Review Summary: you need to stay up out them streets if you can't take the heat
As with many pop artists, Lil Yachty is greatly concerned with maintaining his image--which is as fleshed-out as his music. Lil Yachty's reaction to the fury of Joe Budden, who interviewed him for Complex, perfectly encapsulates this. As a response to Yachty's disregard for Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac (both of whom were killed before Yachty was born), Budden's tirade rebuked Yachty for ignoring the "roots" of the genre. Yachty flashed his signature goofy smile and told him to chill, with a little laugh. While it's true that Yachty and many of his contemporaries don't care about the artists typically heralded as rap royalty, they don't have to. Although hip-hop "conservatives" like Budden may wince at the success of the red-haired teenager and others, he has carved a niche in the pop/trap scene, and nowhere is his positivity and songwriting as infectious as on his debut mixtape.
While Lil Yachty's trademark sound is nothing wholly original--he owes, as he has stated himself, elements of his sound to artists like Soulja Boy and Lil B--his bubbly, optimistic persona sets him apart from other artists in the trap music scene today. Accompanying him are upbeat melodies, glossy synths, and often childlike melodies. The self-proclaimed "King of the Teens" eschews many of hip-hop's most ubiquitous traditions, and not only because of his indifference towards critics' favorite rappers. By doing so, Lil Yachty successfully appeals to a younger fanbase who are not as interested in seeking out the music of yesteryear. For the same reason, however, critics like Joe Budden see Yachty as the downfall of the genre. The idea that Yachty for some reason has to idolize hip-hop's forefathers is a vacuous one, and an example of the age-old adage that older generations will reject the cultural and artistic expressions of the younger ones.
It's easy to see why Lil Yachty has been catapulted into fame by Lil Boat
: throughout its runtime, his charming character serves as an excellent vehicle for his exuberant Autotune-drenched songs. Yachty is best at his most playful, since that is what differentiates him most from artists like Lil Uzi Vert and Kodak Black. The intro to the album, starting with a "Finding Nemo" sample, exhibits his two personalities, Lil Yachty and Lil Boat. While it's maybe not the most thought-provoking duality, it does allow him to show off his rapping on the first half, and his heavily embellished vocals in the second half. The intro serves as an apt introduction to Lil Yachty--it is childish, somewhat ridiculous, and almost laughable at times--but if the listener decides to accept all of this as part of Yachty's allure, it's fun as hell.
And fun is what Lil Yachty thrives on. "Minnesota," perhaps the best individual cut on the mixtape, is even more absurd than the opening track, with its incredibly simple piano melody backed by throbbing bass, and a fucki
hook to boot. The features are almost overkill since Yachty is the best-equipped artist for the beat, but the contrast between the "posse cut" aspect and the preposterous instrumental makes it all the more entertaining. It shows Lil Yachty doing what Lil Yachty does best--enjoying himself, singing in a dopey voice, laying down bars about eating pork and rinds with a bitch from New York Times. Of course, traditionally "good" lyricism is nowhere to be found on the mixtape, but most of the time his voice is simply used as another instrument to add another melody and another dimension. The criterion of lyricism is relatively obsolete in mainstream pop and trap music criticism since artists like Lil Yachty rarely exert themselves lyrically. This is yet another example of hip-hop straying from its progenitors, who valued lyricism greatly as a key component to their music. Much to the ire of hip-hop conservatives, lyricism is no longer valued like this to mainstream music listeners, and Lil Yachty's popularity shows this.
While "Minnesota" shows Yachty at his weirdest, there are a number of more low-key tracks, which often don't suit him as well. "I'm Sorry," for example, is Yachty's take at an introspective, emotional song, but it doesn't feel right. The sorrowful lyrics is a poor fit for Yachty's personality, not to mention the lazy vocal melody. The best "love song" is his hit song "One Night." It's cheesy as hell, but excellent for the same reasons as Minnesota--just a little toned down and more commercially viable. Lil Yachty's producer and close friend TheGoodPerry does an excellent job on the beat, exactly the sort of instrumental Yachty can use best--fun, a little wacky, but ultimately very memorable.
With his Sprite commercial with LeBron James, his collaboration with Carly Rae Jepsen for Target, and a new debut album featuring a hit single with Migos, it seems that Lil Yachty is here to stay. His musical style, dictated by his persona, is somewhat limiting and can only carry him so far. However, Lil Yachty will ride specific sound for as far as it will take him, and he should. Lil Yachty's brand is fascinating, and the way in which it manifests itself in his music is often very charming. There are, of course, a few hiccoughs--songs like "Good Day" and "We Did It" are a little overbearing--but Lil Boat
is a joyous statement from a very young artist. He'll keep on being Lil Yachty, no matter what you think of him.