By Dylan Looney
Alabama-based rapper Yelawolf has managed to walk a thin line quite well, acknowledging his rural Southern roots while not falling into the tractor-rap territory of Colt Ford and The Lacs. He has even managed to slowly incorporate Southern rock and Country elements into his music (even going from rapping to full-on singing) and still keep his hip-hop cred, carving out a niche of his own. Yela’s second major label album, Love Story, crosses the genre lines even more than any of his previous releases, with songs such as “American You” having major rock and even country crossover appeal. Adding to this is the high presence of Yelawolf’s singing on the album. While he is not necessarily an outstanding singer, he can carry a tune, and his voice has a certain charm to it, all with very little obvious use of vocal effects. Strangely enough, the more melodic elements may be Love Story’s strong suit, despite Yelawolf’s strong lyrical rapping. The lyrics of songs like “Heartbreak,” “Have a Great Flight,” and “Disappear” show a more personal side of Yela than he has ever shown before. “Disappear,” for example, is from the perspective of the rapper as a child, writing to his absentee father. It comes across like a psychiatric patient being forced to relive a painful childhood memory and has the ability to make listeners uncomfortable if they came expecting something along the lines of his earlier releases like “Daddy’s Lambo.” Then again, the whole album has an underlying theme of darkness and vulnerability to it that makes it an interesting listen.
The only guest appearance on Love Story comes from rap superstar and album producer Eminem, who features on the single, “Best Friend,”a dark track with various religious imagery in the lyrics. The song begins with Yela’s mellow and melodic delivery, with Eminem coming in with a rapid, hard-hitting verse. “Best Friend,” “Heartbreak,” “Til it’s Gone,” and “American You” are the stand-out tracks for me on the album, with earlier-released material such as “Tennessee Love” holding up nicely alongside the newer songs. If I have any problems with the album, it’s that Yela’s rapping sometimes gets a little too fast for its own good, turning portions into a twangy mess. There are also recurring lyrical themes and phrases that border on becoming repetitive (“Slumerican,” Outlaw Country references, and references to his home state of Alabama being a few). Altogether, on his worst day, Yelawolf is the sketchy Eminem-wannabe that hangs out at gas stations at 1 a.m. At his best, he’s everything Kid Rock set out to be in the late ’90s-early 2000s, and Love Story shows him at his best. It’s been great watching him grow and change as an artist. I’m interested in what’s in store next.
Overall Score: 4/5
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