Visions of a sparsely tattooed, retired professional skater turned rapper diving from a booming speaker into a sea of hip-hop fans recalls the 805’s first experience with Yelawolf. It has been years since the Alabama-born, once homeless vagabond MC took the stage at the Ventura Theater as the opening act on Wiz Khalifa’s sold out Waken Baken Tour. At the time, he had acquired that opening slot purely on the strength and cult following he had gained after his series of successful Trunk Muzik mixtapes. What a difference five years, several body and facial tattoos, a label deal, five EPs, three mixtapes and two studio albums can make in an artist.
Michael Wayne Atha (Yela for light and fire, wolf for the survivor) one day on a soul search, embraced his Cherokee roots by branding himself as Yelawolf after an epiphany came to him during a meditative walk in the woods. His journey toward self-realization continues with the release of his latest album Love Story.
Atha will admit that his first album, Radioactive, though successful, was not a true representation of who he was as an artist, stating that he was “everyone’s dog” during the creation of the project. The LP consisted of 15 tracks with 11 artists featured. His second full-length, Love Story, is the album he struggled with industry executives to record; a true testimony to his artistry with only one artist featureed, rap god Eminem who signed Atha to his record label Shady Records in 2011. Love Story gained Yelawolf his first Billboard No. 1 on top R&B/hip-hop charts, selling 51,000 copies in its first week of release.
Creating a body of work and touring in support of it has been Yelawolf’s formula for connecting with his fans and growing his fan base. A 2012 spleen injury may deter his stage dive, but it shouldn’t kill his dedication to rocking out.
The Wolf makes his highly anticipated return to the Ventura Theater for the Love Story tour on Monday, June 8. For tickets and more information, visit www.venturatheater.net.
Miss Alynette is a radio personality on Q104.7 FM. Follower on Twitter and Instagram @miss_alynette.