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By Sheldon Pearce

Quality Control / Motown / Capitol

March 9, 2018

The reign of the self-proclaimed King of the Teens is over. At 20, Lil Yachty has aged-out of that constituency and there are a host of contenders already eager to replace him. In his quest to conquer the whole yung demo, he discovered teens are fickle and manifold, creatures of varying interests prone to unpredictable changes of heart. After being heralded as the harbinger of a new era in rap, the metrics didn’t bear out his impact. His debut, Teenage Emotions , was streamed considerably less in its first week (24,000) than records by the significantly less hyped a Boogie Wit da Hoodie ( 54,000 ), the younger XXXtentacion ( 67,000 ), or Yachty’s self-professed rival , Lil Uzi Vert (100,000). He reckoned with the unimpressive showing by saying, “I disconnected with my fans because I tried to do this other stuff,” the other stuff being his straight-faced struggle raps. Based on those comments, it seemed his next release would surely return to his original model of pure, unadulterated song.

At this point, with his royal status in question, Yachty is at a crossroads. His label, Quality Control, is quietly rebranding him as a Migos understudy, a bit player in their streaming rap empire. But Yachty has other ideas, and he plans to soak up as much bandwidth as possible by fanning his own flames. On Lil Boat 2 , it’s like he’s daring you not to like him. And so his sophomore album is a sequel in name only, a far cry from the candy-coated, bittersweet melodies that made him a viral sensation on the original. He’s a bruiser now, you see, trading in earworms and weightlessness for gravity and outlandish braggadocio. Maybe it’s a masterful troll that thrives off the misdirection. Maybe the most subversive thing he can do at this point is to dismantle his playhouse entirely, becoming the thing no one said he could be. It certainly is one of modern rap’s more bizarre, and fascinating, heel turns.

After opening with the on-brand crooner “Self-Made,” Lil Boat 2 becomes decidedly bar-heavy and grey. It’s made up of nearly 70 percent tuneless rap flexers with dark, creeping synths; “Boom!” embodies its title, and the Pi’erre Bourne -produced “Count Me In” is all muffled low end. This shift in tone is purposeful, almost forceful. It demands that the listener accept Yachty on his terms and shamelessly argues that he can be anything he wants to be.

The issue is that an album reliant on Yachty’s ability to rap can’t hold up to scrutiny. He is a rather spiritless writer. He only has a couple of rough song ideas. He is incapable of fitting his outsized personality into his pedestrian bars. But the sheer gall of this gambit is occasionally enough to tickle one’s curiosity: Attempted reinventions can be mesmerizing, even when they fail spectacularly. In this instance, he really goes for it. He does triplet flows. He splits punches. He packs cadences and stacks phonetic sounds. Take that, Funk Flex .

Yachty has definitely improved as a technician, making his raps more mobile and structurally sound, but most times the rhymes pass by as if on a conveyor belt. They seemingly have the same function, and the same constructions, and once they happen they’re forgotten almost instantly. His big, showy rap boasts are unimaginative, sometimes predictable, often bafflingly plain in their presentation: “Running to the money like I’m Frank Gore/This ring costs more than a Honda Accord.” He knows how to spend but not how to sell.

The central theme of Lil Boat 2 is simply how rich Yachty is and how broke you are by comparison. He is money-obsessed and really quite bratty about it. “These niggas hate ’cause I’m too rich,” he spits on “Mickey,” the implication being no one actually dislikes him or his music; they’re simply jealous. “I was buying diamonds, you was waiting for tax refunds,” he raps on “Flex,” a song that also works as a nominal diss of his longtime radio nemesis. “Tell your baby daddy I’m richer,” he raps on “Baby Daddy.” You can guess what “Whole Lotta Guap” is about. It isn’t even off-putting that he’s constantly haranguing you about the wealth gap; the real insult is that he flaunts his money in the most mundane of ways.

Duets with PnB Rock and Trippie Redd show that Yachty is still capable of flourishing in a more melodic space, but his refusal to lean into that mode is what makes Lil Boat 2 sound so leaden. Songwriting isn’t his strong suit, and while he’s taken great strides in that area, it was a mistake to build an album out of his raps. It can be entertaining to watch the gears turning, though. There aren’t any moments where he’s noticeably outpaced by his more gifted guests, as he holds his own with NBA YoungBoy , Tee Grizzley , 2 Chainz , and Offset . His best rapping gets packed into “FWM,” a free-flowing outlier that’s as natural and fun as the more whimsical songs in his catalog. His grill-bearing, chain-swinging performances on Lil Boat 2 make me a bit wistful for those—and maybe that was the point. We must suffer through the new Yachty to reassess the old one.

Let’s Start Here.

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With its "once upon a time"-style introduction, Lil Yachty's debut commercial project starts off sounding a little like a children's book. When you read out his name with the mixtape's title—Lil Yachty's Lil Boat—it sounds like a nursery rhyme. It's an aesthetic symmetry that evokes youthful whimsy, which matches the rapper's slurred, lullaby melodies and the gleaming beats he splashes with playboy flexes and tales of aspiration. This is the stylistic mix at the heart of "bubblegum trap," a sound pioneered by Yachty himself. While he later dismissed the label, it remains an apt description for the mellifluous sing-song raps and lackadaisical flows that permeate the star-making project. Checking in at 40 minutes, the mixtape introduces fans to two central characters: Lil Boat and Lil Yachty. Boat is his more aggressive alter ego, while Yachty is the friendlier, even more melodically inclined variant. The two identities grow further apart in subsequent projects, but on Lil Boat, they both thrive on warbles you might mumble under your breath. For "Minnesota," Yachty floats over rainbow keys that could come from an ice cream truck, threading flexes with off-kilter warnings about life in the trenches. Verses from Quavo, Skippa Da Flippa, and Young Thug further embed it with a grit that's at odds with the toddler-friendly instrumental, giving it a delectable layer of irony. Yachty surfaces again on "Good Day," with his Auto-Tuned vocals coloring a fly guy's wonderland. Peeking from behind the neon haze, Lil Boat emerges on "Not My Bro," a casual dismissal of would-be hangers-on. Meanwhile, on "Interlude," Boat unloads a barrage of death threats, packaging them in a dazed beat and a murmur that sits opposite Yachty's sugarcoated melodies elsewhere on the project. With Boat fading into a malaise as he cruises above the opiate synths, it feels like a foggy daydream. If this were an imaginary world, "One Night" would be its first monument. After going viral in a comedic video, the track picked up millions of streams, propelling Yachty from ambitious college dropout to ubiquitous internet presence. Fusing muted synths with a drowsy melody, the track was a player's anthem for the new school—and the beginning of Yachty’s extremely online Gen Z fairy tale.

March 9, 2016 13 Songs, 40 minutes ℗ 2016 Quality Control Music, Capitol Records and Motown Records


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Lil Yachty Doesn’t Think Drake ‘Won or Lost’ to Kendrick Lamar

He also talked about being name-dropped in "Euphoria."

By Angel Diaz

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Lil Yachty

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In another clip, he gives his opinion on who won or lost, and as of right now, Yachty has it as a draw because the cards were stacked against the Toronto rapper. “Drake dropped great records. But also, let’s be fair: Drake was deemed a loser in this battle before it started because people don’t like him and haven’t,” he said after suggesting Kendrick’s apparent “animosity.” He continued by admitting he thinks Drake will be fine: “I don’t think people are gonna stop listening to Drake and Drake’s career is gonna flush.”

Boat then said he told Drake “I don’t feel like you won or lost” before adding, “Rappers have lost, and then lost everything. But this hasn’t happened to Drake. He will still be in everybody’s Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year and he’ll still drop hits and control the summer. I think Kendrick made very smart moves and I don’t think Drake would disagree.”

Lil Yachty speaking on the Kendrick Lamar & Drake rap battle "Drake was deemed a loser in this battle before it started, cause people don't like him and havent… I think he still sits on top of the throne… I told Drake I don't feel like you won or lost" via @ASafePlacePod — SOUND (@itsavibe) May 17, 2024

Drake and Yachty work together frequently, for what it’s worth.

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