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Yelawolf is a white rapper from Alabama with a delivery somewhat similar to styles Eminem has employed in the past: fast delivery, lyrics displaying a mordant wit, and a tendency to wallow in images of poverty rather than glorifying mindless consumerism. But there's a horror-soundtrack darkness to his music, with synth lines reminiscent of John Carpenter, that gives it a greater intensity than Eminem's clowning can muster. Furthermore, he's defiantly country, describing mobile homes, trips to Wal-Mart, and generally setting himself up as what happens -- as he puts it in "That's What We on Now" -- "when the sticks meet the bricks." This release is described as a "retail mixtape," since it contains six tracks from Yelawolf's last underground release, Trunk Muzik, and six new tracks presumably recorded in the wake of his signing to Interscope. A few guests -- Raekwon, Bun B., and Gucci Mane -- show up, but it's when Yelawolf's on his own that he's strongest, as on "Pop the Trunk," one of his best-known underground tracks. A story of backwoods violence underpinned by piano that sounds culled from a Nine Inch Nails ballad, it could have come off the soundtrack to the Kentucky-set TV crime drama Justified or the movie Winter's Bone, about meth dealers in Appalachia. This mix of industrial/goth moroseness, hip-hop braggadocio, and stark lyrical brutality makes Yelawolf's major-label debut (whether you call it a mixtape or an album) interesting, but it remains to be seen how quickly the appeal of his persona and subject matter exhaust themselves.
Review by Phil Freeman
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