We've known and followed Struggle since we started CONCRETE Magazine. Back in 2004 he was Young Struggle, but he's all grown up now. We've know about his musical heritage and his troubles. We know he is 100% authentic.
This week has been a roller-coaster of emotions for Struggle that reflect his life as a whole. He just dropped his triumphant video to "OutLaw Shit" featuring Yelawolf and his late grandfather Waylon Jennings. The song is a mix of rap and country more true and well put together than anyone who has tried to mesh the at-odds-genres before. With Struggle's "OutLaw Shit" it's natural and the real reflection of blue-collar American neighborhoods (like The Nations) where pick-up trucks bump both. It smashed through the blogosphere and quickly shot past 20,000 views in 3 days and is still climbing fast. AND he is on the cover of CONCRETE Magazine #43 that drops 11-11-11.
Yet with all the positives in his musical world, the real world crashed down on him again. While visiting his probation officer, they locked him up on a new charge. As of 2 days ago, Struggle was again behind bars. You can visit HIS WEBSITE and donate to his legal fund or purchase some merchandise that goes to the same cause. Petition and good intent letters can be sent to FREESTRUGGLE2011@GMAIL.COM #FREESTRUGGLE
"OutLaw Shit" f/ Waylon Jennings and Yelawolf
His story runs deep and while this interview just scratches the surface it goes more in depth than any we have read.
Struggle: I'm from Nashville, Tennessee. West Side, a neighborhood called "The Nations", it's right of Charlotte Pike.
CONCRETE: What projects have you released to this date?
Struggle: In 2003 I put out an album called Struggle Until We Make It. In 2004 me and Jelly Roll put out The Halfway House. In 2006 put out a disc called Trying to Eat an
d sold them independently. In late 2009, early 2010 I put out Soundtrack To An Indictment. We have the new one coming out next month.
CONCRETE: How did the name Struggle come about?
Struggle: It started as Young Struggle. It really started as Struggle. A few people called me Struggle. It was a nickname. When I started rapping I started going by Young Struggle. Eventually the "Young" came off. My name Struggle just represents, not so much the struggle but the endurance of the struggle. And the overcoming of the struggle. And regardless of what you're going through you can rise above it. You've just got to keep grinding. Just keep at it and never let go of your dreams.
CONCRETE: What can you tell us about your new project?
Struggle: It's pretty much self titled. It's called I Am Struggle. The label that I've been signed to for the last few years pretty much just gave me the reigns and said, "Make the music you want to make. Don't worry about a radio hit. Don't worry about anything. Just do you. Do what you want to do." So we took it a whole other direction. This music really is the music I've always wanted to do. I got the producers I wanted to use like Will Power. A lot of it is produced by Jody Stevens from right here in Nashville. We mixed country and hip-hop, but in the most authentic way that we could. I mean I'm a rapper. I'm from the streets. My music was already authentic. We just took a lot of Waylon (Jennings) some Johnny Cash, some of the older, what I felt was authentic country, outlaw country and mixed them together. It's an amazing album. It's got features by Yelawolf. The first single is called "Outlaw Shit". It's me, Waylon and Yelawolf. The video just dropped. Directed by Tyler Clinton from Do.Not.Resist. A lot of great people came out and supported me on it. It's been a journey these last ten years of grinding and doing music to really get to the point where now I'm able to do what the fuck I want to do. This album totally embodies that.
Struggle: My grandfather is Waylon Jennings. That's my mom's dad. My dad was an old West Nashville thug (William "Fat Pat" Harness) from The Nations (neighborhood). They met in West Nashville at the skating rink. They had me. It was kind of a Romeo and Juliet story. He ended up passing when I was 10. My mom sang back-up some for Waylon, so there were times that I got to go on the road and stuff. She was hard headed and stubborn and wouldn't take any handouts. So at the same time we were living in Section 8 housing. I really grew up straddling the tracks. Musically, because of my generation and my environment, I clung to hip-hop, to rap. That's what I related to. At the same time my grandfather and his music was a huge inspiration in my my life. Now, as I'm older, we're digging into these old records, and the things that he talked about in country in those days is pretty much the same thing as we talk about now. It definitely went to together well. My other grandfather is Duane Eddy. He's a famous guitar player, rock-n-roll guitar player. And my grandmother Jessi Colter. She had some #1 hits and was a country star for years.
CONCRETE: How did you link up with Yelawolf?
Struggle: In 2008 Massbaum the label that I'm signed to met me wanting to do a movie about me before they signed me as an artist. They were wanting to do a movie about my life. They came down from New York. We got a script written and started casting people. They were looking for a white rapper with tattoos, an authentic rapper that would understand my story. Because Nashville is like no other place. We're a different breed. We really needed somebody that understood the Nashville culture. So we found this guy Yelawolf and it just so happened that he had lived in Antioch through the formative years of his life. So when we talked to him he was like, "Man I've always wanted to tell that story. I know. I grew up around the E-Macs, Ounze and all them different people." These people were of the same caliber as me I guess. They share the same story. He just got really passionate about it. He had a situation at the time, it wasn't anything like what he has now. We just clicked. We've got so much in common. We grew a bound and a relationship that didn't have anything to do with the music at the time. Then in January 2008 we actually cut "Outlaw Shit". It was the first record we did together, and it was such a big song that we've just been holding on to it. At that time, the lane that I was in (the song) didn't really match with what I was doing. But (the song) was matching with what I wanted to do. So I knew that there would be a time to release it. It just so happens that Yelawolf blew up right before I was releasing it. It all worked out great. Me and Yelawolf are more like brothers than anything. We've had about 5 years deep down of being friends.
CONCRETE: Your new video for "Outlaw Shit" is amazing. What can you tell us about making that song and video?
Struggle: Well I had been working on a few Waylon songs and was really just looking for the right one, and Jody Stevens called me and was like, "Man I got it!" I found this unreleased recording of Waylon singing "Outlaw Shit". Which it was originally "Outlaw Bit" and it was at a faster pace. So he found that my Uncle Shooter (Jennings) had released it on an album. It was an unreleased rendition of the song. It was slower and it said 'Outlaw Shit'. So as soon as I heard it, I just clung to it. I'm facing federal charges. I was facing federal charges then and beat that case. Now I'm on another federal charge right now. So my whole life has been that of an outlaw. I heard the song while I was in Patchwork(Studios) recording a couple of other songs and Wolf came into the session and said, "Man I want to get on that!" I cut the song and he jumped on it. The song is really about my life, about the struggle of getting out and trying to stay out. With the video, we did Yelawolf's part in Atlanta. He was on the (Vans) Warped Tour, so we went down there and cut his scene. The rest of it we shot right in The Nations (neighborhood). You'll see Laverte's (Market), George's Tire Shop, like that whole corner there on Centennial and 51st. I just brought it back to the hood. It's a crazy video. The story-line is just ridiculous. We took it somewhere else. We didn't want it to be your average video. It's really a short film that's adapted into a music video. It's really next level. I was actually at the race track with Jim Johnson and Yelawolf and I met this guy Tyler Clinton. He was hanging out with Jim Johnson, he one of his homeboys. He was snapping some pictures of us and stuff. So he hit me up on twitter saying, "Got some great pics from in Atlanta with Jim and Yelawolf. Love to get them to you." So he shot me a couple of pictures and we talked a couple of times. He was like, "Man I want to shoot the video on you." So I was like, "Alright, I got a song I want you to shoot." I sent him the track. He fell in love with it. He flew out from L.A. the next week, and we just went at it. We did it all guerilla style. Of course it cost, but not a tenth of what it would have. We really did it grimy. But it turned out epic. It's crazy. There's not a lot of videos that are done like this now.
CONCRETE: You have a song with Jackie Chain and Rittz. Is that from the upcoming album?
Struggle: I did that song at Tree Sound (Studios) around Christmas (2010). I was in there recording this album. I recorded a handful of songs at Tree Sound in Atlanta. When we were recording this new project, we rented out Compass Studios which used to be Hillbilly Central. It's where Waylon recorded Wanted: The Outlaws album which was the first platinum selling country album in history. They set the mic up for me right where Waylon stood and everything, so it was just a whole other vibe. But while I was in Atlanta I cut "Getcha High" with Rittz and Jackie Chain. Really I leaked it and I don't know if it will be on the project. I don't think it will because this other music is so different. But it will definitely be on a project. I'm not sure of it will be on this one that we're fixing to push.
CONCRETE: Your last project was Soundtrack To An Indictment. When did you record that? What inspired it? Can you break that project down for us?
Struggle: I was just going through so much. It was a year, year-and-a-half while I was signed to Massbaum. With anything, the music business, the streets, any of it, you have ups and downs. We were just at a down period were we had over extended ourselves a little bit. We were at a strategy building stage. There wasn't a lot of income coming in, so I was back out in the streets grinding. I just trying to get it the way I knew how. If you listen to the album from the first song to the last song, it's a journey through a year through the ups and downs of the streets. There's songs like "Dope Boy" that are more upbeat or flashy. Then there's songs like "Can You Hear the Sirens" and "When You Come Home" that tell the other side of the streets. When I went to release the project I had just been indicted on federal charges out of Memphis, Tennessee. I was listening to it, and I was like, "Man it's crazy how if you just listen to it from front to back you can hear the different stages of what happens when you're in the streets. And out there hustling, making it by any means." You can hear the different levels of pain, the glory and the downs. It was a journey. "When You Come Home" was the last song that I cut for that album, and I had just been indicted. Everything on that album is 100% real. There's no additives at all. That was how I was feeling everyday. It was where I was at mentally, physically, financially. Every bit of that was journey. It's really the best way for me to describe it. And it was a classic album. I put it out for free. I didn't put any push behind it. We got crazy amounts of downloads. I've actually toured off of that for the last year since I released it. To a lot of people it is still their favorite album. It was me giving fans a piece of me. I didn't try to make any money off of it. I just wanted them to get a little closer to me as a person.
CONCRETE: Any last words or shout outs?
Struggle: Y'all be looking out for the squad. We're here. Yelawolf has his album about to drop. My brother Jelly Roll has got so much in the pot right now. Y'all are fixing to see. I know Jelly Roll has been biuzzing for a while, but we're taking it to a whole other level now. We got a great squad. Worm, O.N.E., the people at The Phoenix Room, Zilla, Hecto and all of Slumerican. Slumerican to me is almost like what The Highway Men was. Everybody has got their own thing going on. Everybody is their own artist and got their own movement. But when 4 or 5 great people get together that are already powerful, it's unstoppable. That's what it is. Shouts out to all my A-Game, me and Jelly's movement.