If I told you there was this white guy named Yelawolf, born Michael Wayne Atha, who grew up in Alabama listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, you’d probably develop some pretty hasty stereotypes about him.

If I then told you he was also half Cherokee (hence the stage name) and considered becoming a pro skateboarder before doing the music thing, that stereotype might go in a completely different direction, but one image it almost certainly wouldn’t conjure is that of one of hip-hop’s hottest rising stars.

yelawolf2That’s right—this kid who looks like something in between Eminem and Travis Barker is the hottest new rapper I’ve come across since J. Cole (who’s new album is hot, hot heat, by the way). He’s been featured on a track from the new Big Boi album and has made cameos for Slim Thug and Juelz Santana as well, but his own debut record won’t hit stores until September. Still, there’s enough stuff from the kid out there already for us to know that Yelawolf is the real deal.

Seriously, he’s bona fide.

Check out “Pop the Trunk” or “I Wish” to witness Yela successfully walking that delicate tight rope between lyrics and flow. There’s a very clear southern influence in most of his early songs, compiled on his Trunk Muzik mixtape, both in terms of beats and his clearly Alabaman twang. That, added to his energetic, quick-tongued lyrical style, gives him a unique vibe that’s earned him quite a lot of recognition before even recording an album with his new label, Interscope Records—coincidentally, also Eminem’s label.

He’s infectious, and one of the better “fast” rappers I’ve heard in a long time. That style sort of went out when the popularity of Bone Thugs and Twista waned a little bit, but this is a guy who’ll make you want to sit and figure out what he’s saying so you can sing along in your car. The beats hit, the lyrics are tight, and Yelawolf is legitimately doing some innovative stuff with the genre.

How many half-white, half-Cherokee skateboarding rappers from Alabama do you know? At least one, but that’s more than you probably knew yesterday, and trust me—you’ll be glad I added him to repertoire.

Check out “I Wish” here:

And “Pop the Trunk”:

About the Author

Joel Brigham writes about stuff. It’s pretty much all he cares about. Stuff like music and more music. But he mostly cares about music. And also music.

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