Michael Wayne Atha (born December 30, 1979), better known by his stage name Yelawolf, is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. Born and raised in Gadsden, Alabama, Atha embarked on his career in 2005, releasing independent solo material from then until 2010; he released one extended play (EP) and four mixtapes. It was not until 2010's Trunk Muzik EP that Yelawolf started to gain mainstream attention. The same year would see Yelawolf sign a record deal with Interscope Records. His first release on a major label would be a somewhat reworked Trunk Muzik, titled Trunk Muzik 0-60 which shared six tracks from Trunk Muzik.
Yelawolf performing at Blue Ridge Rock Fest, 2019
|Birth name||Michael Wayne Atha|
|Born||December 30, 1979|
Gadsden, Alabama, United States
|Genres||Hip hop, country rap|
|Years active||2005 – present|
In January 2011, Yelawolf signed a recording deal with Eminem's record label, Shady Records, and released his second studio album, Radioactive on November 21, 2011. The album debuted at number 27 on the Billboard 200. Yelawolf released a sequel to his breakthrough mixtape Trunk Muzik, titled Trunk Muzik Returns on March 14, 2013. His third album, Love Story, was released on April 21, 2015. His fourth album, Trial by Fire, was released on October 27, 2017. His fifth album, expected to be his last under Shady Records, Trunk Muzik III, was released on March 29, 2019. His sixth studio album, Ghetto Cowboy, and first independent studio album since signing to Eminem's imprint, was released on October 31, 2019.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Musical career
- 3 Critical reception
- 4 Influences
- 5 Slumerican
- 6 Personal life
- 7 Discography
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Michael Wayne Atha was born on December 30, 1979, in Gadsden, Alabama. He has described himself as "[representing] the people that are the core of America". While he was raised as a white American, he has said his stage name was "inspired by his father, who is reportedly Cherokee." His mother Sheila, whom he claims was a "rockstar", gave birth to him when she was just sixteen years old. Throughout his childhood, Atha moved often. He spent much of his time in Antioch, Tennessee, and attended Carter Lawrence Elementary School in Nashville, which was located near housing projects. He says that during that time, "hip hop started making sense to me. That's where hip hop made sense culturally."
Regarding his stage name, Yelawolf has said, "Yelawolf is Native American. My father is Cherokee and I’m from Cherokee county – Gadsden, Alabama. Yela represents light, the sun, power, fire, hunger and Wolf represents my ability to survive… my fierceness."
2005–2009: early careerEdit
In 2005, Yelawolf appeared on the UPN Network reality series The Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott. After his elimination from the show, he released his independent debut album Creekwater in 2005, later the same year he released his debut mixtape Pissin' in a Barrel of Beez. Two years later, Yelawolf signed to Columbia Records and released the single "Kickin'" from the album, Fearin' and Loathin' in Smalltown, U.S.A.. The album was never released, and Yelawolf was dropped from the label later that year. Yelawolf released two mixtapes following his release from Columbia, titled Ball of Flames: The Ballad of Slick Rick E. Bobby and Stereo: A Hip Hop Tribute to Classic Rock, both of which went mainly unnoticed, although Stereo is often mentioned by fans as some of his best work. In 2009, he signed with Ghet-O-Vision Entertainment and released his debut extended play Arena Rap.
2009–2011: Trunk Muzik and RadioactiveEdit
In 2009, he began to work with Ghet-O-Vision producer, WLPWR, on his 2009 breakthrough mixtape titled Trunk Muzik. Released in January 2010, the mixtape created an enormous online following for Yelawolf. Later that year, Yelawolf signed a major record deal with Interscope Records, and began to work on a re-release of the project, titled Trunk Muzik 0-60. It was released on November 22, 2010, under Ghet-O-Vision Entertainment and Interscope Records, which became his most acclaimed work at that time. In 2010 and 2011, he raised his profile by making guest appearances on albums by rappers Big Boi, Paul Wall, Tech N9ne, Travis Barker, Gucci Mane, and Big K.R.I.T., among others.
In March 2011, after speculation of a joint record deal with Eminem, Yelawolf was featured on the cover of XXL's March 2011 issue, with Eminem and fellow new Shady Records signees Slaughterhouse, with the issue confirming his record deal with Shady Records. Yelawolf was also featured among the XXL's Top 11 Freshmen of 2011, releasing several songs on the magazine's yearly Freshman mixtape, along with Kendrick Lamar, Cyhi Da Prynce and Big K.R.I.T., among others. On April 14, 2011, Yelawolf announced the title of his debut Shady release "Radioactive" with a release date that aimed for September. On May 18, Yelawolf announced his album's first single, titled "Gangsta of Love", produced by Jim Jonsin and featuring Cyhi Da Prynce. The song was leaked in early July, although it only featured unfinished vocals by Cyhi da Prynce at the end of the song. The song was later scrapped and no longer appeared on the album. Yelawolf partnered up with the video game Driver: San Francisco to release a music video for the song "No Hands" which was supposed to be included in Radioactive, but was later scrapped. On August 8, 2011, Yelawolf released the first official single from his album, titled "Hard White (Up in the Club)", which features guest vocals from a southern hip hop producer Lil Jon. The album's release date was moved down to October 2011, and later had a final release date to November 21, 2011. On October 30, 2011, Yelawolf released the second single off Radioactive, titled "Let's Roll", featuring guest vocals from Kid Rock.
Anticipation for the album increased when hip hop magazine The Source gave the album a rare 4.5 out of 5 mics, meaning the album was "near classic". Radioactive, was released November 21, 2011 under Interscope Records and Shady Records, debuting the following week at #13 on Billboard 200. The album featured production from Eminem (who is also the executive producer for the album), Jim Jonsin, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Diplo, The Audibles, Pooh Bear and WLPWR of SupaHotBeats, and features from Eminem, Kid Rock, Lil Jon, Fefe Dobson, Mystikal, Shawty Fatt, Rittz, Killer Mike, and Gangsta Boo among others.
2012: The Slumdon Bridge, Heart of Dixie and Psycho WhiteEdit
On January 24, 2012, Yelawolf released a promotional track with British singer Ed Sheeran titled "You Don't Know (For Fuck's Sake)". The track was for an upcoming collaborative extended play (EP), titled The Slumdon Bridge. On January 31, 2012, a trailer for the EP was released, it featured both artists in a studio recording the EP. In the video Yelawolf revealed the EP was recorded in 10 hours, and included 4 tracks.The Slumdon Bridge, which was released as a free download on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2012, marking Yelawolf's second EP, and his first collaborative project.
On June 16, 2012, in order to commemorate Father's Day, Yelawolf released a song titled "Happy Father's Day". The song was produced by Alabama producer M16. With the track, Yelawolf announced his fifth official mixtape Heart of Dixie.
In August 2012, Yelawolf announced the long-awaited joint EP with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, titled Psycho White. The first single to the EP, titled "Push 'Em" features background vocals by Transplants members Skinhead Rob and Tim Armstrong, and was released as a free download on September 12. After several push-backs, the EP was finally released on November 13, 2012. Debuting at #24 on Billboard 200 with first week sales of 15,000. Yelawolf stated that all the tracks on the album will have a music video and during an article with Rolling Stone, both he and Barker hinted at a sequel to the EP.
2012–2015: Trunk Muzik Returns and Love StoryEdit
On March 20, 2012, Yelawolf announced that recording sessions for his third studio album began in June 2012, titled Love Story. Due to a stage diving incident which caused a ruptured spleen, Yelawolf decided to delay the album's recording process. During an interview with DJ Skee, he revealed that a sequel to his 2010's mixtape Trunk Muzik, titled Trunk Muzik Returns, would be released in August after "the dust settles on the Heart of Dixie" but was afterwards delayed. In December 2012, Yelawolf addressed the status of all of his projects in an interview. He also spoke on his upcoming second release, Love Story, and how it would be different compared to his debut effort Radioactive. "With Radioactive, I gave up a lot of creative space, and like I predicted would happen, there were some records that didn't translate to my audience." He stated he would record the album in Nashville and go to Detroit so he and Eminem could finish the album. Yelawolf also said that Trunk Muzik Returns would hopefully released in February 2013, with the date later confirmed.
On February 5, 2013, Yelawolf released the first song from Trunk Muzik Returns, "Way Out" and announced a release date of March 14, 2013 for the mixtape. On February 26 Yelawolf released a second song from Trunk Muzik Returns titled "F.A.S.T. Ride". On March 12 a third song from Trunk Muzik Returns was released titled "Gangster" featuring fellow rappers ASAP Rocky and Big Henry. The mixtape contains ten original tracks and features guest appearances from Raekwon, Paul Wall, Killer Mike, ASAP Rocky, and is entirely produced by his go-to producer WLPWR. On October 18, 2013, Yelawolf revealed that he would be releasing his seventh mixtape titled Black Fall on October 31, 2013. The project consisted of 5 tracks and was entirely produced by DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia.
On January 28, 2014, Yelawolf premiered his debut single from Love Story titled "Box Chevy V" on Shade 45. During the interview Yelawolf stated Love Story would be released in May 2014, however the album was delayed until April 2015. Between then, Yelawolf remained active promoting the album, releasing weekly freestyles that sampled rock classics such as Pink Floyd's "Money". and The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Voodoo Chile  Yelawolf described the freestyles as a "mini-sequel" to his 2008 effort, Stereo, which also was heavily influenced by classic rock. In addition, Yelawolf also featured extensively on Eminem's compilation record Shady XV, which was released as a celebration of the label's 15-year anniversary.
Eminem is the only featured guest on Love Story and also serves as an executive producer alongside Yelawolf. This album also marks the first instance of Yelawolf as a record producer since his first independent 2005 album Creekwater and features Till It's Gone, Yelawolf's most commercially successful song to date. The album debuted #3 on the American Billboard 200 with 61,000 copies sold in its first week. The album is considered Yelawolf's most celebrated release among his fan base, but was found to be polarizing with critics due to the mixture of country and hip hop. Two singles from the album, "Till It's Gone" and "Best Friend" featuring Eminem have amassed over 100 million views on YouTube, and eventually received a Gold certifications from the RIAA. On June 8, 2018, Love Story also received a Gold certification for 500,000 units sold.
2016–2017: Trial by Fire and HotelEdit
On August 25, 2015, Yelawolf was mired in controversy when he decided to defend the Confederate flag before reconsidering his stance and entirely rejecting the flag with a non-album track titled "To Whom It May Concern" on October 30, 2015. The single addressed his upbringings and his disgust with the Charleston church shooting, a racially motivated mass shooting.
After the controversy had settled, on September 22, 2015, Yealwolf announced his fourth studio album, Trial by Fire. He alluded to the record being much darker than its predecessor, and also being produced entirely by himself and constant collaborators DJ Klever and Bones Owens, which were also members of his tour band.
Towards the end of 2016, Yelawolf was seen working with South Florida-based producer, and constant collaborator Jim Jonsin, although what they worked on remained a secret. October 10, 2016, the surprise free EP, Hotel was released. Hotel is an acronym for "House Of The Endless Life"  with the production being entirely handled by Jonsin and Yelawolf.
The first two singles from Trial by Fire, "Daylight" and "Shadows" featuring country singer Joshua Headley were released in late 2016. In order to support Trial By Fire, a tour was announced on July 18, 2016 and was due to run from October 13 to December 4. However, during the Oregon show, Yelawolf was seen destroying equipment belonging to Bones Owens, which subsequently caused Owens to fallout with Yelawolf and quit the band indefinitely (DJ Klever also left the band but would reunite with Yelawolf the following year). The incident was followed by an altercation with a fan at the Sacramento show resulting in Yelawolf leaving the stage and cancelling the remaining seven dates. After the cancellation of the tour, Yelawolf seemed to suffer an apparent mental breakdown and was admitted to a mental ward. After his release towards the end of December, Yelawolf announced via social media that he was dropping the "Yelawolf" stage name in favor of his birth name, the removed Instagram post announced "I decided to sober up and rebrand my new music as Michael Wayne Atha MWA". This came as a result of the death of long-time friend and collaborator Shawty Fatt and his break-up with fiance Fefe Dobson. During this time, Yelawolf also drastically changed his country style to a contemporary hip hop image, before retreating from public life for over six months. During this period, the status of the unreleased Trial by Fire album and Yelawolf's involvement with Shady Records were left undetermined.
On June 6, 2018, Yelawolf announced a return to the music scene with the release of the third single for Trial by Fire titled "Row Your Boat", with his "Yelawolf" moniker once again in use. Yelawolf launched another tour to support the album titled the "51/50" tour, with the name alluding to the term police or doctors use towards patients that are an endangerment to themselves and others, referencing his mental breakdown from the previous year. During the tour, Yelawolf would re-visit all the venues that were cancelled during his previous tour, free of charge to those who had bought a ticket for the former. After multiple delays, Trial by Fire was finally released on October 27, 2017. During this time, he also reunited with long-time fiancé Fefe Dobson.
2018–present: Trunk Muzik III and Ghetto CowboyEdit
Trunk Muzik III, the third major project in the Trunk Muzik series, was first hinted at in mid-2017, following Yelawolf's return to the music scene after a prolonged break. Three months after the October release of Trial By Fire, Yelawolf announced he had begun work on the project with long-time producer WLPWR , who also handled some of the production in 2010's Trunk Muzik and its re-release Trunk Muzik 0-60, as well as producing the entirety of the second entry in the series, Trunk Muzik Returns. The project also features production contributions from DJ Paul and Jim Jonsin. It was revealed that unlike the previous two Trunk Muzik projects, Trunk Muzik III would be his fifth studio album released under Shady Records. On July 27, Yelawolf began a 25-date tour to support the album. During the tour, he premiered the then-planned first single for the album titled "Catfish Billy (Part 2)”, although it was latter scrapped as lead single. During one of the shows, he announced that Trunk Muzik III would be his final album under Eminem's label Shady Records, and after its release.
The album features a collaboration from Machine Gun Kelly on the track titled "Rowdy", marking the end to a feud between Yelawolf and Machine Gun Kelly that began in 2011. However, the song gained attention when it was mentioned in another publicized feud between Kelly and Yelawolf's record label boss, Eminem. On the diss track "Rap Devil", Machine Gun Kelly states "And don't be a sucker and take my verse off of Yelawolf's album, thank you". In anticipation for the release of the album, Yelawolf began a weekly freestyle series similar to the one leading up to his 2015 release Love Story, claiming he would "release a freestyle every week until the album comes out". The album was supported by the singles "TM3" featuring DJ Klever, and "Catfish Billy 2", a sequel to the song from Trunk Muzik Returns. The album was released on March 29, 2019 and features Caskey, Doobie, Rittz, DJ Paul, MopTop, and CookUpBoss.
Following the period between the completion of Trunk Muzik III and its release, Yelawolf hinted he was beginning work on his sixth studio album, titled Ghetto Cowboy. This would mark his first album to not be released under the Shady Records label, but instead under his own independent label, Slumerican. During this time, Yelawolf dyed his hair red, which he claims is homage to Opie Taylor, a character from The Andy Griffith Show. The first single from the record, titled "Unnatural Born Killer" was released on August 9, 2019. In late 2019, Yelawolf launched his second tour of the year in support of the album, appropriately titled "The Ghetto Cowboy Tour".
The Guardian reported that "In contrast to the gilded cage of privilege inhabited by Jay-Z and Kanye West, Yelawolf depicts everyday rural poverty with the evocative precision of a master storyteller". He is noted for his distinct style that ranges from American gothic to gore, the "richness and invention of his language" and range of his vocal style "from beer-swilling rowdiness to a crawling, contemptuous sibilance". He has said that he feels he represents "not the ideal American" but those Americans that he calls the core: "I love the grit of who we really are."
Yelawolf's early childhood introduction to hip hop came as a result of his mother's boyfriend being a sound designer for Aerosmith around the time that the Run-DMC version of “Walk This Way” was released, and made friends with the hip hop group. Yelawolf recalls Run-DMC visiting his child home and giving him some Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill cassette tapes. He has cited Outkast as his biggest influence when it comes to a "blend of sounds". He has stated on multiple occasions that the group's two seminal albums, ATLiens and Aquemeni, are among his favorite hip-hop records of all time. He has also shared that the hip-hop and R&B collective Dungeon Family has had a major influence on his production style, as well as J Dilla, Pete Rock, CL Smooth, Black Star, Hieroglyphics, and the Brooklyn-based trio Digable Planets.
Some of Yelawolf's other musical influences include Johnny Cash, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kraftwerk, The Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Metallica, Portishead, and N.W.A, among others. Yelawolf has also shown appreciation for Detroit-based recording artist Kid Rock and his mixing of country music, rock music, and hip hop, as well as long-time collaborator and mentor Eminem.
|Country of origin||U.S.|
Slumerican is an American independent record label specializing in hip-hop music. The label was founded in 2012 by Yelawolf. Slumerican's roster includes DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia, Bubba Sparxxx, and more. It is also responsible for helping launch the career of Rittz. The label also partakes in extensive merchandising, as well as spearheading a premium flagship store in Nashville, Tennessee.
- Yelawolf and DJ Paul – Black Fall (EP) (October 31, 2013)
- Yelawolf – Love Story (April 21, 2015)
- Bubba Sparxxx – The Bubba Mathis (EP) (October 7, 2016)
- Yelawolf – Hotel (EP) (October 10, 2016)
- DJ Paul – YOTS: Year of the Six, Pt. 1 (October 28, 2016)
- Struggle Jennings – Return of the Outlaw - EP (November 11, 2016)
- DJ Paul - YOTS: Year of the Six, Pt. 2 (November 25, 2016)
- Yelawolf – Trial by Fire (October 27, 2017)
- Yelawolf - Trunk Muzik 3 (March 29, 2019)
- Yelawolf - Ghetto Cowboy (October 31, 2019)
- Creekwater (2005)
- Radioactive (2011)
- Love Story (2015)
- Trial by Fire (2017)
- Trunk Muzik III (2019)
- Ghetto Cowboy (2019)
- The Slumdon Bridge (with Ed Sheeran) (2012)
- Psycho White (with Travis Barker) (2012)
- Black Fall (with DJ Paul) (2013)
- Catfish Billy x Cub Cook Up Boss (with Cook Up Boss) (2017)
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