This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Genre: Trap Rap
Favorite tracks: “Count Me In,” “Love Me Forever,” “Das Cap,” “Pop Out”
You would hear a lot of hate around the time Lil Yachty blew up. “He’s goofy.” “He looks and sounds like Chucky from RUGRATS.” “This guy is all gimmick.” While those might all contain some truth, one thing was for sure: he wasn’t sounding like anyone else on the scene at the time. Soon he would be joined by other like-minded oddballs in the arrival of the SoundCloud epoch, but Yachty would continue to hold his own with his winsome, Auto-Tuned foolery. Like some of the best rappers, any detracting actually worked to fuel his creativity; the kid seemed lost in his own world of wide-eyed ambition, insecure bewailing, and drizzling stardust on his two first mixtapes LIL BOAT and SUMMER SONGS 2. And though he could be comfortable with a cult-like fanbase (who really saw him as a “King of the Teens”), his occasional veering out of the pastel pop-trap lane into straightforward trap converted skeptical onlookers too. His major-label debut, TEENAGE EMOTIONS, was an attempt to reconcile both these styles, but ended up more scattershot and overwrought than anything. Despite that, I enjoyed some of the experimentation and unabashed leaning into glossed-out pop balladry and saw the album as a risky but necessary bridge to his next phase of artistic evolution. Unfortunately, the sequel to his beloved debut mixtape sees Yachty stooping to join everybody else.
LIL BOAT 2 does nothing to distinguish itself, offering up platitudinous disappointments one after the other. Lil Yachty was, at one point, refreshing, but now he’s fallen in line with everyone else. There’s 17 songs of standard 808 trap beats, gun-talk, stealing your girl, and material braggadocio. While there’s an increased musical focus, it undermines the excitement and unpredictability that helped Yachty get to where he is today. He rarely seems like he’s having fun himself, sounding like all work and no play. I don’t think this is the music that Yachty WANTS to make, rather the music he feels obligated to, just due to the current musical culture. “Flex” consists of flexing on haters with bedazzled firearms, too many cars, and too many bitches. I don’t mind employment of this typical fare, but the austere sterility it’s delivered with is so off-putting. Yachty utilizes this stone-faced flow for the majority of the songs here, creating a gap between him and I that I never hoped would manifest.
Yachty doesn’t sound like that goofball friend you look to for cheering up. He’s no longer flashing that grilled smile. He’s tight-lipped, embittered by fame and the stinging jealousy (from him and his detractors) and subsequent cold-shouldering that comes with it. “Tell your baby daddy I’m richer . . . you’re baby daddy a sucker,” he raps as haughty as possible on “Baby Daddy.” The vanity almost overwhelms on “Self Made”: “And you keep askin’ ‘When we gon’ do a song?’ / I’ma keep tellin’ you ‘Soon.’” Usually taking a step towards seriousness is seen as maturity, when a rapper reaches his peak, but it’s the opposite here. In his solemnity, Yachty has regressed. It’d be one thing if Yachty had something unique to offer in terms of subject, but it’s the usual fodder. Ironically, I could find more meaning in his songs with the more flamboyant guises.
Sometimes this new look works, though, usually due to inventive production. “Count Me In” sees him rapping alone on some toothsome Pi’erre Bourne production. Yachty is still apathetic as hell on this, but underneath the (deceptive) mean muggin’ is really that endearing wannabe who just wants to be included on some trap shit. Another glimpse of the lovelorn Yachty v1. shows up on “Love Me Forever,” where Yachty yearns for a soulmate who will endlessly and unconditionally love him. It’s cut short below two minutes, but is followed by “Das Cap,” which features some of Southside’s most intoxicating production. There’s what sounds like some wiry, pendulous woodwinds that give chills every time they peak. It’s wasted on Yachty’s bars, but I wanted to stick around regardless. Similarly, DigitalNas’ production on “Pop Out” is spacey and menacing, and while Yachty retreads the same, mundane waters, at least here he sounds a little more energized, like he’s actually enjoying himself as he shouts, “Yeah yeah! Pop out!” What a coincidence: when Yachty sounds like he’s having fun, I have fun listening to him!
The shy, awkward creative kid has made it now, but he’s forgotten about all the friends he made and the teenage emotions he had in the process, abandoning them for the jocks, the in-crowd, and more bling. It’s like that moment you see in many a teen movie where the nerdy protagonist gets in with the cool kids and then when their old friend says “Hi,” they pretend not to know them. Maybe Yachty should have paid more attention to the moral of those flicks, because he would know how destructive faking it can be.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend