Tattoo Stories with Yelawolf
By Nicole Mastrogiannis
January 23, 2015
Yelawolf is preparing to release his latest, forthcoming studio album Love Story this year, which he's been working very hard on.
The rapper tells iHeartRadio that he locked himself in his studio for months while creating new music during intense sessions. He also said that after working on previous projects likePsycho White with Travis Barker, Black Fall with Three 6 Mafia, andThe Slumdon Bridge with Ed Sheeran, he wanted to "fine-tune all these sounds into an album."
The Alabama native tells iHeartRadio of Love Story, "I went through a lot in the past few years and just learned so much. Just to continue, it is the 'Love Story.' It's the story of love, or however you want to break it down. It's just a passion project. And it's like a testament to just keep going and growing and evolving."
Even though Yelawolf has been hard at work in the studio, his single "Til It's Gone" has been hitting the radio waves hard. And has the rapper explains, he believes it's doing so well because his fans can relate. He told us of the meaning behind the song, "I was just thinking it was just probably a lot of just dealing with being taken advantage of, and putting my foot down, and kind of saying, 'Never again.' And that's what the song was about. I think the reason why people can relate to it so much is not being taken advantage of, and like 'I can't give, give, give, give, give, and then I have nothing left. I gave you everything.' It's funny. The song was not supposed to be what it is as far as a single. We knew that it was a cool record, and that it was a great video, but we didn't know it was going to do what's it's doing."
If there's one thing to notice about Yelawolf aside from his music, it's that he's completely COVERED in tattoos! Yelawolf recently revealed that he's so inked all over, only a few places remain where he's not covered, and each tat has a different meaning. Learn more about Yelawolf's tattoos and the stories behind them below.
Yelawolf tells iHeartRadio that he was 18 when he got his first tattoo. He says, "As soon as I turned 18, I went to the tattoo shop. My grandmother was pissed. She's like, "You're going to meet your maker in that.'"
Little did his grandmother know, that was just the tip of the iceberg — fast-toward to present day and Yelawolf has lost count of how many tats he actually has.
On his first tattoo: the word "native' with a self-drawn pyramid and sun on his arm
"First tattoo was on the side of my arm. Like the average first tattoo on the arm. I drew it myself. I got it in Anniston, Alabama. It's a small town south of Gadsden, where I'm from ... another small town. And it was like a four and a half hour sit. It says 'Native' and it's got Pyramid of Giza on it, and a black sun. At the time I was really into [the] self-awareness type of thing. I was going through that period in life where you want to identify [as] more than just white boy, or whatever. So finding out about Cherokee roots, and I was all into Dr. York at the time, which was pretty much like a cult in Georgia about aliens, and Egyptology, and numerology, and all that. I had heard Andre 3000 had went and recorded records there at this studio, and Erykah Badu, and all these people that were rad to me. And they pretty much rebuilt this place. They rebuilt the Sphinx, and the pyramids at scale size, and it was just, you know, 'of the time.' I mean it's relevant now, but not like it was to me that time."
On the "Calm Down" tattoo on his left hand:
"It was right after I got a ruptured spleen injury. I was like in ICU for a few days, and then assisted living for almost a month and a half. And it's pretty close to my last day of that injury, so it says, 'Calm Down,' because it was just ... I got bullets and beer [tattoos], and just wildin' out man. Even after the injury. I got this tattoo right before I left assisted living straight to tour in Australia. We flew straight from Madison to Atlanta for a connection flight, and I got this before I got on my flight to Australia."
How did he hurt himself?! Yelawolf explains: "My spleen seemed to have been like injured from a previous stage dive from the rafters, like way up in the air. And I jumped out of the rafters, and I landed on a kid's head, and broke his nose, and I ruptured my spleen. I didn't know it at the time. And then months and months later it popped with another stage dive. Luckily, it was like the last song in the set, and I was like, 'Thank you, I'm out,' and then walked to the bus, called an ambulance, and it turned out to be pretty serious. Internally bleeding sucks. So, 'Calm Down,' that's what that's about."
On his Yelawolf music tattoos:
Yelawolf tells us that some of his tattoo meanings are deep, like the portraits of his children on his back, or the ink dedicated to his fiancé, Fefe Dobson. Some are more random as he explains his "beer grip" tat came about because that's where he grabs a beer. But then some of them he's gotten specifically for his music.
"I got whiskey across my knuckles, for 'Whisky In A Bottle,' just for a video I did a few months ago ... I got 'Love Story' just for the cover of the album."
On his "777" and "One-Eyed Jack of Diamonds" tattoos on his left hand:
"Me, DJ Clever, and Bones both got sevens. Three sevens is a jackpot, so now before every show we, you know, 'seven up.' And the One-Eyed Jack of Diamonds we also got. The Highwaymen have a record, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash were the Highwaymen. And they have a record called 'The Silver Stallion.' And that's been our song the whole tour. One of the lines is, 'Ride like the One-Eyed Jack of Diamonds.' So we got the One-Eyed Jack of Diamonds."
On the "Red" tattoo on his neck:
"Comin' up out of Alabama it was always, like you know, being called a redneck or something, you know, derogatory. I just wore it. I mean I'm not really a redneck ... not because I don't want to be. I mean wouldn't care, but I just know like a real redneck, like I don't even qualify. I'm not that good at hunting, I don't know how to fix cars, like I haven't even earned that. But I got it on my neck, because ... well for instance opening up for Wu-Tang Clan in Europe. I was getting heckled and at the end of my song I just jumped in the crowd, and I was like, 'Hey motherf***er, you wanna say something? You can have the mic.' And he started [saying], 'You f***in' redneck. You redneck piece of s**t, you.' And I'm like 'Yup, exactly. That's exactly why I got it tattooed on my neck, because I know what you're thinking.' It's just about wearing it. It's like, call me a name for so long I'm just going to be it."
On the elephant head and raccoon jumping out of a trash can tattoos on his shins:
Yelawolf explains his most painful tattoos are the tats on his shins, which he got while on Warped Tour. The ink took about four to six hours total (PER LEG), and happened on his tour bus in between performing and jumping around on stage in the heat, signing autographs and meeting fans. As you can imagine, pain is an understatement. He tells iHeartRadio, "I had like cankles for two weeks. It was terrible."
He adds, "One of the shins is a big elephant head, and then it's got the Alabama 'A' close to my ankle. And then the other one has got a big raccoon jumping out of a trash can. It says, 'White Trash' on it. The elephant's the mascot for the Crimson Tide [of the University of Alabama]. That was just nostalgic to me comin' up under a house of Crimson Tide fans — my grandfather and great-grandfather, and generations of it. I'm proud to be from Alabama. And the 'White Trash' thing was just like the 'Red' on my neck."
On the "Slum" tattoo under his lip and "Forgiveness" tattoo at the top of his neck:
"It says, Slum for Slumerican. It was probably the most regretted tattoo that [I have]. I like it, but Fefe was like crying and it was dramatic."
So, what led to Slum? Yelawolf explains, "I went to the shop and I saw some kid who got, Slumerican tattooed across his whole forehead. I was like, 'Hell no, man. I mean I started this s**t.' I already had Slumerican across the top of my hairline, but I was just like, 'Man, I'm about to go there. You know, let people know.' And then it's a game changer. It's like a taboo spot, almost. I mean I had my eyes, and the top of my hairline done, and no one reacted to tattoos like they did to this one. The airports were like, 'Really?'"
"Forgiveness. I got it in Canada on tour. [It means] just to be forgiven. Forgiving somebody is easier than to be forgiven by someone. So it was really just about asking for forgiveness for things."
On his "333" tattoo:
"333 is just ... well it was a way for me to tell Fefe I love her online for a while. And it's also just a time of birth. And three three's is a very like powerful run of numbers. Three, three, three is nine. After nine is zero ... Nine is the highest number in math no matter how many billions, and trillions you count after nine it's all back to zero."
Being that Yelawolf is covered from head to toe, it's hard to keep track of how much ink he actually has. But he says there is still more tattoos in his future. He's had a large tat outlined on his back for years that he intends to finish.
On his back tattoo:
"I had Jesus piece I started like five years ago I outlined it. And because I don't see it, I don't think about it. It's the traditional Jesus like looking up at the light. People have seen this photo forever, but we literally took the canvas off the wall, and laid tracing paper and traced it. So it's huge. It's like his head is my entire back from the neck down to my waist."
And it doesn't end there either. If you can believe it, he says there's still room for more. He says, "Once you're in it, you're in it." Yelawolf plans on getting his thighs (which is pretty much the only part of him that's not inked yet) tatted up. He says, "There's still space ... kind of."
Photos: Katherine Tyler for iHeartRadio