Articles

“White Trash and Proud of it”: From ‘BAMA to da ATL to da BX

In Sina's Posts, Tamás' Posts on February 9, 2012 by SN

Last Saturday, we spontaneously decided to go to a rap concert. Yelawolf, the main attraction, is a White rapper from Alabama, signed to Eminem’s label Shady Records, and considered an emerging talent in recent Southern hip-hop. Hip-hop in the South is mostly associated with urban African American rappers like Outkast’s Andre 3000 and Big Boi, Lil’ Wayne, T.I., or Ludacris.

I first encountered Yelawolf at the SAMLA conference where I heard an inspiring presentation by Erich Nunn on the ways in which he subverts the image of Southern white trash (yes, rednecks). So if you are a German Americanist still looking for a topic on the 2013 DGfA conference on rural America, you should definitely check out his videos that draw on rural imagery and Southern gothic

The concert took place at a place called Wild Bill’s in Duluth, a 30 minute beamer ride north of ATL. It boasts to be biggest “night club” in the States (5,000+ people) and reminds me of a Großraumdisko with a “rural” audience Yelawolf deliberately mocks in this performances.

Wild Bill's, Duluth.

The concert started with the MC CyHi the Prynce from Stone Mountain who warmed up the crowd for the delayed Yelawolf extravaganza.

Local Hero: MC CyHi the Prynce.

Yelawolf took the crowd the moment he stepped out on the stage. The crowd was cheering even before the first beat started. This does not come as a surprise, considering the fact that he lived in Cabbagetown for a couple of years and still holds ties to ATL. Yelawolf stuck to his White trash theme by wearing a blue jeans overall, a camouflage T-shirt, and an Alabama basecap.

Hard White: Yelawolf.

Yelawolf’s hard emceeing, shrill voice, and spitting rhymes dominated his performance. I think his redneck performance only works because he knows how to rap and because his tattoos provide him with street credibility. Yet, in contrast to urban African American rappers, his hood is not in the projects, but in a trailer park in the ‘bama countryside. His is an experience of White poverty and marginalization in the rural South. His use of the N-word, thus, seems to emphasize class and culture over ethnicity. His tattoos convey the aura of a rough rapper and this is probably also the reason why he took off his T-Shirt after a couple of minutes into his performance. His tattoos were clearly visible and without them his mimicking and subversion of White trash culture would not work.

We really liked Yelawolf’s eclectic sense of music. He told the audience that he is often asked about his musical influences. He then played some of them with and for his audience. He started with The Doors, went on to play Johnny Cash, Eminem, Outkast and even some metal tunes which again signify his white (trash) background. The audience honored this musical excursion with many cheers and lights.

I Just Wanna Party. Yelawolf.

He really enjoyed being on stage. Towards the end of his roughly one hour performance he animated the crowd to rap along while he was watching them partly startled and partly extremely satisfied and happy. He seems to have remained a humble character despite his enormous success in the past few years. All in all, we were really impressed with his performance. We enjoyed the concert a lot. Too bad that it was over so soon.

Finally, here’s a video Tamás took. This is Yelawolf’s latest single; it was the encore of the concert.

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