Q&A: Yelawolf on Recording With Travis Barker and Skating to Charlie Daniels

Photo by Ian Witlen
When it comes to raw live energy, Yelawolf makes 90 percent of rappers look like they're working the register at Pollo Tropical. Here's a guy who wants everyone in the crowd involved, and he's willing to dive in to get you vibin' (a word he uses pretty frequently). We rather enjoyed his performance opening for B.O.B. at Revolution last year, and if Trunk Muzik 0-60 isn't rattling your '97 Dodge Stratus' subwoofers already, get some.

As the most rugged rapper on Warped Tour 2011, Yela is definitely a part of a small-but-tight crop of hip-hop artists on the tour. (Christine Borges has much more on the rap activities surrounding Saturday's Warped stop at Cruzan Amphitheatre right here.)

In the ten minutes before Yela's set in Milwaukee last week, we got caught up on how he feels about following in Eminem's footsteps as a rapper on Warped, working with Travis Barker for his Radioactive album (due this fall), and a bunch about the best music to combine with his other passion, skateboarding.

New Times: Aside from your past with skateboarding, why are you a good person to get paired up with this tour?

It's just our generation. Most of these bands out here, I'm familliar with their music, and if not, I've heard the name. I came up around the same era. They too came up on hip-hop. They'll come out to the stage and kick it. We all grew up on the same shit. It's a shared culture. It's not like how it used to be, a lot of these punk bands grew up on Three 6 Mafia, too. One of them even told me, "If I wasn't doing this shit I'd be rapping."

Do you remember who told you that?

No, I can't remember the band name, I'm sorry.

How do the mosh pits here compare to with what you're used to normally with hip-hop shows?

Well, some of the pits broke out on my headlining shows that I do and I do like my Trunk Muzik tours are way gnarlier. There's a lot of first-time listeners here. So far it hasn't gotten out of control crunk, but the reception has been great. I'll watch the crowd double in size from when I step on stage until I end my set. There's so much going on at this tour that kids are torn. There don't know where they want to be some times. They're kind of half-hearted. They'll be watching you, fully into it, but waiting for that next group, or watching another group, waiting for me.  It's kid of like people are in a fucking all-you-can-eat festival of music. They're just there to enjoy that time that they have and they haven't gotten to out-of-control pumped yet. I'm still building this. This is a market that I've never been a part of. A lot of these kids that are fans of these bands have heard of me, but never really seen a show, so they're there to see if they really wanna fuck with me or not. I have a few really cool fans out there, and the rest of them are just like checking it out, seeing whether or not they're into it.

You've been working with Blink-182's Travis Barker a bunch for your next album. He's obviously a very familiar figure in the Warped community. How did you guys hook up and what's that been like so far?

I went out to L.A. to work with Drama Beats for my record "Daddy's Lambo," and I recorded it at the Fantasy Factory. Rob Dyrdek happened to be there that night when we were recording. He came through and listened to the record. I had already been talking to him. I didn't mention meeting Travis Barker to him, he just came with it out of his own head. He said, "I think you guys could really rock together. I think you can make some shit happen." So he called him and the next day and Travis said, "Send them through." He was familiar with some records. We went to the studio and vibed out. We cut a record that day. We started on the record that ended up being Paul Wall's single. We just started making music. We clicked, became homies and grew into a relationship where I became a part of the Famous family officially.  Again, I think it's just like-minded people that as much as he's into rock 'n' roll, he's into hip-hop. It's like brothers from different mothers pretty much. We get up in there and rock like it's nothing. We're sitting on records right now. Travis is a great dude and honestly, since I've known him, so many opportunities have opened up. I went on tour with him to do the Lil Wayne tour. I rocked with him and Mixmaster Mike. When I go back to LA or if I'm in town, he'll just hop on the drums and rock.

Since you were doing skateboarding back in the day, I'm sure you were hearing lots of hardcore and punk. I know you've got friends who are on Warped. What are your favorite aspects of punk, or punk bands?

Skateboarding is very cliquish. Different cliques of skateboarders, different crews or whatever, have different tastes. My crew was more obviously drawn into the hip-hop world, but if we did listen to punk, it would be NOFX, Bad Brains, Sex Pistols, or what have you. Honestly, we listened to a lot more metal, whether it was Black Sabbath, Deicide, Pantera, Anthrax, Sepultura, Metallica and then a ton of classic rock. Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, or Lynyrd Skynyrd, or Chicago. Hip-hop was pretty much the staple. It's kind of like you had almost set up for a session. If we were gonna go and skate our big tents there, then we would play Master of Puppets and get psyched. If we were going to go and do a session of just flat grounds we'd play some Hieroglyphics, some Outkast. Music fits the vibe for what you're about to go do. I don't think any of us were ever stuck on one thing ever. If it was vibin', it was vibin'. You'd be playing fucking Charlie Daniels, or some shit. Whatever was playing, we were vibing with it. But like I said, every crew is different.

What does it say about Warped Tour about letting an artist like you do this?

I'm definitely not the first and won't be the last. Eminem was on this tour ten years ago. Well more, actually. The dude who runs this, I think, always wanted to make that bridge. I'm adding to that, becoming part of it, the legacy of Warped Tour. It's an honor to be out here and to say that I've done it. After it's all said and done, it's just a stripe on the shoulder. I think that every artist, if they have an opportunity to come out here and rock, they should. No matter what kind of music they have, or what kind of music they're making. The people that are asking you to come out here are asking you for the right reasons. They must think that whatever you're doing , the fans can fuck with out here. It's true. I know when Marshall came in it was mostly punk, straight punk. I know that the tour has evolved and the music is not like it used to be when it first started. There's more pop, pop-rock, dance-rock punk, swag, hardcore. It's all blended up and of course what I'm bringing is straight hip-hop and i have a rock and roll performance style. I'm honored to be a part of it, really. what's to come after this? Who knows. I'm sure that it'll be great.

Awesome. thanks for taking the time and I hope the tour goes well.

Florida should be good, man. It's gettin' real redneck out in Florida.

Vans Warped Tour 2011, 11:30 a.m. Saturday, July 30, at Cruzan Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $28.05. Click here and here for full lineup.

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