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Yelawolf Says ‘Eminem Cares,’ Explains Spazzing on a Tween

Chris McKay, WireImage

Yelawolf made headlines in January when he was added to the elite roster at Eminem’s Shady Records, but the ink on that paperwork has dried and the Alabama-born, skateboard-savvy rapper is ready to make his official debut via the house that Marshall built. According to the 31-year-old, his upcoming album, ‘Radioactive,’ is complete, Eminem-approved and ready for an October release.

Still soaring off the success of his ‘Trunk Muzik 0-60′ mixtape, Catfish Billy is now preparing for his Hard White tour, which borrows its title from the album’s Lil Jon-featured single ‘Hard White (Up In The Paint).’ On his latest cross-country jaunt, which kicks off in Mississippi today (Sept. 28), Yela will perform a mix of favorites from ‘Trunk Muzik,’ along with selected cuts from his as-yet unreleased LP. In addition to adding more visual elements to his energetic stage shows, he’s particularly excited about working with DJ Craze, who he believes will set the mood for each performance.

On his debut, Yelawolf says he was careful to craft an album that demonstrated his growth, but also remained true to the aesthetic that fans were enthusiastic about on ‘Trunk Muzik 0-60.’ Selecting complementary features was a key part of the process and after recording most of the record in Vegas, he worked with Eminem to compose what he describes as a “fluid album.”

The BoomBox caught up with the tattooed MC in NYC recently, where he performed at a private Shady Records event hosted at a pop-up Brisk Bodega. With just over a month left before his album’s premiere on Oct. 24, Yela admits he’s prepared to deal with the inevitable leak. After losing his cool when the new single, ‘Gangster of Love,’ prematurely hit the internet in July, he’s kept his distance from Twitter, and remains content, so long as fans enjoy the album, and buy it afterwards.

How many songs did you originally record for ‘Radioactive’?

We did 20-something records that we had to squash down into one deluxe version with 16 tracks, and then the regular album with 14 tracks. It was really difficult to take out records because we had a lot of great ones, but I think we came up with a really good, fluid album. I’m excited about it and I can’t wait for people to hear it.

Is the sound very different from the tracks you put out on ‘Trunk Muzik’?

There’s definitely growth on the album, but we made sure to not alienate ‘Trunk Muzik’ fans by jumping straight into mainstream pop records. From the first song to the last song, the album grows; the album itself evolves as it plays through. It beings with a really raw, really street, super 808-driven sound and grows into some more organic records. We made sure that fans of ‘Trunk Muzik’ will be accounted for.

Watch Yelawolf’s ‘Hard White’ Featuring Lil Jon

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Did you get a lot of creative input from your boss, Eminem?

When I first told Marshall I had an album, he said, “You’ve got a what?” I told him I recorded the album in Vegas, and his response was “Let me hear that s—!” The next day we set up some time to play it for him and he was like, “Wow, this s— could really be something,” so we took it from there. We already had 12 or 13 really good records — or at least, they were in the direction that we wanted to go — so we worked with him to finalize the album. He became fully involved with the music, which was really dope. It was an honor.

That’s a lucky break since some artists get signed and receive very little help.

Well, Marshall’s still an artist. He’s definitely the boss of Shady Records but he still cares a lot about the music. I mean really, that’s the main thing, because without the music, none of this exists. The main focus was doing it right and trying to make classics.

What do you think is your biggest accomplishment on ‘Radioactive’?

I got some things off of my chest that I haven’t talked about so far, on a very personal level. Another achievement was locking down the features that I really wanted to get. Not just features for the sake of features, or just because of who the artist is, but ones that really made a great record. What’s the point of getting two big names but not making a classic? I think we really pulled off great records with our features.

The Lil Jon feature on your first single, ‘Hard White (Up In The Club),’ was a bit surprising. How’d that come about?

Lil Jon‘s a perfect example of a great feature. I recorded ‘Hard White (Up In The Club)’ in Vegas and my whole crew thought that could be the first leak we put out. Then a few day later, my boy KP said, “Come listen to the mix,” and when I got to the studio, Lil Jon was already on it. I was surprised but that s—’s dope. Lil Jon as classic Lil Jon came out on the track — he was there doing ad-libs and being the crunk man and really the hype man for the record, which he’s known for. A lot of people are getting Lil Jon for verses, but we really wanted that crunk Jon, so that’s what we got and it fit the record perfectly.

Taylor Hill, Getty Images

Why’d you run with ‘Hard White’ as the name of your current tour?

We were going to go the ‘Radioactive’ route, but since the album will be dropping during tour, we wanted people to get familiar with the music before we started touring with it. We’re mixing it up with some of the favorites from Trunk Muzik and some of our favorites from the new album, that we feel will translate well into a live show, for people who haven’t heard it yet. The tour coming after the Hard White tour will be the Radioactive tour.

You’ve been on the road often in the past year. Got anything special in store for this tour?

I’m bringing out DJ Craze for this show. I’m all about my show and I’m really all about a great DJ because I think that changes everything during a performance. I’m very lucky to have Craze come out. It’s something he didn’t have to do, but he wanted to be a part of it because he’s a fan of the music and of course I’m a fan of his. We’ve been rehearsing and putting the show together and it’s going to be a much more visual show. We’re growing up and we have a lot of surprises in store for people.

A new song, ‘Gangster of Love,’ leaked a couple months ago and you went nuts on Twitter. Are you still too pissed off to return to the site?

I might return, but honestly, the break and the rest has been really good for me creatively and focus-wise. When you pick up your phone every day, six or seven times a day to tweet, what is that? For me, that’s wasted energy, especially during a time like this when I’m creating an album and coming up with my artwork. I’m really working on a craft to give to people, because without that product and without music, there’s nothing to even talk about on Twitter. I felt like I was really protecting myself from saying some crazy s—. I can’t be having an argument with someone that I don’t even f—ing know. I ended up cussing out some 12-year-old kid one day and I didn’t even realize! So for now, the account is still active and Yelawolf.com is up, with all of my tour dates. So people can check that out.

If the album leaked, would you completely lose it? Or have you come to terms with it?

I’m not gonna lose it. I might lose it somewhere in a closed room and break some s—, but I’ve already been warned. Marshall’s already told me, “Yo, dude, it’s gonna leak, just get over it.” I kind of accept that once it goes to press, it’s out of my hands and there’s nothing I can do about it; just as long as people enjoy it, I’ll be happy. It’ll be in the stores and for people who want to go buy it, it’s there, and I hope that they do.

Getting any new tattoos to commemorate the album release?

Know what? Yeah. Just ’cause you said it. Thanks!

But no face tattoos, right?

Nah, nah. I’m good on the face. I’m not gonna do that. No face tats — for now. No, never.

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