Now THIS is the type of record I love hearing from Yelawolf. I am posting this a few days after first hearing it because of today’s (monumental?) announcement that Yelawolf has signed to Shady Records. I think this occasion is worth more than cursory thought, but, briefly, two things:
1) I hope Yelawolf doesn’t go the way of so many other Shady/Aftermath signees–both young gunners and established talents have watched their careers stall or fizzle in the house of Mathers, Young, and Iovine. The flipside, of course, is that no Hip-Hop label has experienced the popular success, concentrated though it may have been, that Shady has. So it seems that history is at least partially on the side of this newest alliance. That of course doesn’t account for the vicissitudes of the market, the label’s ability to sell an artist/image, and the marketability of an artist. Which leads me to my next point…
2) Yelawolf’s mixtapes have been filled with ostensibly genuine moments of personal expression (songs like “Brown Sugar” and “Love Is Not Enough” come to mind) along with snarky, sharp redneck wit and swagger (“I Wish,” “Pop the Trunk,” the “Box Chevy” series). Through in skilled storytelling and a penchant for intriguing and, at best, bizarre imagery, and you have the makings of a very fine emcee. Songs like “Shit I’ve Seen” give us this version on almost full display (it would be very difficult to fit all of those characteristics into one song). I’m not saying Yelawolf shouldn’t change his formula slightly in response to the potential increase in the scope of his reach. I think, however, he should look to the back catalogue of his now labelmate/head Eminem to see how a rapper can combine these elements with a pop mentality to find success. There’s a lot more to it than that and there are more examples (Lil Wayne springs immediately to mind) that prove such a path isn’t impossible. I’m just hoping Yelawolf is more Marshall Mathers than Asher Roth in terms of his commercial output.
Also, it’s nice to see Slaughterhouse getting signed even if the climate isn’t necessarily right for this sort of thing (maybe it is? maybe they can move 20-30k in albums?). Perhaps that additional signing hints that Shady Records might not nudge new signees along a more pop-minded path. But, since they’re a business, and businesses are in the business of making money, that is doubtful. Nothing to do but watch it play out.