Yelawolf was eating breakfast with his manager in a West Hollywood hotel on an uncharacteristically rainy Monday morning as he waited for Shooter Jennings. Relatively tall, covered in tattoos and wearing adidas x Balenciaga socks with a Harley Davidson cut, he was hard to miss; he just looked famous. Once Jennings arrived, they complemented each other like Tango complements Cash. Country yet rocking Patrick Ewing’s Death Row sneakers, Jenning’s breadth of Hip Hop knowledge rivals anyone who was born in the 1980s. Coupled with his country royalty roots (his father is the late Waylon Jennings), Jennings was born for this.
As Yelawolf’s collaborative partner, he’s helped bring out the Alabama native’s inner rock star. Of course, it had always been there. Yelawolf had a fruitful run with Eminem’s Shady Records between 2011 and 2019 but never fully embraced his singing chops like he does on Sometimes Y. Released in March via Slumerican, Yelawolf’s label, the duo’s debut is a bona fide rock album bursting with Jenning’s production genius and Yelawolf’s soaring, emotive lyrics.
“I’m proud of it,” Jennings said behind his sunglasses. “We got a lot of cool responses.” Yelawolf added, “That’s kind of his thing, to keep his finger on the pulse of reactions. I was stoked about this streams, but I’m not in tune with critics. The shows have been bananas. I always wait for that. The shows have been crazy.”
Jennings and Wolf debuted their first live show at The Rainbow in Los Angeles right around the time the album dropped. They never imagined just nine months later they’d be playing a sold-out show at The Ryman Auditorium, one of Nashville’s most iconic venues. Needless to say, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.
“A lot of people I really respect have all come forward to tell me it’s they favorite album of the year or best rock record,” Jennings said. “That definitely makes me feel great about it.”
Of course, there will always be those fans who question Yelawolf hopping from Hip Hop to country rock, but anyone familiar with his catalog will recognize he’s been singing all along.
“They’re never going to be satisfied, man,” Wolf said. “It doesn’t matter if it was another rap album, they’re not going to be happy because it wasn’t like the last one. There’s a certain kind of fan, they get stuck on a certain sound and that’s all they want. Some Hip Hop fans are not rock-and-roll fans. I am, but some of them are not. Vice versa. Some rock fans are not Hip Hop fans.”
But at the core of both is the spirit of rebellion, and both Jennings and Yelawolf embody it and understand it.
“We’re ’80s babies, one,” Yelawolf said. “When Anthrax and Public Enemy were doing records together or Aerosmith and Run-DMC, my mom’s long term boyfriend was on the Walk This Way Tour, and it was never like, ‘Hey this is Hip Hop.’ To me, it wasn’t introduced. I didn’t understand it as a genre until I was 14, 15 years old. It was always coming in through one speaker. If it was Beastie Boys or Fleetwood Mac, it was just music at that point. As you get older, you start to learn genres and what they truly are, but I think the energy has always been the same.”
Yelawolf credits André 3000 as being one of his creative muses, which makes sense when considering his chameleon-like ability to make all kinds of music.
“The most influential artist to me was André 3000 and the freedom he exhibited,” Wolf explained. “If I could just find his brand—not his sound, his freedom. You see him extending into funk, soul, rock-and-roll and all those things and doing it with no apologies. I thought, ‘Man, if I could find that.’ I appreciate so much s### and also practice it. There had to be a way for me to get that out. I can’t share all of those creative ideas through one genre. I can’t do it.”
He added, “We didn’t know what we were going to make. That’s another important point to make. When we got together, we just said, ‘Let’s do whatever the f### happens. Just let it happen.’ Nothing was planned.”
The result was the 10 tracks that wound up on Sometimes Y— and it’s about as indie as it gets.
“We did it so independent and so gorilla,” Yelawolf explained. Me and my manager just put up billboards and wheat pastes all over the world and bought spaces with QR codes, and then we promoted through our own social medias. We put our own independent push toward it. Shooter and I wanted to be choosy on how we presented our brand and our rock-and-roll because we’re snobs about it. We’re very protective of it and wanted to present it in the right way, so we were just smart about where we put our album and who we shared it with initially. It sets a tone for how it was going to be perceived.
“Don’t get me wrong, labels have some powers. There’s a lot of potential for an artist, but there’s a great potential to get suffocated by the company itself. It’s like you can’t see the forest for the trees type of deal. When you have such a small team, it’s very clear what needs to be done and there’s no one to answer to, you just do it your f###### self.”