In 2011, Yelawolf was on a victory run. The half-Cherokee rapper born Michael Wayne Atha had escaped a dangerous career in deep-sea fishing, weeks of homelessness and being dropped from Columbia by Rick Rubin to prove he was rap’s next big star. Atha had raw talent and could rhyme over any style of music, even embracing his country roots without coming across as yet another novelty act. Trunk Muzik released the year prior had amassed a huge online following and Eminem quickly signed Yelawolf as one of the first acts on the newly revived Shady Records. Spirits were understandably high when he told XXL in an interview that year: “I can tell you that when you’re willing to give your life up to see a dream through, the reward is great. And now that I’ve become an apprentice to one of the greatest artists in the world, my potential reaches beyond anything I ever imagined.”
Unfortunately his debut album Radioactive never delivered on his potential. Atha sounded misplaced on several tracks containing uncomfortable collaborations, uninspired beats and forced crossover attempts, later admitting he had given up creative control to his formerly trusted production company. In 2012 he suffered a ruptured spleen during a performance in Wisconsin and was placed in the Intensive Care Unit, an accident that he credits for putting his life under renewed focus. Determined to put out a project that his fans deserved, Yelawolf released the Trunk Muzik Returns mixtape last year. He spent the latter half of 2013 recording his second LP in a secluded Nashville studio with only a few close collaborators. During our interview we talked about the recording process this time around, convincing Big Boi to let him rap, working with Eminem and which “Box Chevy” chapter is his favourite. Recharged and shaking off the ghost of Radioactive, Yelawolf is convinced sophomore album Love Story will continue his return to form. I for one believe him.