Yelawolf at First Avenue, 10/19/11

Yelawolf at First Avenue in March
Photo by Denis Jeong Plaster
October 19, 2011
First Avenue, Minneapolis

For his second appearance in Minneapolis, Alabama rapper Yelawolf ripped up a sold-out mainroom crowd of mostly diverse dudes in flat-brims and girls in short minis. For fans of Eminem who mourn his clearly lost sense of humor, the new Shady signee aptly fills the void left by the former trailblazer.

For starters, Yelawolf is a reincarnation of Em for this latest generation of hip-hop lovers, his tatted bare torso and white-boy backwoods background an instant sell for mainstream rap fans. On Wednesday night at First Avenue, he proved for the second time in our mainstay venue that he can deliver a solid show of high energy rap jams and send everyone home sweaty and satisfied.

Getting the twentysomething crowd of mostly guys (and a few up-for-it ladies) ready for the main act, DMC champion Craze warmed things up with his beat juggling and behind-the-back tricks that left everyone closely watching stunned. To dance music fans around the globe, Craze has long since been heralded as the hip-hop and turntablist-crossover champ of the genre, having been legitimately banned from competing back in the early '00s due to his severely graduated skill level. Anyone in attendance who considers themselves a follower of electronic music surely felt Craze opening for an act of this caliber was a clear win.

Up next was newish rapper Rittz, a crowd pleaser with his pro-cannabis everyman approach. Instantly likeable, Rittz and his fiery beard began with "White Jesus" and his Yelawolf-guested track "Fulla Shit" (poking fun of dudes who'd say anything for a one-nighter). To much applause, he dropped his "High Five" jam for 'all the smokers in the house' (always a crowd-uniter and a bit too easy these days), saying,  "I just quit my job two months ago, so your support is appreciated."

Yelawolf in Minneapolis
Yelawolf in Minneapolis
Photo by Ian Traas

After the set, Rittz announced he would be roaming the crowd and invited fans to holler at him. We rubbed elbows with him for a minute and he told us this was the "best crowd of the tour so far" and that he was definitely impressed with Minneapolis.

After more than 10 drunk chicks and their boyfriends were dragged out in anticipation of the headliner, Yelawolf was on. It took three songs and 'Bama's bad boy shed his shirt, double-fisting water bottles and shaking their contents onto the crowd. He opened up with Daddy's-girl fave "Daddy's Lambo," following that up with a few lesser-known tracks. 

Things really ignited with a quick rendition of "You Ain't No DJ" (usually featuring Big Boi), Yela's tattoos blaring and stocking cap haphazardly resting atop his greasy brown hair.  The plodding meloncholy of "I Wish" hit hard with this young rough-and-tumble crowd, and soon Yela was paying homage to his roots with a megamix featuring his most promiment influences -- Eminem, The Doors, Beastie Boys and Outkast rounded out the tribute.

"If you ever had a dream, don't give up!" he screamed at the wide-eyed crowd. "Look at me now!"

Surely Yelawolf's tale is an inspirational one, but you have to wonder if it's lost on these fans or if his scrappy image is just one that's easy to attach to.  Last March when he came to this very venue, I tweeted that he would be a household name in five years at this rate. That prediction still stands, but how relevant that is to rap music in general remains to be seen. Either way, it was an electric hip-hop show that fans won't soon forget.  

Yelawolf at First Avenue in March
Photo by Denis Jeong Plaster

Critic's Bias:  A member of Doomtree introduced me to Yela when he came to Minneapolis last March. Fell in love instantly with "You Ain't No DJ" and "Pop The Trunk" but really wish Yela would have played "Mixin' Up The Medicine" tonight!
The crowd: Bros in baseball caps and faux gold chains
Overheard: One guy (loudly) to another: "Dude, if those two girls are down to fu*k..."
Random notebook dump:  All the girls here are just waiting for his shirt to come off. Luckily he didn't make them wait long.

Yelawolf set list:

1. Daddy's Lamb
2. Trunk Muzik
3. No Hands
4. (Hard White) Up In The Club / You Ain't No DJ
5. I Wish
6. Let's Go
7. Megamix
8. Pop The Trunk
9. Marijuana
10. Billy Crystal
11. Love Is Not Enough
12. Box Chevy
13. Good To Go (encore)

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