Yelawolf, Love Story © Interscope

Review: Yelawolf Delivers An Eclectic Effort With ‘Love Story’

Yelawolf, Love Story © Interscope

Yelawolf • Love Story • Interscope • US Release Date: April 21, 2015

It’s no shock that Alabaman rapper Yelawolf’s first major label tanked. If it wasn’t known, Yelawolf makes listeners aware: “One, my last record flopped / two, it wasn’t my time.” Whether 2015 is Yelawolf’s time, only time and sales will tell. Regardless, if Yelawolf was aiming for a commercial album, Love Story isn’t it. Instead, Love Story is an eclectic effort with some truly enticing moments. Arguably none of them seem prime candidates to ‘breakthrough,’ but with commercial aspirations set aside, Yelawolf has made an album that’s easily worthy of partaking.

Throughout its course, Yelawolf poses himself as something of a southern hip-hop cowboy, hence including elements of rock, singer/songwriter fare, and country. This characterization separates Yelawolf from the multitude, not to mention executive producer Eminem. “Outer Space” kicks things off with a bang, capturing the listener’s attention with its ample profanity and unique production. “Change” is equally alluring; as the majority of the record is sung before Yelawolf explodes with fiery rhymes. From the get-go, Yela is on another planet, and to quote Jack Nicholson via Mars Attacks, “Ain’t that ain’t bad!”

“American You” is a lovely record and like everything else, quite unexpected. Even though there’s little that’s hip-hop about this joint for the majority, within Love Story early on, it’s the most accessible, infectious song – it’s no surprise it’s a single.   If “American You” is too pop-centric, the rock-fueled production of “Whiskey In A Bottle” – not to mention aggressive, unapologetic rhymes by Yelawolf – will definitely tickle your fancy.

Following the soulful balladry of interlude “Ball And Chain,” “Till It’s Gone” benefits from driving, southern production and Yelawolf’s pointed, agile rhymes. As great as he spits the verses, he also sounds terrific singing the memorable hook, “Ain’t much I can do but I do what I can / But I’m not a fool, there’s no need to pretend / just because you got yourself in some s**t / it doesn’t mean I have to come deal with it.” “Devil in My Veins” comes off as an old school country/folk ballad, rivaling say “The House of The Rising Sun” for a comparison point. Should it work? Maybe not, but given Yelawolf’s strong ties with the south and a compelling singing voice, it does.

If “Devil” was too far left of center, the triumphant “Best Friend” atones for all improprieties. Yelawolf’s unique tone of voice is perfect for this introspective, spiritual song and adding a razor sharp Eminem only makes things better. Certainly a hard act to follow, “Empty Bottles” doesn’t do too shabby. However, “Heartbreak” one-ups, with its gospel-infused, soulful production and Yelawolf’s frank raps. “Heartbreak” has a similar vibe to “Whiskey In A Bottle” and “Best Friend” – it ranks among the best.

On “Tennessee Love,” Yelawolf shows his romantic side, hence contrasting the edgier, heart wrenching “Heartbreak.” “I’d never let someone straight up disrespect you / I’d never let someone call you out your name…” – in other words, Yelawolf is going to hold her – Fefe Dobson down. Need more proof – “Can I put this ring on your finger? Let you know that I’m serious, marry me now.” After falling in “Tennessee Love,” Yelawolf raps about his Chevy on “Box Chevy V” – it wouldn’t be the first time. Sure, it’s tried and true, but he makes it appealing.

“If God is my angel, the f**king devil’s the pistol / better put your face behind safety glass when I load up.” Wow! Yelawolf ‘goes hard’ on the title track, which is certainly unexpected given the song title. “Johnny Cash” is about his career as a rapper, ultimately aspiring to be as big as the celebrity that graces the song title. What’s more fitting than another song referencing the south/country? “Have A Flight” is another non-traditional, un-hip-hop number, but perhaps that’s what makes it stand out.

On “Sky’s The Limit,” Yelawolf criticizes ‘The American Dream,’ considering it ultimately to be flawed: “They say the sky is the limit / well I guess it depends on you / in your views / in this American dream.” His verses are incredibly realistic, painting the darker side of life. He follows up with the emotional penultimate track “Disappear,” which ranks among the heaviest of the album. Smartly, Yelawolf closes energetically on the country-rap amalgam, “Fiddle Me This.”

Ultimately, Love Story is a fine sophomore album from Yelawolf that is very different from his debut Radioactive. Regardless how one views his stylistic fluctuations, the material that Yelawolf presents and statements he makes are strong. The biggest rub is the length, which clocks in at a rare 75 minutes. Even so there are ample moments that make Love Story notable.

Favorites: “American You,” “Whiskey In A Bottle,” “Till It’s Gone,” “Best Friend” featuring Eminem, “Heartbreak” 


Opinion: Brad Paisley’s “Accidental Racist” Misses Its Mark, Sends Its Message Sorta

Wheelhouse houses controversial track “Accidental Racist”.

I haven’t had the chance to listen to the entirety of country singer Brad Paisley‘s latest effort, Wheelhouse. As an artist in a genre in which I’m more of a casual listener, Brad Paisley is one of my favorites – he’s got a great since of humor and can play a mean guitar.  That said, my homeboy is drawing some criticism because of a certain track called “Accidental Racist” (Accidental Racist: How Bad Punditry Makes Bad … ).  “Accidental Racist” features veteran rapper LL Cool J and is written by Paisley, LL Cool J, and Lee Thomas Miller.

Brad Paisley seems like a good ole southern boy.

The idea Paisley seeks to achieve on  “Accidental Racist” is noble; He is trying to mend broken bridges, do away with misunderstandings, and ease racial divides, etc.  The execution and final results of  the cut miss.  The problem is that perhaps Paisley is plays up those  same divisive stereotypes, even though they are with good intention:  “I’m just a white man / coming to you from a south land / tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be / I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done / And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history / our generation didn’t start this nation / we’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday / and caught between southern pride and southern blame”.  Out of the refrain, he is quick to point out race, minding what you say/act, and the infamy of the south.

LL Cool J, an odd match for Paisley (or any country artist for that matter), makes things even more

LL Cool J raps about ‘sagging pants’ and ‘chains’…

awkward arguably, posing as a ‘Black Yankee’: “Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood / what the world is really like when you’re livin’ in the hood / just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good…Now my chains are gold but I’m still misunderstood / I wasn’t there when Sherman’s March turned the south into firewood…” Oh brother!  Even more ‘laughable’ (not really), is as Paisley continues to sing after LL’s verse, he chants random things in relation to racial differences (“if you don’t judge my doo rag, I won’t judge your red flag…”).

If “Accidental Racist” weren’t so stereotypical and perhaps simple-minded, would it be considered a really ‘good’ song musically? No. The cut is too long and drawn out at just under six minutes in duration; a quicker pace certainly wouldn’t have hurt.  While there is a distinct form about the songwriting, perhaps Paisley didn’t need a bridge given LL Cool J’s verse, or visa versa.  The point is, Brad Paisley likely had good intentions, sparked a reaction (which gets you talking about the particular record/topic), but doesn’t deliver the perfect song with the perfect lyrics to match his intentions.  Pundits will pick it apart, but ultimately Wheelhouse has 16 other songs, some of which I’m sure are stronger and probably more notable.