The lights come on at the Iron City, an intimate venue in the heart of Birmingham, Alabama. Fans pile out the door. A select few people with VIP lanyards stand in a line. Smiles on their faces. Sitting in the adjacent, The Grill at Iron City, is Yelawolf, wearing aviators and still sweating from the show.
Yelawolf, born in Gadsden Alabama, has always stuck to his southern roots, evidenced by the “Heart of Dixie” tattoo on his stomach. Though he is known for being a rapper, he says he thinks of himself as more of a rock star. Since the release of the album ‘Love Story’ in 2015, his music has become a reflection of the redneck culture he was raised in.
His third studio album, ‘Trial by Fire’, was release on October 27th. The album follows in the footsteps of, ‘Love Story’, which tells the story of country boy raised on folk music and urban hip hop. Mixing banjoes and guitar twangs that are reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd with Harlem-like snares and drum fills, Yelawolf seamlessly blends two of American music’s most contrasting genres. His return to his southern roots diverts from the path, getting him away from the fast-talking city rap of previous projects.
“The record is empowering creatively for me. It was really gratifying to make the project and it’s making sense to people,” said Yelawolf speaking to Ural Garret of HiphopDX.
The change to a more country style is not only prevalent in his music but also in his fashion. Once known for wearing hoodies and bright red basketball shoes, Yelawolf’s clothing choices resemble the outlaw style so prevalent in the Nashville music scene. With cut off shirts, his tattoos serving as sleeves, and a western hat, Yelawolf is quickly emerging as an iconic image of Dixie.
Though he is changing artistically, he remains humble. He is not active on twitter. His Instagram is mostly made up of shout outs to other artists and people who are important to his career.
‘Trial by Fire’ continues to build on the momentum of ‘Love Story’. Some fans hope that he returns to the drum slapping songs of his early project. All signs point to his change to a country rap style becoming a permanent one.
As the crowd begins to shrink I watch as one by one the fans walk up to Yelawolf, shake hands, take a picture and then leave. With each person, he smiles and speaks softly, proof of his southern heritage. It doesn’t take long to see that he is genuinely happy to speak to each fan, an often-rare trait for the modern-day celebrity.
[Feature Image by Flickr User adrien mustredo]