When I saw Lil’ Yachty during the 2016 XXL Freshmen Cypher, I watched this suburban 18-year-old goofball with bright red braids stumble through his practiced freestyle, and I thought for the first time: maybe Donald Trump can win the election. Things had gotten too strange. A big reaction loomed on the horizon.
The first “Lil Boat,” (or the unexpected virtue of naivete) a project made by some kids in a garage, succeeded because it sounded like a project made by some kids in a garage. It had a raw, fearless quality. His pal TheGoodPerry (formerly Burberry Perry) produced most of the tracks. The trappy-go-lucky sound on songs like “Minnesota” and “Wanna Be Us” had a wonderful surrealist quality.
It seemed like overnight Yachty became the most polarizing figure in rap. Older hip-hop purists saw him as the leader of the new era of SoundCloud mumble rap. Charlamagne on the Breakfast Club called him the “poster boy for wack rappers.” Hot 97’s Ebro said “Another high school ass rapper is offended”…“Get your bars up. I ain’t here to be your friend.” Joe Budden on Everyday Struggle called him too happy.
Then things got stranger. He got a Sprite sponsorship. He signed to Quality Control and everything fell apart. Yes-men surrounded him. It was like “The Emperor’s New Clothes:” no one cared to tell him the music wasn’t very good or that you don’t blow on a cello. On “Teenage Emotions,” he shilled to pop sonics. The album spanned 21 songs and was practically unlistenable.
“Lil Boat 2” returns to a more low-fi sound. The drums are muffled and the bass is distorted. The beats are dry and minimalistic. Yachty drops the autotune in favor of a more monotone cadence. Say what you want about autotune, but it allows artists to deliver more experimental vocals.
I don’t know who the intended audience for this project is. He doesn’t have the aesthetics or bars for hardcore underground trap fans, and the dark, nihilistic sound will probably turn off his wide-eyed teen fans. “SELF MADE,” “she ready,” “love me forever” and “66” are melodic and colorful, but they are also few and far between.
The features on the album include K$upreme, Jban$2turnt and YoungBoy Never Broke Again. Yes, those are real. 2 Chainz, who shows up on “OOPS,” has been killing it ever since “Pretty Girls Like Trap Music,” one of the most underrated projects of last year. His Quality Control cohorts Offset and Quavo make appearances. Offset resolidifies himself as the best Migo with stupendous features on “MICKEY” and “BABY DADDY.” Alternatively, it sounds like someone invented a computer software which generates Quavo features. I suppose the man can’t be everywhere all the time. I wonder if Ugly God will ever make anything interesting or if he will remain in meme purgatory forever. I hope he does, but there isn’t much evidence to support it.
What follows is a collection of the most cringe-worthy lyrics about sex on “Lil Boat 2”: On “GET MONEY BROS” Yachty raps “That pussy pretty but I still gotta sniff it.” On “DAS CAP,” he raps “Shorty blow dick like Newport.” On “POP OUT” he raps “Hairy pussy give me allergies.” On “FWM” he raps “Make her suck dick till her lip get a blister.” On “COUNT ME IN” he raps “She eat nut like a burger.”
Yachty no longer seems so optimistic. Maybe fame has made him jaded. Maybe all these critics have bled him of his innocence. On “Lil Boat 2” he sounds pissed, trying to prove to the “haters” that he’s a serious artist. He forgets that his light-hearted sensibility is the reason people liked him in the first place. Without the personality and the fun to distract the listener, it begs the question: Can Lil Yachty even rap?