The rise of Yelawolf, from drifter to Eminem protege, includes a Nashville chapter 

No Sleep 'Til Antioch

No Sleep 'Til Antioch

Alabama-by-way-of-everywhere rapper Yelawolf isn't technically local, but we're claiming him anyway. Yes, he's lived all over the country — both coasts, Baton Rouge and even Alaska — but it's only Antioch that gets credit for introducing him to hip-hop culture, which, considering the critical plaudits he's accumulated for his Interscope records debut Trunk Muzik 0-60, is kind of a monumental. And he's likely the only major-label artist to mention Antioch on a major-label record last year — hell, he's probably the only artist to mention Antioch on a record that wasn't made in Antioch. Yes, that Antioch — our Antioch, the southeast sector of this very city — helped form one of the most innovative and exciting new MCs in the rap game.

And don't think for a second we're the only ones who noticed this kid is on the way up — the last few years have seen Wolf popping up on singles from all sorts of hip-hop heavy hitters including Paul Wall, Julez Santana and the unstoppable "You Ain't No DJ" from Big Boi's Son of Chico Dusty. Even the recently resurgent Eminem took notice, signing Wolf to his revived Shady Records — the same label that groomed 50 Cent for superstardom. It could be seen as a lateral move, business-wise — from one partnership with Interscope to another — but Slim Shady's endorsement is huge, and his influence can't be underestimated, it reaches far beyond rap-nerds and critical circle jerks.

But in reality, all the celebrity endorsements in the world don't mean a thing — it's the music that counts, and Trunk Musik is the kind of album that counts for double. Muzik is crammed full of hard-bumpin' futuristic beats that are clearly on the cutting edge but evoke the boom-bap of classic hardcore rap. It's also packed wall-to-wall with clever, intricate raps probing the darkest depths of rural poverty, drug abuse and the infinite awesomeness of a big-ass sound system in the back of a big-ass American car. Tracks like "Daddy's Lambo," about skeezing on rich girls out slummin', the hard-as-hell "I Wish" and even the Nirvana-sampling "Marijuana" exhibit an artist that cannot be ignored, an artist digging deep into his own psyche to move the entire genre forward without losing sight of its roots. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real reason we're claiming him as our own.

Email music@nashvillescene.com.

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