Release Date: Apr 21, 2015
Record label: Polydor
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock
Gadsen, Alabama native Yelawolf’s second studio album Love Story operates in a unique space as a caustic journey into the heart and soul of both a man and artist attempting to find a consensus within the twin lineages of outsider rap music and Southern hip-hop culture. In this being largely uncharted territory, the album veers in numerous directions to connect with these disparate audiences. Yela’ experiments wildly with more traditional forms of guitar folk music and then adds Hip Hop elements to that formula, crafting what amounts to a kind of musical alchemy.
Lacking the focus of his debut, Yelawolf's 74-minute sophomore release could easily be divided into two albums that could each shine brighter on their own, but this 2015 release was announced back in 2012, so consider the cumbersome abundance of tracks available here the expected results of a long-delayed effort. As a clearinghouse for all this backed-up angst and anger, Love Story is a fan-pleasing stop-gap LP, one that's so rich in soul-searching material that the track sequence of "Til It's Gone," "Devil in My Veins," and "Best Friend" gets smashed together in one large trilogy of woe. They're all worthy numbers, and figuring out which one to axe would be difficult, but the drunken confession "Empty Bottles" follows right after, blunting its admirable portrayal of addiction.
The second-worst mistake a rapper can make on their sophomore album is rapping about how much the music industry has failed them. It makes them sound whiny, and frankly, nobody outside of the music industry gives a shit. The worst mistake a rapper can make on their second album is to make a song that sounds like Jason Mraz.
It’s been over three years since Yelawolf’s debut album, Radioactive, dropped, and in that time he’s done some soul-searching. After many criticized the album for its misguided attempts at radio crossover hits, the man otherwise known as Catfish Billy embarked on a quest to reconnect with his Trunk Muzik roots. He spent last year on the Slumerican Made Tour with longtime collaborator Rittz, and found his musical footing again with his 2013 mixtape, Trunk Muzik Returns.
Yelawolf's second major-label album trades out the failed stabs at arena rap of his 2011 debut for a stronger embrace of his Southern roots. This time around he's less Eminem, more Kid Rock: Instead of awkward outsourced hooks, the Alabama native serves up slow-burn ballads like "Devil in My Veins" and "Whiskey in a Bottle," where he weaves in and out of cornfed guitar licks. Yelawolf's populist ambitions haven't gone away — check the wave-your-lighter anthem "American You" — but Love Story avoids sanding away all of his edges.
Yelawolf has spent years making Love Story, his second official album as a major label artist and first release since 2013’s Trunk Muzik Returns. The title of that last project, a mixtape, says plenty: Yelawolf was trying to recapture something he’d lost along the way. In the early years of his career, Yela seemed to be rattling around an industry that didn’t quite know how to deal with him.
We've been doing these "1 Listen Reviews" for a hot minute now - Yoh did one for Young Thug's new album just today - and for each and every one I've done, I've had an opinion, an experience, or some sort of relationship with the artist. Logic is my hometown dude, as is Wale. Before Mr. Wonderful I had tried Action Bronson on for size 5,000 different times.
Nearly four years after the release of his Shady Records debut, Radioactive, Yelawolf is finally back, this time to attempt to solidify his place in the spotlight with his sophomore album, Love Story. As many may argue and as Yelawolf has even openly admitted, on past releases the Alabama native focused more on pleasing others than staying true to his own personal craft. But with Love Story there’s a sense of self-awareness and confidence that seemed to have been missing before.
It’s taken Southern rapper Yelawolf a few years to grow up and realize that sometimes if you slow things down, they come into focus. This roots-rap hybrid might appall rap purists, but it’s a striking improvement over 2011’s messy, compromised “Radioactive.” Only intermittently does Yela’s hyperactive, blustery side take center stage as he integrates more singing, melody, and country influences. He still passes himself off as a simple American everyman (“Change,” “Sky’s the Limit,” both sketchy), but if you scratch his songs’ surfaces, you hear a smart, sensitive outsider searching for some solace.