Trinidad and Tobago has been no stranger to having large musicians visit the country. From Rick Ross, to Nicki Minaj, to The Beatles and even Bob Marley, we’ve been blessed to have artists visit the twin island republic. Yet to many, it was a surprise that rapper Yelawolf was here, especially since there was no advertising of a show. Luckily for us, SoundVillage rep Paxx, had the rare opportunity to sit down with U.S rapper Yelawolf and his girlfriend, rock n roll artist and actress Fefe Dobson, at the popular More Vino Sushi Restaurant on Ariapita Ave, Port of Spain.
In the presence of local artist/businessman Marcus Braveboy aka Mark Hardy and Xplicit Entertainment founding member and super producer Mevon Soodeen, Paxx had a chance to find out why Yelawolf was here, what are his plans and his thoughts on Trinidad thus far.
Paxx: Well first off, what brings you to the beautiful isle of Trinidad
Yela: Well Fefe is actually filming a movie here, I actually just came to support her.
Paxx: Oh is that the one with Tatyana Ali?
Fefe: Yup, that same one.
Paxx: Alright cool. So what are your thoughts on Trinidad so far? Any local delicacies that you’ve tried and liked?
Yela: Um, yeah, we’ve uh… (laughs). Actually, have we? Oh yeah, the hotel food was CRAZY good. This chef hooked up a buffet with jerk chicken and stuff, it was really good. In the states, there’s some really low key spots that are like, Caribbean influenced, or whatever…
Fefe: The truth is, we need someone to take us out, and really show us around.
Yela: … but, the truth is, we’re waiting for a local to take us to THAT spot. Like, where’s THAT spot? Where’s that hole in the wall, like, you know, somebody’s grandmother’s recipe or some sh*t.
Fefe: Or like somebody’s grandmother’s house!
Yela: Exactly, like somebody’s grandparents’ house, you know?
Paxx: You know what, I’ma ask my grandmother to cook for you guys! (laughs)
Yela: Aight. Like for real, if you were to come to Alabama, I would take you to this place on the mountain, there’s the best country food you ever ate you know, that little hole in the wall. I can tell that these places don’t have it (i.e. the ones on Ariapita Avenue). They don’t have no soul – we want to go to a place with soul you know? Food tastes so much better when somebody sings over it, or you see somebody cooking and s***. I didn’t come to Trinidad to eat sushi, you know?
Fefe: (laughs) But we do love sushi…
Yela: Yeah we do love sushi, you know, but so far the food hasn’t been good. Except for the hotel, and let me tell you, them motherf*ckers ain’t cheap. It’s like US $100, and that’s more than we’d pay in even America. I mean it was delicious, but it ain’t THAT good. We just want to go somewhere people care about their cooking.
Yela: Oh yeah, and even shopping, when you look at the stores, it’s like… we don’t want to buy American, I want to buy some Trinidad s***. You know, some shit that you buy it and it’s like “This is FROM Trinidad” you know what I’m saying?
Paxx: Yeah dude, I feel you. So onto the music. Your debut studio album Radioactive got 4.5 mics in the source, which makes it like a classic album. How did it make you feel to see that.
Yela: (With a disappointed face) Well… to tell you the truth, we had 5 mics, and then the editor got fired. So the 4.5 was like, bittersweet, you know? I really appreciated it, and I’m honoured to get 4.5 or whatever, but like, it felt great knowing that I had that 5 mics before, man. Critically it means a lot, and I think it’s important that the work I put in is appreciated, and that someone cares. I was just fortunate enough to have someone who sat behind the desk who was a fan of music and not, you know, just a critic, and I’m thankful for him you know? And I’m even more thankful for the person who gave me 5 mics, and as I said he got fired, you know?
Paxx: Wait… is it because he gave you that rating?
Yela: I don’t think he got fired because he gave me 5 mics… (laughs)… but if he did, that’s even better. I still want my half a mic you know? I want it man… I’m after it. My next album is already in the works mentally. I’m figuring out what it is I was missing … I’ll get it.
Paxx: Tight. So I saw on Radioactive you had like, some different collaborations to what the norm might be for a popular artist. Like I saw you worked with Gangsta Boo and well, Fefe Dobson and Kid Rock, who I haven’t seen in the hip hop scene for some time. What inspired you to go with those artists instead of the norm of commercial artists?
Yela: I guess I did it because when I first had the opportunity to even get collabos was Trunk Muzik, and I just wanted to reach out to the OGs. I always wanted to do that, because I want that for myself. When I’m 40 and still ripping (God willing), that someone who’s like 25 or 30 would look up and be like, “Yo man, I want you on this record because I looked up to you in this situation”. Instead of looking to the left of you or the right of you, I think artists should look up and let the OGs pull you up. So like Bun B and Raekwon on Trunk Muzik, I was just paying respect to the people who inspired me, and it just overflowed into Radioactive. For example, when I met Fefe we became really close, and I became inspired her and her music and her style. And the opportunity came up to put her on Animal and it happened and it worked perfectly, after we’d been sitting with that records for months without a hook. Same thing I did with Kid Rock, I’m a fan of what he’s done culturally. To go from opening up for Too $hort as a rapper, to hosting the CMTs (Country Music Television Music Awards) – that’s a huge growth artistically. He’s an ill person, who knows his sh*t, and that record’s important to me, culturally. I also tried to put some local people on, like Shawty Fatt and Rittz The Rapper. So it’s just about being honest to what music you like to make, we just kept it family man, and outside of family we chose people we thought were authentic. We could have gotten anybody we wanted to, but that’s wack man, real wack. You don’t ever want to do that.
Paxx: So are there any other artists you’re interested in working with?
Yela: Man, the list of the artists I want to work with will never die, seriously. Every time someone asks me that, I’m like “I don’t know”. I’ve said Anthony Kiedis, I’ve said Willie Nelson, sh*t I’ve said James Taylor. As far as hip hop goes, I want to work with Andre 3000, Devin The Dude. I also want to work with Bjork.
Paxx: So what’s your favourite track on Radioactive and why?
Yela: Well… (chuckles), it depends on what day. “The Hardest Love Song In The World” is definitely one of my favourites, “Animal”, and “Gutter” and “The Last Song” which mean a lot to me personally.
Paxx: So are there any upcoming projects from you, or any of your crew members like Rittz?
Yela: Rittz actually recently dropped “White Jesus” which is a critically acclaimed mixtape that did really well, and he was on tour with me. And he’s coming out with a new tape called “Resurrection”. My boy Struggle too, who is (country music legend) Waylon Jenning’s grandson, and is a rapper; he’s locked up right now, but you can look up “Outlaw Sh*t”, which is a video me him and his grandfather did. Things that I’m working on… I got an EP coming out with Travis Barker, that’s like a crazy mix, and coming out with a clothing line we’re collabing on called “Country Fresh”. We’re also shooting a video for gutter, and my Slumerican clothing line is doing a collabo with Diamond clothing. Fefe’s movie is coming out soon too, called “Home Again”. Other than that, I’m about to plant seeds in Nashville and start working on my next album. As for my next tour, Fefe doesn’t want me to, but I’m doing my next tour on a motorcycle, on a chopper. Basically, I’m gonna be on a Harley with about four other people, with the tour bus behind us the whole way.
Paxx: Yo, I think that’s super tight.
Fefe: It’s really cool, but I get scared.
Paxx: Haha word. So, there’s no question that you’re lyrically gifted…
Yela: Thank you man
Paxx: No problem. But has being like a white rapper ever given you any trouble in the game thus far?
Yela: Well, being a white rapper… it’s like I’m a white rapper, we got a black president. You gotta deal with it. You’re going to do things that people don’t expect. The problem is that people over-credit me for something that’s not special, and under-credit me for something that is. It’s the whole white man-can’t jump bullsh*t. If I dunk, they’re like OHHH! But everybody dunks… it should be how did I dunk, or where did I dunk, or who did I dunk over? Did I win the game when I dunked? What was really special about it, not that I did it because I’m white. I just want it to be special, not because I’m white. Just like anyone else who chooses a career that puts you in the face of adversity culturally, I face those problems. You guys would probably face the same time of sh*t because hip hop’s Americanised. What I find works is, if your represent your culture, and be brutally honest it’ll work. Like I’m from Alabama, I’ve always been brutally honest, this is ME. And if you don’t like it, f*ck it! I’ve seen it all dawg, like when I toured with Wiz Khalifa… I’m saying that ‘cause he’s (Paxx) got a Taylor Gang shirt on, man. (laughs) Shout out Wiz, and Taylor Gang.
Paxx: Haha, TGOD man. So it’s like every rappers dream to work under Eminem and Dr. Dre. What’s that experience been like for you? Humbling, exciting, like what’s it been like?
Yela: Man, I can tell you this, I can only pray that when I get to Marshall’s (Eminem’s real name) age, that I could even be half as brilliant as that person. Some people are given a very special gift and Marshall has one. Mine is my own, but what we do share is passion, honesty and respect for lyricism. Plus overall, we have a want to represent who we are and what we’re about. It’s like anyone can be a rapper man, but it’s like who are you off stage? Who are you at home? Who are your parents? Do you act like that in front of your mom? I know I do, my whole family knows who I am, this is me. Talent can be taught, but authenticity is a gift from God, you can’t learn how to be real, and that’s what me and Eminem share. And in reference to the white rapper shit, we actually make fun of it, because it’s miniscule to us artistically. Overall, he’s been an excellent mentor man, and he’s done so much without even having to say anything. All I have to do is press play man, there’s enough advice in his music.
Paxx: Cool man. So since you’ve been here, have you been able to hear any Trinidadian music.
Yela: Uh… (looks at Fefe), we’ve heard some soca. (At Fefe) Did you know what soca was? I didn’t even know what soca was at first…
Fefe: Honestly, we haven’t been able to go anywhere authentic. Everywhere we go have been playing a lot of Americanised music. We haven’t been able to go out and listen to the roots of Trinidad. But we will, for sure.
Paxx: Word, same as you said earlier. On that note, we got a lot of Trinidadian rappers as well. Have you been like approached by any to listen to their sh*t?
Fefe: (Laughs) Yo, that happened right here (in More Vino). He didn’t even have a CD or demo or anything he just approached us.
MH: (Laughs) I know who it is; good friend of mine and he’s actually really good, I have his CD in my car.
Paxx: Who’s that?
MH: Primo Sparxx.
Paxx: Oh word!
Yela: Well that’s it, that’s the only guy.
Fefe: And you guys as well, even though you haven’t tried to give us anything.
Paxx: (laughs) It’s cause my dad’s a huge artist down here, and he often doesn’t like to get bothered so I don’t do it to others. David Rudder’s his name.
Fefe: Aight I’ll look him up.
Paxx: Dope. Well as you now know, there’s a huge hip hop scene here too. But like even though there’s talent, it’s really hard for Trini rappers to get noticed. Any advice you have for guys from the local hip hop scene?
Yela: If you’re from Trinidad, and you want to make an impact, you have to be brutally honest about your culture. I think the main problem internationally has been that hip hop is trendy as f*ck. Once it picks up everyone does it. That makes sounds so attainable, you can download a style. So if you’re coming from Trinidad, be Trinidad. What is Trinidad? I know it ain’t wholly balanced whole grained bread or Mike’s Bikes or sushi. You can come to Alabama and go into a Foot Locker, and you’ll be like this ain’t Alabama. All you gotta do is press play on “Pop The Trunk” or “Let’s Roll” and you’ll see Alabama. That’s why it’s attractive, because it’s real. You know why people love Kanye? Chicago. You know why people love OutKast? Atlanta, Georgia. You know why people love Dr. Dre? Compton, California. What are you representing? Just be honest.
Fefe: I think also that you shouldn’t only be honest about where you come from, but what you’re living, including emotionally.
Yela: That’s true. Fefe’s from Toronto, and though she doesn’t sing about it, I still feel the authenticity in her music so that’s true. But she still represents certain cultures – rock n roll, so like there’s something about her that means something culturally.
Fefe: Like Amy Winehouse. She’s from London but she doesn’t sing about anything except what comes from her heart. I think that generally women are different to men when it comes to song writing anyways. We’re like emotional (laughs). Basically depends on what’s in your heart, you know? If Trinidad is what’s in your heart that’s what you should write about. If love’s what’s in your heart then you should write about that, you know?
Paxx: Word, that’s dope. So could you like see yourself working with any Trinidadian artist?
Fefe: Like you?
Paxx: Haha sure why not?
Fefe: Or maybe your dad!
Paxx: That would be the dopest thing ever.
Yela: Honestly, I could see myself doing it. What about you Fefe?
Fefe: I think once you hear music that you’re passionate about regardless of what country it is, and it moves you, you should do it.
Yela: Exactly, it doesn’t matter. I swear to God, you never know where that next record is going to come from.
Fefe: You can hear a record and you can hear a kid on the street singing a song and think it’s amazing. Like I started when I was 13 writing for local boy bands. So you never know.
Paxx: Alright you guys dope. Thanks for this interview yo, it really was a pleasure meeting you guys. Two of the most cool, down to earth people I’ve ever met.
Yela: Thanks man, I appreciate it.
Make sure and support these dope artists by clicking on the i-Tunes links below and purchasing their music! Maybe we may see Yela or FeFe collaborate with a dancehall or soca artist in the future!