Join me on this limb where we call Yelawolf the most successful white southern rapper of all time. Who else? Lil' Wyte? The list is short, maybe because southern rap is the most regionally particular subgenre, the most cultural, the most defiantly impenetrable to outsiders. In the very gradual integration of hip-hop, southern rap is like, um, the South.
Yelawolf has taken the same path through this minefield that others walked before him. Like his patron Eminem, he is nasal and fast. He evokes the unifying images of the trailer park and the party, and he avoids racially problematic posturing or social commentary. He is quick in both senses of the word and, on his albums at least, sometimes backed by Gucci Mane.
He is also restrained from the principal pleasure of southern rap, which is celebrating a culture that much of America regards as dumb. It's a handicap, but at the same time it's an incentive toward more technical rapping. He can be cloying in the same way as Twista, but Yelawolf rarely succumbs to the childish cadences that mar the work of other southern emcees. He's working with extra constraints in a fun genre, and he consistently works hard.
Yelawolf plays the Wilma Wed., April 16, at 8 PM. $22.