staying relatively similar, the instrumentals really help differentiate each track. With help on production from long-time collaborator WillPower, he also recruits Malay for the first time since “Trunk Musik 0-60”, and bringing in a producer known for his soulful sounds was a genius move on Yela’s part. The production is obviously simple, but deceptively brilliant. You could pick up a guitar and replicate most instrumentals with nothing else, but it’s the little snares and layering of drums within the vocals that will cause you to close your eyes and nod along slowly, all the while realising that this is a pretty damn good album.
However, despite a lot of the album staying rooted to his country roots, Yela does mix it up a couple of times, to a varying degree of success. The album’s 10th track, “Heartbreak”, describes his problems with his ex-wife, and despite arguably being the most commercial track on the album, it’s the one that most people will be able to relate to. The hook gets more aggressive each time until he is practically screaming, and it’s hard to think of a song about heartbreak that’s shown as much hurt and passion since Eminem released “Kim”, 15 years ago. Unfortunately, the album’s closer, “Fiddle Me This”, isn’t quite as successful in changing things up. Hearing such an up-tempo beat after 16 slower tracks comes as quite a shock, and not a hugely welcome one. Despite this track being a look into his thoughts while making the album, as well as a thank you for listening, it just sounds out of place, and one that won’t be getting quite as much play as the others. But as Yela himself says on this track, “Yeah I’ve done come a long way from Dixie Land, take my hand”, and it’s hard to disagree.
Many fans will listen to this album and they will have complaints about the lack of “Trunk Musik” Yelawolf, where he goes in over hard, club-type beats,
but Yela himself has mentioned that he wants this album to signify a new beginning for him, and it’s obvious he poured his heart and soul into making that happen.
This isn’t an album that will click with everyone, and if you’re expecting songs such as “Hard White”, you’d be better off checking out something else, but if you approach this album with 75 minutes spare, an open mind, and a not-so-perfect life, then you might just discover your new favourite album.
Have a Great Flight
Devil In My Veins
Fiddle Me This