Deviating from the country/hip hop style of his previous two albums, Yelawolf returns to his southern rap roots on Trunk Muzik 3. Spitting bars about thrift shops and whiskey over gritty, 808-heavy beats, Yelawolf delivers an emphatic final release under the Shady Records label.
A series of eight blistering freestyles were released weekly in the months leading up to the album’s release and I expected a similar level of lyrical vitriol and energy in the finished product. Unfortunately, the songs in Trunk Musik 3 are a shift from the direction in which Yelawolf seemed to imply he was heading in, after dissing G-Eazy and Post Malone in the final freestyle, “Bloody Sunday.” The intricate flows and feverishly high-octane beats of the freestyles were a treat to listen to in early 2019; I did not feel the same during my first few listens of Trunk Muzik 3.
This is not to say that the album is disappointing. While it was not what I expected, it is starting to grow on me. I will certainly be adding a few songs to my routine playlist, including the first two singles “TM3” and “Catfish Billy 2.” Yelawolf somehow coaxed a decent verse out of Machine Gun Kelly on “Rowdy,” and “Trailer Park Hollywood” encapsulates many of the same complicated bars and bouncy beats to which I was looking forward. Yelawolf shares memories of his upbringing in Alabama with lines like “Diggin’ through mama’s vinyl collection to the smell of fried bologna’s a ceremony / My religion is ’Bama life.”
I’ve always respected Yelawolf’s lyrics because I have found them to be exceptionally poetic with vivid descriptions and metaphors. Ironically, this clashes with his hardened “Southern trash” personality. As he states in “Sky’s the Limit” off his 2015 album Love Story, “I’m just an average man who writes poetry about witnessing fuckery.”
On Trunk Muzik 3’s “Drugs,” Yelawolf raps about his complicated history with — you guessed it — drugs, namely marijuana. The beat is somber and smooth with vocal interjections of him saying “drugs” interrupting lines. In the first verse, Yelawolf raps how he “took a left turn and pursued that dough” and that he “didn’t like the feeling at first.” His eloquent lines degrade into short, jilted phrases (“Who am I for you to judge? / Who are you? It’s just drugs” and “One time, one try, then I say bye”) as he describes his growing addiction and how he almost died from driving while intoxicated. The artistry displayed in this song is impressive, and although I probably won’t listen to this track very often, I respect it immensely.
Yelawolf revisits this theme on the second-to-last song, “Addiction,” rapping “Thank God I was touched with the vision of rap / ‘Cause I still ain’t got the patience yet / To deal with the truth because the truth is sickening” and “I’m sure the devil’s got a big grin / Watching my head spin with moral afflictions.” Beyond the brutal honesty with which he delivers these lines, I love the biblical and spiritual imagery, which he has frequently used throughout his career. In my favorite Yelawolf song, “Love Story,” he spits, “If God is my angel, the fucking devil’s the pistol,” “Be living proof of my word, meaning I’m Bible designing” and “From the heavens, I have arose from the ashes of hell.” Four years removed from these verses, Yelawolf remains a lyrical behemoth, effortlessly shifting back to the style with which he made his early music.
My favorite verse on Trunk Muzik 3 might not even be from Yelawolf himself. On “Box Chevy 6,” the sixth installment of his “Box Chevy” series, Rittz’s feature verse is technically incredible, showcasing multiple creative flows while he bounces over the bright beat perfectly. Yelawolf and Rittz have collaborated multiple times in the past and always produce a phenomenal song when they do. Both are among my favorite rappers, and I eagerly await future projects from each of them.
Overall, Trunk Muzik 3 is a fitting conclusion to Yelawolf’s time with Shady Records. The album exhibits Yelawolf’s growth as an artist, and while not every song is a banger (the beat on “No Such Thing as Free” is dreadful) and Yelawolf’s lyrics are sometimes lacking in the expected creativity (looking at you, “Special Kind of Bad”), Trunk Musik 3 is worth a replay. Many of the freestyles are more exciting than the majority of the album, but I will look at them as addendums to the project itself. Combine them all, and Trunk Muzik 3 is a brilliant showcase of one of the most underrated lyricists and rappers in the game.
Jeremy Markus is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He currently serves as an assistant arts and entertainment editor on The Sun’s editorial board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.