A lot can change in two weeks. Just ask YelaWolf, who has signed a deal with Interscope Records after interest in the 30-year-old Alabama rapper surged at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Tex., earlier this month. YelaWolf will release his major label debut album on Interscope through his current independent label, Ghet-O-Vision Entertainment. The rapper confirmed the news on Twitter Wednescday morning (Mar. 31) and checked in with Billboard.com to share some details on the deal.
"I've probably been through every label in the past couple of years," laughs YelaWolf (real name: Michael Wayne Atha), who was also courted by Atlantic and Island Def Jam Records before choosing Interscope. "I don't think we missed any. But after SXSW, it just got really heated, you know? Prior to that we had taken a few meetings, but we decided to just hold out and go knock it out there, see where it took us."
Yelawolf played nine shows over the course of SXSW, including a Saturday night gig at the Levi's FADER Fort. It was the MC's first time at the festival, and he says, "I had no idea the impact it was going to make…I really tried to keep my head down, for real, because it keeps me in the right place creatively. But it was phenomenal."
Video: YelaWolf performs at SXSW
Being signed to a major is nothing new for YelaWolf, who was with Columbia from "the end of 2007 going into 2008, not even six months," he says. "Then Rick Rubin came in and rearranged everything to his own liking." Now that he's with Interscope, though, YelaWolf says he's not concerned about history repeating itself. "There's no fear because we may have gotten dropped from Columbia, but look what happened. We've gotten this going with a team of four or five people at Ghet-O-Vision -- we realize the power of us."
YelaWolf also addressed the frequent comparison of him to Eminem, saying, "I think it's completely fair, especially now that I'm at Interscope. There's only been one internationally successful white rapper, so it's human nature." As he sees it, their similarities go beyond race to their shared "blue-collar, factory town" upbringing. "Obviously I don't know him as a person yet, but based on his lyrics and the music that he's put out, there's definitely a common ground of troubles," he says.
As for a possible collaboration with the Detroit rap star, YelaWolf says, "I'm absolutely up for it. I would love to work with Em. I'm a fan, so I'm definitely going to pitch it. I gotta take advantage of where I'm at."
YelaWolf says there's no timetable yet for his debut album, but he plans to release a new mixtape in June entitled "Trunk Muzik 0-60," the follow-up to his acclaimed January mixtape, "Trunk Muzik," which featured Bun B, Raekwon and Juelz Santana among others. "It''ll have five to seven new records, he says. "We're gonna remix and remaster some of the existing records on 'Trunk Muzik' and add a couple of new features, and we'll let that warm up everybody for a bigger album release."
The rapper is also focused on his current opening slot on Pennsylvania rapper Wiz Khalifa's "Deal or No Deal" tour, which kicked off just before SXSW. "It's been dope, man," he says. "The first six shows have been sold out. [Wiz] has been working really hard it's been paying off for him. I'm just blessed to be soaking up some of his fans because they're really receptive."
"It's so rock," he adds. "I love it."