Yelawolf and Rittz
Sunday, April 15
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pmMarathon Music Works
This event is 18 and over
YelaWolf is doing a FREE SHOW at Marathon Music Works to celebrate the grand opening of his retail space: Slumerican on April 15th! He's bringing along his long time friends RITTZ & Hillbilly Casino.
This show is first come first serve. An RSVP does not guarantee entry.
1 RSVP per customerhttps://www.marathonmusicworks.com/event/1662784/
“I really never ever stopped moving,” he says while driving around Nashville, his home of the past three years. “That’s my life story in a nutshell.”
With his latest release, Love Story, perhaps he can finally downshift. Since 2010’s Trunk Muzik, his career has been on the fast track. His redneck appearance—his tattoos include a catfish swimming down his forearm and “Heart of Dixie” stamped on his stomach—and raps about Appalachian meth dealers might’ve made him a novelty act. But his rapid-fire delivery and intense live show ensured no one considered him a joke. As Pitchfork marveled, “Yelawolf is a powerful new rap voice, one that draws from all over the map without sounding much like anyone else.” Interscope Records agreed and within three months, he had a major label deal. Later that year, the tape was re-released as Trunk Muzik 0-60, and Rolling Stone praised him as “an MC whose liquid flow breathes life into genre clichés.” In January 2011, he signed to Eminem’s Shady Records, and his fan base grew even more rabid. Yet Wolf wasn’t satisfied.
“The mullet and Three 6 Mafia. How do you make that work?” he says. “What I’ve always been trying to do is figure out how to make that into a good mixture of music.”
Yelawolf was born Michael Wayne Atha in Gadsden, Alabama, where his two musical loves grew organically. His mom dated a sound engineer, and Wolf remembers being onstage at age six with Dwight Yoakam, and Run DMC coming by his house to party after their local show when he was seven. “I woke up in this trailer park and figured out what was ironic about who I was and where I was from wasn’t that what I was experiencing was new. It was just that I recognized the extreme of it,” he says.
After being homeless in Berkeley and working on a ship off the coast of Washington state, Yelawolf landed back in the South and started making mixtapes. He was purposefully rowdy, wearing head-to-toe deer hunting camouflage and gold teeth. In Atlanta, Wolf and his friend Malay (the producer who later won a Grammy for Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange) started a “futuristic country hip-hop rock band” that included both a DJ and a black fiddle player. Their self-described “arena rap” became popular in Atlanta, pulling huge crowds as well as the attention of Lil Wayne and L.A. Reid. But their idea was ahead of its time and fizzled.
Wolf was poor, and his now ex-girlfriend and their child were still living in Gadsden. Running out of options, he returned to Alabama with producer WillPower. “We got an 8-track recorder in the back of this shitty house in this factory neighborhood worthy of any Harmony Korine film, and we wrote Trunk Muzik front to back,” he says. He hustled back to Atlanta to record it, and the tape that set his career ablaze and resulted in his working with legends like Bun B and Big Boi was completed in all of a week and a half.
“I became that shit. I saw the power in it. [And] I felt fulfilled,” he admits. “But I always knew, ‘Wait ‘till they hear the shit I did with Malay.’”
At long last, they’re listening, and the response is as positive as he always believed it would be. Recorded entirely in Nashville’s Blackbird Studios and executively produced by Eminem, his passion project—fittingly titled Love Story—is a rootsy, country-tinged rock album brimming with strong lyricism. Finally, he’s struck the right balance.
“I’m not reinventing the wheel. It’s nothing Kid Rock hasn’t done,” he says. “But what is new is my deep appreciation for lyricism in hip hop, [my desire] to be a great lyricist. And a deep appreciation for outlaw country, for raw classic rock. I started to learn how to blend concepts together.”
Indeed he did. The album’s first single, “Till It’s Gone,” is a driving barn burner of a song elevated by Wolf’s melodically sung hook. Radio friendly without sacrificing its soul, it’s an undeniable smash that’s in line with the country’s recent obsession with the culture of rural American life. In fact, “Till It’s Gone” premiered last September on the wildly popular FX drama Sons of Anarchy.
“It might be simple, but when I decided to throw on some cowboy boots and ride a Harley with my dad … it makes me emotional thinking about how long it’s taken me to be free,” he says. A smile enters his voice. “It’s the biggest exhale.”
of-towners hoping to indulge in a slice of that oft-mentioned American Pie: a house in a subdivision with a yard for the kids. After closer observation though, it's apparent that the suburbs of Gwinnett are the digs to many who don't fit the cookie cutter, Stepford lifestyle. The county, more frequently being referred to as the Northside, boasts both million dollar homes on golf courses as well as drug hubs in neighborhoods riddled with gang activity. The Northside, essentially, is in stark contradiction to itself. Rapper Rittz is the Northside.
Raised in Gwinnett County, Rittz embodies the same level of irony and self-conflict as his hometown. Born into a musical family, he, his twin sister and their brother had always been exposed to the inner workings of music. The fact that their parents were heavily into rock and roll ensured that the kids were always around instruments or in studios. The family moved from small-town Pennsylvania (Waynesburg) to the Atlanta outskirts when he was eight years old, and once Rittz got to junior high, his musical tastes evolved. Atlanta's booming bass and rap movement had traveled north on I-85 to get the entire metro area jumping.
"When I moved here, I was introduced to rap music. When I started rapping, I was listening to any early Rap-A-Lot records, like Willie D, Geto Boys… Kilo [Ali] was like the first. So when I started at 12 years old, my early raps, I tried to rap like them," he explains, "But the early Outkast, and Goodie Mob was really the beginning of me wanting to rap and imitate them in finding my own style. Me and another guy were actually in a group called Ralo and Rittz [1995-2003], we were like the white Outkast, or we tried to be like that. I had a studio in my basement, and we put out a bunch of tapes in Gwinnett. I felt like we were one of the first, if not the first... There were only maybe one or two other people rapping in Gwinnett at the time, from '95 to 2000."
During the earlier part of the millennium though, around 2003, Rittz had hit a wall. After eight years, he and Ralo had matured in different directions. His promising buzz had led to countless disappointments. "I won Battlegrounds on Hot 107.9, got retired and shit and felt like I was 'bout to make it. But, so many industry up and downs, with managers, contracts…" He was dead broke, feeling dejected, and living with friends- ready to resign from the rap game before even taking his rightful place in it. It wasn't until 2009 when he'd randomly received a call from another flamespitter who was repping an area as under-the-radar as Gwinnett was. "I had some money behind me." Rittz says, "Everything was going good and then everything fell out, at the same time, I'm getting older, thinking it's time to hang it up. This isn't gonna happen and that's when Yelawolf put me on 'Box Chevy.' [on Yelawolf's Trunk Muzik]."
Nowadays, the rap career of Gwinnett-raised Rittz is rapidly on the rise. From his affliation with one of the hottest new rappers coming out of the South to his first mixtape, Rittz White Jesus (hilariously inspired by a friend's term of endearment), everything is coming together now, two years after he nearly lost everything. These days he's booking late night studio sessions, and still clocking in to work early the next day. "I see both sides: the regular, working class type shit and then I've also seen a lot of the street shit that goes on here, some people that are blind to that here, may never have seen it." Rittz says he's "just a normal guy who raps"- a contradiction if there ever was one- but he makes you believe, with the humility of the everyman and the talent of a superstar.