No Trivia

Yelawolf’s Redneck Manifesto


“Confederate flags, I see em’ on the truck with the windows down/Why’s he playing Beanie Sigel?/Cause his daddy was a dopeman./Lynrd Skynrd didn’t talk about movin’ keys of coke, man/Ain’t no such thing as a free bird…”

That’s from Yelawolf’s “I Wish”, which features Raekwon and has a beat that rumbles like a Booker T & The MGs instrumental, a Duane Allman solo, and Triple H’s entrance theme all at the same time. Notice how there’s no interest in resolving all the tensions in that rap, how all the details float out there and link-up in some ways and don’t connect in other ways at all. You either get it or you don’t.

The Gadsden, AL rapper points out the absurdity an outsider would immediately gravitate towards–a Confederate flag on a truck, as hip-hop blasts from its speakers–and then, explains where the interests of Beanie Sigel and what a lot of you would call “a bunch of rednecks” intersect: Black or white, both poor, they’re afforded those few luxuries they have because of dope money.

In the words of James Baldwin, Yelawolf is “put[ting his] business on the street”: Letting-out some previously ignored, problematic reality for the rest of the world to see. In this case, it’s the reality that the drug trade holds in its grasp as many whites as blacks, and not only on the typical, higher-up rungs, but on the, work-a-day, keep-the-lights-on levels illustrated in the music of many trap-rappers or on a show like The Wire.

This has never been a fun chunk of reality for white people to hear. Namely because white privilege (which exists when you’re white, but not white and poor as fuck) makes it relatively easy to disassociate one’s self from “white trash”…all the while of course, invoking it when necessary, as country singers like Toby Keith or ex-presidents like George W. Bush are wont to do.

Yelawolf though, like the scores of black rappers before him, realizes some kinda change, real awareness–and interesting stories–stem from actively putting one’s business on the street, regardless of the perceived “hurt” it might do to one’s race or reputation. And so, his music isn’t only engaging with race/class on a political/social/”message” level, but in the dirty, details that’ve always been rap’s specialty.

“Pop the Trunk” is full of them, drenched in novelistic details that build-up over and over, to that increasingly terrifying hook/threat: “Don’t make me go pop the trunk.” It’s like when Wayne recalls having to go “get the cleaver” on Tha Carter III’s “Playing With Fire” because his mom’s “pussy second husband” is beating the shit out of her. Just serious, intensely personal, cinematic rap. Pay attention to the final verse of “Pop the Trunk”, which makes good on the hook’s threat, but it’s a kind of country road shotgun stand-off, and the victim of some buckshot to the chest slows Yelawolf’s staccato flow a to illustrate those bloody last gasps of life.

But there are everyday details too, the kind of sweatpants he’s wearing when he’s awakened, that both his parents are actively working–another reality for the working-class, there’s always bullshit to do–and lyrical flashes of the fucked-up night before. And there are quieter, less loaded pieces of insider info running through Yelawolf’s work, illustrated quite well in his interpolation/almost covers of rock hits of the past.

He screeched a Flock of Seagulls hook on Slim Thug’s “I Run” and he’s gotten a lot of interest lately for his “Subterranean Homesick Blues” reinterp on Juelz Santan’s “Mixin’ Up the Medicine”–that he’s got Stereo, a whole mixtape of classic rock-sampling rap songs, speaks to open-minded, all over the place listening habits of regular-ass people. That his parents probably partied to Flock of Seagulls and reflect on a shit-day at work over some beer and a Dylan record. This is also deeply hip-hop, this grab-from-anywhere if it sounds dope approach to songwriting.

There’s also something to say about a guy with an off-kilter flow that’s super comfortable just doing hooks–he’s the anti-Drake–and fully understands the fluidity of his rap persona. Because that persona’s scattered, it’s real, and because of that, it doesn’t fit nicely into this category or that one, and he can fluidly move around.

He’s a total rap outsider. He’s an awesome hook man. He’s as attuned to ghetto realities as any other rapper. He’s a skate-metal, trailer-park, drug-dealing, white hip-hop head from Alabama, deeply in-tune to the contingencies of his upbringing, which ain’t all that different from all his rap heroes and the dudes he grew up with.

Example: While Yelawolf’s adjective-filled, scene-stealing verse on G-Side’s “Who’s Hood” overflows with trailer-park imagery, it’s 6 Tre G who’s got the Jeff Jarrett punchline on “Feel The”–the song right before.

Namely, Yelawolf realizes that by simply existing and speaking on his life, he defies much of the classist bile espoused by popular media, white and black cultural gatekeepers, and the types that use phrases like “red-state/blue-state” unironically–the people that don’t want to acknowledge the ways the white and black working-class not only have a whole lot in common, but are one in the same.

That they’re listening to the same rap and rock and metal, rocking the same fashion, selling the same drugs, trying to cop the same clothes, circling their town’s hot spot in the same cars, hanging out at the same skate parks, of the same community, with the same interests, the same pleasures, the same pains.

further reading/viewing:
-Wikipedia Entry for Gadsden, Alabama
-The Redneck Manifesto by Jim Goad
-A weird interview with Yelawolf by J Dirrt of Baller’s Eve
-”If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” by James Baldwin
-Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell
-William Faulkner’s “Snopes Trilogy”

Written by Brandon

December 23rd, 2009 at 5:43 am

Posted in Yelawolf

25 Responses to 'Yelawolf’s Redneck Manifesto'

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  1. bding-
    I really need to take more time with Sparxx's music and I think he suffered from context related only to the fact that when he came out, he was afforded some label support and so, something like "ugly" seemed a bit much. For me, I've maybe never gotten over that image of him even though he has plenty of dopes songs or albums– "Deliverance".

    Yelawolf's rapping style/sound to me is yeah, too high-pitched and like just not my thing. But damn, "Pop the Trunk" kills and though it does hype me up like even the saddest rap, I leave the song feel-ing. You know? Like a fucked-up movie or a really intense short story. I think he will grow on me more and more. Excited about "Trunk Muzik" coming out soon.

    Back to Sparxx: Like I said, haven't listened to his music in a few years so call me on my bullshit here but, what I find fascinating about Yelawolf is the way he's not developing analogues or like parallels, but making the point that his white poor experience and the black poor experience are really the same damn thing.

    The way that metal and skateboarding and Nascar and hip-hop and hoodies and fresh sneakers and chain wallets and all this superficial stuff can really signify these weird connections between "different cultures" of the lower-class.

    For me, Sparxx was like a smarter, less cloying Eminem in the sense that he was like "here's my fucked-up culture".

    Not the end-all on this point obviously, like I said, call me on my bullshit.


    24 Dec 09 at 10:35 pm

  2. Have you seen this yet?


    25 Dec 09 at 4:21 am

  3. Did you catch what Yela did on "Who's Hood?" It took me several listens to realize because it's subtle, and it may have been unconscious on his part as well. While he starts and finishes the verse with his unique staccato flow, the second the drums first hit, he switches into a perfect duplication of Nas'"World is Yours" delivery (which has some of the best syllable placement in rap history). Brilliant.


    25 Dec 09 at 5:29 am

  4. what I find fascinating about Yelawolf is the way he's not developing analogues or like parallels, but making the point that his white poor experience and the black poor experience are really the same damn thing.

    Dark Days Bright Nights definitely suffers from trying to relate Bubba's story as a poor white person to that of poor black people ( see: All the Same or They're Not Ready w/ Jadakiss). But the thing I love about Deliverance is that he stopped trying to relate to people and told his own story and that alone was relatable enough, at least for me. Without making explicit, he made the same point that poor black/white experiences are very similar through the details of his writing.

    I really need to spend more time with Yelawolf, though, his topics seem like they're up my alley.


    26 Dec 09 at 3:57 am

  5. I wouldn't necessarily say Yelawolf is an "outsider", but only because I feel it's pretty much impossible to be a genuine outsider in any form of art these days.

    What is UNDENIABLE is that he is totally different to any rapper that has come before him. He's a white southern rapper whose image couldn't possibly be further removed from the "southern wigger" image of other famous white southern rappers, Lil Wyte/Bubba Sparxxx/Haystak/etc (all of whom I like, for the record). He's as influenced by Cali backpack rap classics as he is by classic southern gangsta rap/"country rap tunes". He put out a mixtape that featured himself rapping over a wide assortment of "classic rock" tunes that somehow managed to NOT be on some corny Kid Rock bullshit. It wasn't very good, but still. And finally, on first glance, the dude might look like a hipster, but it soon becomes apparent that he's just like one of those weird dudes that you find sprinkled throughout the deep south that dress in a vaguely "countercultural" manner, but in reality is just as "white trash" as anyone with a rebel flag bumper sticker and a gun rack on their pickup truck. Those guys fucking rule, and I'm glad one of them finally has a promising rap career.

    Anyway, none of this crap matters, because the guy raps his ass off. "Pop The Trunk" is in my top 5 of '09. I love a good storytelling rhyme, and the amount of detail and tension he brings to his stories in that song is fucking unbelievable. Personally, I wasn't as into the beat of the lead single "Good To Go", but again, Yela fucking destroys the competition, even out-rapping the almost impossible to out-rap god MC Bun B. The beat isn't that great, sadly, but who cares. Trunk Muzik is going to rule.

    mark p.

    26 Dec 09 at 1:36 pm

  6. Wait a minute though Brandon,

    Did you just insinuate that the Princess Bride isn't one of the greatest movies ever? Fuckouttahere.

    mark p.

    26 Dec 09 at 1:38 pm

  7. mark-
    This post was sorta "for you" in the sense that it was you who was like, "I'm surprised you haven't written on him yet".

    You nailed Yelawolf's persona/image but I think he's more than an outlier in the poor rural community–he isn't a "wigger" or look like he's "white trash"–but essentially what poor whites look like now. As I tried to hint at in the entry. This "hipster" look, this kind of metal, hip-hop, skater look all merged into one is pretty much what a lot of "hood"–or "Trailer park"–kids are into right now.

    I saw my cousins yesterday–4 kids, three different fathers, the mother an on off drug addict, the dad of all of them for the time being an ex punk/metal performer and a roadie, a recovering addict–and they're all rocking like fresh ballcaps–or the wal-mart equivalent–and skate shoes and have Kanye on their ipod nanos and are talking about Nascar and football.

    This "I saw it"-type "evidence" is always problematic, but it's this kind of stuff, or all the "hood"–mind all my quotes, PLEASE–dudes I know, are where these observations are stemming from.

    For a while there, there was a lot of discussion on how African-Americans were a ever-increasing segment of the Nascar audience but it kinda got usurped by an easier article: "A segment of Nascar's fans are black, so why is it the whitest sport?"


    26 Dec 09 at 6:09 pm

  8. So, been thinking about this a lot. I think the only song recently that I could compare "Pop the Trunk" to is "Suicide Note" off "Made" where it like, isn't even music or rapping anymore and just this really intense story rolling out, line by line.

    I feel like this conversation's moved around a lot and re-reading it, I can't stress enough how good Yelawolf is and how good the song is, despite the times in this conversation where I've pointed out personal taste issues with his music.


    27 Dec 09 at 4:02 am

  9. Dude, white privilege most certainly still exists for poor white people. Just think about how the police interact with minorities and white people and I think that shit is fairly clear.

    Anyway, I like yelawolf and am very much looking forward to his "Trunk Muzik" mixtape, but I fear this article is one of many forthcoming articles that greatly over analyzes and over values yelawolf's whole aesthetic. What makes him likable to me is how steeped in tradition he is while also being a really technically impressive rapper.



    27 Dec 09 at 5:43 am

  10. E-
    While there's certainly benefits to being white and always will, if you're poor and white, you suffer a lot and you are very much a victim of profiling a great deal of the time. There's just no debating this.

    Seeing as how Yelawolf himself seems into my article, I don't worry too much about "over-valuing" his aesthetic. As it seems to me, I was able to kinda sorta explain what he's getting at. To me this is something of the ultimate compliment.

    "What makes him likable to me is how steeped in tradition he is while also being a really technically impressive rapper."

    Key phrase there being "to me". The stuff I wrote about is what makes him likable to me.


    27 Dec 09 at 6:03 am

  11. I love how Brandon tries to "intelligently" engage us with some kind of half-baked race discussion, but when he's actually pushed hard enough by noz, all he can do is no homo his way out.


    6 Jan 10 at 11:45 pm

  12. You almost ruined this kid's music with the most hollow, pretentious blog post of the new year. Way to go, blogger dude!

    Also: "fruity." James Baldwin would be proud.


    7 Jan 10 at 2:09 am

  13. I just don't have time–at this point especially–for the CBRap peanuts crew. Especially when Noz decides to talk like an emo-kid supervillain.

    2010 will be the most pretentious year yet for No Trivia so sit back or stop fucking reading. I'm flat out tired of this anti-intellectual bullshit being tossed around, generally from people who got better educations than I did. It's not pretentious, it's not bullshit, when you nerds agree with me though. That's the funny part.


    7 Jan 10 at 3:52 am

  14. Soderberg's obnoxious but thisis the first one where Noz lost, no doubt. Internet hivemind at work here…lots of namecalling and nobody saying whats wrong with the post.

    aand one guy mad about the word "fruity".


    7 Jan 10 at 11:13 am

  15. Id just reiterate my above point after the release of "Trunk Muzik" (which i think is pretty damn good!): Yela is a successful rapper because of his technical proficiency and because he very clearly appreciates and subscribes to a rap tradition we as rap fans are familiar with.

    With all due respect Brandon, I feel like this "Yelawolf's Redneck Manifesto" piece greatly over-values Yela's biography and race in order to make a point that I not only completely disagree with ("whe white and black working-class not only have a whole lot in common, but are one in the same"), but also don't really find represented in "Trunk Muzik" anymore or less than any other talented rapper out there.



    11 Jan 10 at 11:59 am

  16. E-
    Are you planning on running for president? Like, I think it's clear you don't agree.


    11 Jan 10 at 9:30 pm

  17. yo isn't Emynd on that Gucci Diplo tape? OKAY.


    13 Jan 10 at 4:11 pm

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