Alabama rapper Yelawolf — the white/Cherokee-descended skateboarder’s name is Michael Wayne Atha — is justifiably proud of his release “Trunk Muzik 0-60” on Ghet-O-Vision/DGC, and its grim songs “Box Chevy,” “Billy Crystal” and “Pop the Trunk.”
“But that was just a mixtape release,” he says, in contrast to his upcoming recording “Radioactive” for Eminem’s Shady Records, which he calls “my first real shot, my first real take on making an album for the world. I’ve been sitting on records for a long time, because I felt like they deserved to be distributed and put out on a real album. So now it’s time to go big.”
The lead single on “Radioactive,” called “Hard White (Up in the Club)” and featuring Lil Jon, already has dropped; Yelawolf likely will perform it at the Independent in The City on Monday.
The tattooed tough guy has more Southern-Gothic yarns than Flannery O’Connor, dating back to his Gadsden, Ala., childhood.
“I’ve been drinking since I was 3,” he says. “My uncle used to sneak me beers, my mom bartended and definitely let me have a drink once in a while, so I’ve got photos of me throwing ’em back, back in the day when it was OK to give kids whiskey to get ’em to go to bed.”
Yelawolf grew up in colorful surroundings: meth labs, deep-woods pot farmers and just good ol’ boys who, in general, he says, “will shoot first, then call the cops. I’ve been straight-up shot for picking mushrooms out of people’s fields.”
When a local suggests, “Let’s go fishin’,” he adds, “that’s one cue you’re in deep trouble, and the hood version is ‘Don’t make me pop the trunk.’ But besides all the dirt and the dark, ugly s---, there’s still a really cool Southern hospitality in Gadsden, like ‘We love you. But don’t f--- around.’”
Yelawolf hit the road early. The high school dropout cut a deal with his stepdad: get his GED, get a 1983 Honda. He did, and promptly drove to Berkeley, where he skated, crashed in abandoned frat houses and ate at Food Not Bombs in People’s Park.
Eventually, he wound up working on a fishing boat in Alaska — a harrowing job immortalized in a giant tattoo on his chest that says “glory over pain” — “because there were always eagles flying around our boat, picking fish out of our nets,” he says.
Back home in Alabama, Yelawolf began translating his life to mixtapes, and the rest is history.
His music has a ring of truth, he says, “because I don’t pull from experiences that I don’t know about. And that’s part of hip-hop to me: authenticity.”
IF YOU GO
Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com, www.theindependentsf.com