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Lil Yachty

Lil Yachty On His Big Rock Pivot: ‘F-ck Any of the Albums I Dropped Before This One’

With his adventurous, psychedelic new album, 'Let's Start Here,' he's left mumble rap behind — and finally created a project he's proud of.

By Lyndsey Havens

Lyndsey Havens

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Lil Yachty, presented by Doritos, will perform at Billboard Presents The Stage at SXSW on March 16 .

Lil Yachty: Photos From the Billboard Cover Shoot

Someone has sparked a blunt in the planetarium.

It may be a school night, but no one has come to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J., to learn. Instead, the hundreds of fans packed into the domed theater on Jan. 26 have come to hear Lil Yachty’s latest album as he intended: straight through — and with an open mind. Or, as Yachty says with a mischievous smile: “I hope y’all took some sh-t.”

For the next 57 minutes and 16 seconds, graphics of exploding spaceships, green giraffes and a quiet road through Joshua Tree National Park accompany Yachty’s sonically divergent — and at this point, unreleased — fifth album, Let’s Start Here . For a psychedelic rock project that plays like one long song, the visual aids not only help attendees embrace the bizarre, but also function as a road map for Yachty’s far-out trip, signaling that there is, in fact, a tracklist.

It’s a night the artist has arguably been waiting for his whole career — to finally release an album he feels proud of. An album that was, he says, made “from scratch” with all live instrumentation. An album that opens with a nearly seven-minute opus, “the BLACK seminole.,” that he claims he had to fight most of his collaborative team to keep as one, not two songs. An album that, unlike his others, has few features and is instead rich with co-writers like Mac DeMarco, Nick Hakim, Alex G and members of MGMT, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Chairlift. An album he believes will finally earn him the respect and recognition he has always sought.

Sitting in a Brooklyn studio in East Williamsburg not far from where he made most of Let’s Start Here in neighboring Greenpoint, it’s clear he has been waiting to talk about this project in depth for some time. Yachty is an open book, willing to answer anything — and share any opinion. (Especially on the slice of pizza he has been brought, which he declares “tastes like ass.”) Perhaps his most controversial take at the moment? “F-ck any of the albums I dropped before this one.”

His desire to move on from his past is understandable. When Yachty entered the industry in his mid-teens with his 2016 major-label debut, the Lil Boat mixtape, featuring the breakout hit “One Night,” he found that along with fame came sailing the internet’s choppy waters. Skeptics often took him to task for not knowing — or caring, maybe — about rap’s roots, and he never shied away from sharing hot takes on Twitter. With his willingness and ability to straddle pop and hip-hop, Yachty produced music he once called “bubble-gum trap” (he has since denounced that phrase) that polarized audiences and critics. Meanwhile, his nonchalant delivery got him labeled as a mumble rapper — another identifier he was never fond of because it felt dismissive of his talent.

“There’s a lot of kids who haven’t heard any of my references,” he continues. “They don’t know anything about Bon Iver or Pink Floyd or Black Sabbath or James Brown. I wanted to show people a different side of me — and that I can do anything, most importantly.”

Let’s Start Here is proof. Growing up in Atlanta, the artist born Miles McCollum was heavily influenced by his father, a photographer who introduced him to all kinds of sounds. Yachty, once easily identifiable by his bright red braids, found early success by posting songs like “One Night” to SoundCloud, catching the attention of Kevin “Coach K” Lee, co-founder/COO of Quality Control Music, now home to Migos, Lil Baby and City Girls. In 2015, Coach K began managing Yachty, who in summer 2016 signed a joint-venture deal with Motown, Capitol Records and Quality Control.

“Yachty was me when I was 18 years old, when I signed him. He was actually me,” says Coach K today. (In 2021, Adam Kluger, whose clients include Bhad Bhabie, began co-managing Yachty.) “All the eclectic, different things, we shared that with each other. He had been wanting to make this album from the first day we signed him. But you know — coming as a hip-hop artist, you have to play the game.”

Yachty played it well. To date, he has charted 17 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 , including two top 10 hits for his features on DRAM’s melodic 2016 smash “Broccoli” and Kyle’s 2017 pop-rap track “iSpy.” His third-highest-charting entry arrived unexpectedly last year: the 93-second “Poland,” a track Yachty recorded in about 10 minutes where his warbly vocals more closely resemble singing than rapping. ( Let’s Start Here collaborator SADPONY saw “Poland” as a temperature check that proved “people are going to like this Yachty.”)

Beginning with 2016’s Lil Boat mixtape, all eight of Yachty’s major-label-released albums and mixtapes have charted on the Billboard 200 . Three have entered the top 10, including Let’s Start Here , which debuted and peaked at No. 9. And while Yachty has only scored one No. 1 album before ( Teenage Emotions topped Rap Album Sales), Let’s Start Here debuted atop three genre charts: Top Rock & Alternative Albums , Top Rock Albums and Top Alternative Albums .

“It feels good to know that people in that world received this so well,” says Motown Records vp of A&R Gelareh Rouzbehani. “I think it’s a testament to Yachty going in and saying, ‘F-ck what everyone thinks. I’m going to create something that I’ve always wanted to make — and let us hope the world f-cking loves it.’ ”

Yet despite Let’s Start Here ’s many high-profile supporters, some longtime detractors and fans alike were quick to criticize certain aspects of it, from its art — Yachty quote-tweeted one remark , succinctly replying, “shut up” — to the music itself. Once again, he found himself facing another tidal wave of discourse. But this time, he was ready to ride it. “This release,” Kluger says, “gave him a lot of confidence.”

“I was always kind of nervous to put out music, but now I’m on some other sh-t,” Yachty says. “It was a lot of self-assessing and being very real about not being happy with where I was musically, knowing I’m better than where I am. Because the sh-t I was making did not add up to the sh-t I listened to.

“I just wanted more,” he continues. “I want to be remembered. I want to be respected.”

Last spring, Lil Yachty gathered his family, collaborators and team at famed Texas studio complex Sonic Ranch.

“I remember I got there at night and drove down because this place is like 30 miles outside El Paso,” Coach K says. “I walked in the room and just saw all these instruments and sh-t, and the vibe was just so ill. And I just started smiling. All the producers were in the room, his assistant, his dad. Yachty comes in, puts the album on. We got to the second song, and I told everybody, ‘Stop the music.’ I walked over to him and just said, ‘Man, give me a hug.’ I was like, ‘Yachty, I am so proud of you.’ He came into the game bold, but [to make] this album, you have to be very bold. And to know that he finally did it, it was overwhelming.”

SADPONY (aka Jeremiah Raisen) — who executive-produced Let’s Start Here and, in doing so, spent nearly eight straight months with Yachty — says the time at Sonic Ranch was the perfect way to cap off the months of tunnel vision required while making the album in Brooklyn. “That was new alone,” says Yachty. “I’ve recorded every album in Atlanta at [Quality Control]. That was the first time I recorded away from home. First time I recorded with a new engineer,” Miles B.A. Robinson, a Saddle Creek artist.

Yachty couldn’t wait to put it out, and says he turned it in “a long time ago. I think it was just label sh-t and trying to figure out the right time to release it.” For Coach K, it was imperative to have the physical product ready on release date, given that Yachty had made “an experience” of an album. And lately, most pressing plants have an average turnaround time of six to eight months.

Fans, however, were impatient. On Christmas, one month before Let’s Start Here would arrive, the album leaked online. It was dubbed Sonic Ranch . “Everyone was home with their families, so no one could pull it off the internet,” recalls Yachty. “That was really depressing and frustrating.”

Then, weeks later, the album art, tracklist and release date also leaked. “My label made a mistake and sent preorders to Amazon too early, and [the site] posted it,” Yachty says. “So I wasn’t able to do the actual rollout for my album that I wanted to. Nothing was a secret anymore. It was all out. I had a whole plan that I had to cancel.” He says the biggest loss was various videos he made to introduce and contextualize the project, all of which “were really weird … [But] I wasn’t introducing it anymore. People already knew.” Only one, called “Department of Mental Tranquility,” made it out, just days before the album.

Yachty says he wasn’t necessarily seeking a mental escape before making Let’s Start Here , but confesses that acid gave him one anyway. “I guess maybe the music went along with it,” he says. The album title changed four or five times, he says, from Momentary Bliss (“It was meant to take you away from reality … where you’re truly listening”) to 180 Degrees (“Because it’s the complete opposite of anything I’ve ever done, but people were like, ‘It’s too on the nose’ ”) to, ultimately, Let’s Start Here — the best way, he decided, to succinctly summarize where he was as an artist: a seven-year veteran, but at 25 years old, still eager to begin a new chapter.

Taking inspiration from Dark Side , Yachty relied on three women’s voices throughout the album, enlisting Fousheé, Justine Skye and Diana Gordon. Otherwise, guest vocals are spare. Daniel Caesar features on album closer “Reach the Sunshine.,” while the late Bob Ross (of The Joy of Painting fame) has a historic posthumous feature on “We Saw the Sun!”

Rouzbehani tells Billboard that Ross’ estate declined Yachty’s request at first: “I think a big concern of theirs was that Yachty is known as a rapper, and Bob Ross and his brand are very clean. They didn’t want to associate with anything explicit.” But Yachty was adamant, and Rouzbehani played the track for Ross’ team and also sent the entire album’s lyrics to set the group at ease. “With a lot of back-and-forth, we got the call,” she says. “Yachty is the first artist that has gotten a Bob Ross clearance in history.”

From the start, Coach K believed Let’s Start Here would open lots of doors for Yachty — and ultimately, other artists, too. Questlove may have said it best, posting the album art on Instagram with a lengthy caption that read in part: “this lp might be the most surprising transition of any music career I’ve witnessed in a min, especially under the umbrella of hip hop … Sh-t like this (envelope pushing) got me hyped about music’s future.”

Recently, Lil Yachty held auditions for an all-women touring band. “It was an experience for like Simon Cowell or Randy [Jackson],” he says, offering a simple explanation for the choice: “In my life, women are superheroes.”

And according to Yachty, pulling off his show will take superhuman strength: “Because the show has to match the album. It has to be big.” As eager as he was to release Let’s Start Here , he’s even more antsy to perform it live — but planning a tour, he says, required gauging the reaction to it. “This is so new for me, and to be quite honest with you, the label [didn’t] know how [the album] would do,” he says. “Also, I haven’t dropped an album in like three years. So we don’t even know how to plan a tour right now because it has been so long and my music is so different.”

While Yachty’s last full-length studio album, Lil Boat 3 , arrived in 2020, he released the Michigan Boy Boat mixtape in 2021, a project as reverential of the state’s flourishing hip-hop scenes in Detroit and Flint as Let’s Start Here is of its psych-rock touchstones. And though he claims he doesn’t do much with his days, his recent accomplishments, both musical and beyond, suggest otherwise. He launched his own cryptocurrency, YachtyCoin, at the end of 2020; signed his first artist, Draft Day, to his Concrete Boyz label at the start of 2021; invested in the Jewish dating app Lox Club; and launched his own line of frozen pizza, Yachty’s Pizzeria, last September. (He has famously declared he has never eaten a vegetable; at his Jersey City listening event, there was an abundance of candy, doughnut holes and Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts.)

But there are only two things that seem to remotely excite him, first and foremost of which is being a father. As proud as he is of Let’s Start Here , he says it comes in second to having his now 1-year-old daughter — though he says with a laugh that she “doesn’t really give a f-ck” about his music yet. “I haven’t played [this album] for her, but her mom plays her my old stuff,” he continues. “The mother of my child is Dominican and Puerto Rican, so she loves Selena — she plays her a lot . [We watch] the Selena movie with Jennifer Lopez a sh-t ton and a lot of Disney movie sh-t, like Frozen , Lion King and that type of vibe.”

Aside from being a dad, he most cares about working with other artists. Recently, he flew eight of his biggest fans — most of whom he has kept in touch with for years — to Atlanta. He had them over, played Let’s Start Here , took them to dinner and bowling, introduced them to his mom and dad, and then showed them a documentary he made for the album. (He’s not sure if he’ll release it.) One of the fans is an aspiring rapper; naturally, the two made a song together.

Yachty wants to keep working with artists and producers outside of hip-hop, mentioning the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and even sharing his dream of writing a ballad for Elton John. (“I know I could write him a beautiful song.”) With South Korean music company HYBE’s recent purchase of Quality Control — a $300 million deal — Yachty’s realm of possibility is bigger than ever.

But he’s not ruling out his genre roots. Arguably, Let’s Start Here was made for the peers and heroes he played it for first — and was inspired by hip-hop’s chameleons. “I would love to do a project with Tyler [The Creator],” says Yachty. “He’s the reason I made this album. He’s the one who told me to do it, just go for it. He’s so confident and I have so much respect for him because he takes me seriously, and he always has.”

Penske Media Corp. is the largest shareholder of SXSW ; its brands are official media partners of SXSW.

This story originally appeared in the March 11, 2023, issue of Billboard.

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How Lil Yachty Ended Up at His Excellent New Psychedelic Album Let's Start Here

By Brady Brickner-Wood

Lil Yachty attends Wicked Featuring 21 Savage at Forbes Arena at Morehouse College on October 19 2022 in Atlanta Georgia.

The evening before Lil Yachty released his fifth studio album,  Let’s Start Here,  he  gathered an IMAX theater’s worth of his fans and famous friends at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City and made something clear: He wanted to be taken seriously. Not just as a “Soundcloud rapper, not some mumble rapper, not some guy that just made one hit,” he told the crowd before pressing play on his album. “I wanted to be taken serious because music is everything to me.” 

There’s a spotty history of rappers making dramatic stylistic pivots, a history Yachty now joins with  Let’s Start Here,  a funk-flecked psychedelic rock album. But unlike other notable rap-to-rock faceplants—Kid Cudi’s  Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven  comes to mind, as does Lil Wayne’s  Rebirth —the record avoids hackneyed pastiche and gratuitous playacting and cash-grabbing crossover singles; instead, Yachty sounds unbridled and free, a rapper creatively liberated from the strictures of mainstream hip-hop. Long an oddball who’s delighted in defying traditional rap ethos and expectations,  Let’s Start Here  is a maximalist and multi-genre undertaking that rewrites the narrative of Yachty’s curious career trajectory. 

Admittedly, it’d be easy to write off the album as Tame Impala karaoke, a gimmicky record from a guy who heard Yves Tumor once and thought: Let’s do  that . But set aside your Yachty skepticism and probe the album’s surface a touch deeper. While the arrangements tend toward the obvious, the record remains an intricate, unraveling swell of sumptuous live instruments and reverb-drenched textures made more impressive by the fact that Yachty co-produced every song. Fielding support from an all-star cast of characters, including production work from former Chairlift member Patrick Wimberly, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait, Justin Raisen, Nick Hakim, and Magdalena Bay, and vocals from Daniel Caesar, Diana Gordon,  Foushée , Justine Skye, and Teezo Touchdown, Yachty surrounds himself with a group of disparately talented collaborators. You can hear the acute attention to detail and wide-scale ambition in the spaced-out denouement on “We Saw the Sun!” or on the blistering terror of “I’ve Officially Lost Vision!!!!” or during the cool romanticism of “Say Something.” Though occasionally overindulgent,  Let’s Start Here  is a spectacular statement from hip-hop’s prevailing weirdo. It’s not shocking that Yachty took another hard left—but how exactly did he end up  here ?

In 2016, as the forefather of “bubblegum trap” ascended into mainstream consciousness, an achievement like  Let’s Start Here  would’ve seemed inconceivable. The then 18-year-old Yachty gained national attention when a pair of his songs, “One Night” and “Minnesota,” went viral. Though clearly indebted to hip-hop trailblazers Lil B, Chief Keef, and Young Thug, his work instantly stood apart from the gritted-teeth toughness of his Atlanta trap contemporaries. Yachty flaunted a childlike awe and cartoonish demeanor that communicated a swaggering, unbothered cool. His singsong flows and campy melodies contained a winking humor to them, a subversive playfulness that endeared him to a generation of very online kids who saw themselves in Yachty’s goofy, eccentric persona. He starred in Sprite  commercials alongside LeBron James, performed live shows at the  Museum of Modern Art , and modeled in Kanye West’s  Life of Pablo  listening event at Madison Square Garden. Relishing in his cultural influence, he declared to the  New York Times  that he was not a rapper but an  artist. “And I’m more than an artist,” he added. “I’m a brand.”

 As Sheldon Pearce pointed out in his Pitchfork  review of Yachty’s 2016 mixtape,  Lil Boat , “There isn’t a single thing Lil Yachty’s doing that someone else isn’t doing better, and in richer details.” He wasn’t wrong. While Yachty’s songs were charming and catchy (and, sometimes, convincing), his music was often tangential to his brand. What was the point of rapping as sharply as the Migos or singing as intensely as Trippie Redd when you’d inked deals with Nautica and Target, possessed a sixth-sense for going viral, and had incoming collaborations with Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepsen? What mattered more was his presentation: the candy-red hair and beaded braids, the spectacular smile that showed rows of rainbow-bedazzled grills, the wobbly, weak falsetto that defaulted to a chintzy nursery rhyme cadence. He didn’t need technical ability or historical reverence to become a celebrity; he was a meme brought to life, the personification of hip-hop’s growing generational divide, a sudden star who, like so many other Soundcloud acts, seemed destined to crash and burn after a fleeting moment in the sun.

 One problem: the music wasn’t very good. Yachty’s debut album, 2017’s  Teenage Emotions, was a glitter-bomb of pop-rap explorations that floundered with shaky hooks and schmaltzy swings at crossover hits. Worse, his novelty began to fade, those sparkly, cheerful, and puerile bubblegum trap songs aging like day-old french fries. Even when he hued closer to hard-nosed rap on 2018’s  Lil Boat 2  and  Nuthin’ 2 Prove,  you could feel Yachty desperate to recapture the magic that once came so easily to him. But rap years are like dog years, and by 2020, Yachty no longer seemed so radically weird. He was an established rapper making mid mainstream rap. The only question now was whether we’d already seen the best of him.

If his next moves were any indication—writing the  theme song to the  Saved by the Bell  sitcom revival and announcing his involvement in an upcoming  movie based on the card game Uno—then the answer was yes. But in April 2021, Yachty dropped  Michigan Boat Boy,  a mixtape that saw him swapping conventional trap for Detroit and Flint’s fast-paced beats and plain-spoken flows. Never fully of a piece with his Atlanta colleagues, Yachty found a cohort of kindred spirits in Michigan, a troop of rappers whose humor, imagination, and debauchery matched his own. From the  looks of it, leaders in the scene like Babyface Ray, Rio Da Yung OG, and YN Jay embraced Yachty with open arms, and  Michigan Boat Boy  thrives off that communion. 

 Then “ Poland ” happened. When Yachty uploaded the minute-and-a-half long track to Soundcloud a few months back, he received an unlikely and much needed jolt. Building off the rage rap production he played with on the  Birthday Mix 6  EP, “Poland” finds Yachty’s warbling about carrying pharmaceutical-grade cough syrup across international borders, a conceit that captured the imagination of TikTok and beyond. Recorded as a joke and released only after a leaked version went viral, the song has since amassed over a hundred-millions streams across all platforms. With his co-production flourishes (and adlibs) splattered across Drake and 21 Savage’s  Her Loss,  fans had reason to believe that Yachty’s creative potential had finally clicked into focus.

 But  Let’s Start Here  sounds nothing like “Poland”—in fact, the song doesn’t even appear on the project. Instead, amid a tapestry of scabrous guitars, searing bass, and vibrant drums, Yachty sounds right at home on this psych-rock spectacle of an album. He rarely raps, but his singing often relies on the virtues of his rapping: those greased-vowel deliveries and unrushed cadences, the autotune-sheathed vibrato. “Pretty,” for instance, is decidedly  not  a rap song—but what is it, then? It’s indebted to trap as much as it is ’90s R&B and MGMT, its drugged-out drums and warm keys able to house an indeterminate amount of ideas.

Yachty didn’t need to abandon hip-hop to find himself as an artist, but his experimental impulses helped him craft his first great album. Perhaps this is his lone dalliance in psych rock—maybe a return to trap is imminent. Or, maybe, he’ll make another 180, or venture deeper into the dystopia of corporate sponsorships. Who’s to say? For now, it’s invigorating to see Yachty shake loose the baggage of his teenage virality and emerge more fully into his adult artistic identity. His guise as a boundary-pushing rockstar isn’t a new archetype, but it’s an archetype he’s infused with his glittery idiosyncrasies. And look what he’s done: he’s once again morphed into a star the world didn’t see coming.

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Lil Yachty on His Rock Album ‘Let’s Start Here,’ Rapping With J. Cole, and What’s Next

By Jem Aswad

Executive Editor, Music

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Lil Yachty

Nowhere in the rap star manual does it say that a guaranteed formula for success is to “make psychedelic rock album with almost no rapping.” Yet that is exactly what Lil Yachty did with “Let’s Start Here,” his fifth full album but first rock project, after years as a top rapper with hits like “One Night,” “Minnesota,” “Oprah’s Bank Account” and guest spots on Kyle’s smash “iSpy,” Dram’s “Broccoli,” Calvin Harris’ “Faking It” and others.

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Are these the first dates you’re playing behind this new album?

At the album listening session, people did not seem to know what to think.

No! I didn’t know what people would expect, but I knew they wouldn’t expect that. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never been more confident with a body of work, so my chest was out. I didn’t think anyone would be like, “Oh, this sucks.” I genuinely felt like even if you didn’t like it, if you’re a music head, you’d have some kind of respect for the body of work itself, and for an artist to pivot and make something in such a complete, utter, opposite direction from what came before.

You said the people you played the album for included Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, the Creator — all of whom have made moves something like that in the past.

I’ll tell you, Tyler was a big reason for this album. He’ll call me at like eight o’clock in the morning — for no reason — and we’ll talk for hours. I was such a fan of [Tyler’s Grammy-winning 2019 album] “Igor,” his character and his way of creating a world — the color palettes, the videos, the billboards, the fonts. It’s all together. And I was like “How do you do that?” Because I was trying to figure out how to make a pop-funk-psychedelic-rock album cohesive, without it sounding like someone’s playlist. Then I started working on the visuals, and what I wanted to do was extremely expensive. To be quite honest, I don’t think my label believed in it enough to give me the budget that I truly needed for the visuals to bring this album to life, so I just made two videos.

Tyler and Drake both called me before my first show — I didn’t even tell them the show was happening but they both called me. That means something to me, because those people are my idols. I remember the day Kanye tweeted [Tyler’s 2011 single] “Yonkers,” I was in eighth grade. So them checking on me means a lot.

Is it a lonely feeling, sticking your neck out creatively like that?

Yeah, at first it was, but another thing Tyler taught me was not to be afraid of that. I was so scared before those first shows, like, “What if they don’t wanna hear it?” Tyler would always say, “Fuck it, make them feel you.”

Like, on the first show of this tour, I told the [sound crew], “Play psychedelic music before I go on, don’t play hip-hop” — but right before I went on they played a Playboi Carti song and I heard the crowd turning up and I was like, “Oh no, they’re gonna hate me!” And when I came out, I have in-ears [onstage monitors] and I have them set so you can’t really hear the crowd, it’s like dead silence. But I just kept going, and then my rap set comes and they go fucking crazy and that gives me confidence, and when I did the big rock outro on “Black Seminole,” they all started clapping. And for me it was the biggest “Oh, thank God,” because I couldn’t tell if they were fucking with it.

Is it exciting being in such a risky place creatively?

You were a teenager.

Exactly, But I still wanted respect, you know? I cared! My career was never solidified, I felt like folks were writing me off, so when I was making “Let’s Start Here,” I was at a point in my career where I did not have a hit rap record — it was like, “Man, this could really go left!” But I didn’t start thinking about that till I got deep into it. When I started, I was just like, “Man, I really love this stuff. Why don’t I hear anything like this now? No one makes psychedelic songs anymore.” I do psychedelics and I knew I wanted to make a psychedelic album. I love long songs, I love to just get deep into them — that’s why I love [Pink Floyd’s 1973 classic] “Dark Side of the Moon.”

I was on psychedelics when I first heard it and I would listen and just be like maaan. Like, bro, how can music make me feel like this? How can music make my brain just go to a new dimension? And how did you do that in 1973? I was like, can I do this? And obviously my answer was no. I mean, no offense, but how many rappers successfully made a rock album?

Almost none.

That’s what I’m saying. I think one of them was Kid Cudi’s rock album — I love it but a lot of people hated it. It’s not a full rock album, but it has a strong rock element to it.

Where did the rock influences come from, your parents?

My dad played a lot of Coldplay, a lot of Radiohead, John Mayer, Lenny Kravitz, a lot of John Coltrane, and I’m named after Miles Davis. My family loved James Brown, my dad loved Pharrell. He actually didn’t play Pink Floyd to me, but I’m glad I heard it as an adult.

I tried to make “Let’s Start Here” five years ago — “Lil Boat 2” was supposed to be “Let’s Start Here” with teenage emotions, but I was too young. I got too nervous to experiment on my rap record, and I didn’t have much experience or knowledge in alternative music. I met [“Let’s Start Again” collaborator] Jeremiah Raisan and tried again with the next album, but I chickened out and made another rap album. But when I had that conversation with Tyler, I was like “I’ve gotta do this, let me get that guy back.”

You had a hit with “Poland” — why isn’t it on the album?

That’s what I battled with, but at some point, you have to trust yourself. In the middle of making the album, “Poland” was a huge Internet hit and people were like, “You gotta put it on the album.” But I was like, it doesn’t fit! Just because it’s a hit record doesn’t mean it makes sense anywhere on this record. I was so focused on making my Black “Dark Side of the Moon.” And there is a small rap verse on the album, at the end of “Drive Me Crazy.”

You’ve said you recorded a hip-hop album after you finished “Let’s Start Here,” what’s it like?

What do you want to do next?

I get off tour around Christmas, and in January I’m starting a new album. I don’t know what it is yet, I don’t want to say “alternative.” I have rap album, but I just decided I’m gonna keep dropping songs [from it] until my next [non-rap] album is done.

Do you know who you want to work with on the next album?

So many people, obviously I want to do it on mostly with the band I made the record with, [writers/producers] Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, Jake Portrait and Patrick Wimberly. But I want to work with Donald Glover, I really want to work with Florence from Florence and the Machine. Sampha, Frank [Ocean], Buddy Ross, who worked with Frank. Chris Martin, Bon Iver, Solange, Mike Dean.

I’ve just been exploring, doing things that people wouldn’t expect. Even if I’m not the best at something, let’s just try, let’s explore, let’s create new things.

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Lil Yachty Ready to Get Going With New Album ‘Let’s Start Here’

By Jon Blistein

Jon Blistein

Lil Yachty appears ready to release his first new album in three years later this month. 

On social media Tuesday, Jan. 17, the rapper shared what was ostensibly the weird-as-hell cover art for his next LP — a surreal image of a group of besuited adults sporting some deranged smiles — along with the title and release date: Let’s Start Here out Jan. 27. 

Lil Yachty then cryptically added, “Chapter 2,” before thanking fans “for the patience.”

View this post on Instagram A post shared by C.V T (@lilyachty)

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“I met Andrew from MGMT, and I’ve been talking to a bunch of people. I met Kevin Parker [of Tame Impala], I’ve been talking to him. It’s just inspiring,” he said. “I got a bunch of side projects I’m going to drop before my next album. But what I’m trying to do on my next album, I’m trying to really take it there sonically.”

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Let’s Start Here.

The first song on Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here. is nearly seven minutes long and features breathy singing from Yachty, a freewheeling guitar solo and a mostly instrumental second half that calls to mind TV depictions of astral projecting. “the BLACK seminole.” is an extremely fulfilling listen, but is this the same guy who just a few months earlier delivered the beautifully off-kilter and instantly viral “Poland”? Better yet, is this the guy who not long before that embedded himself with Detroit hip-hop culture to the point of a soft rebrand as Michigan Boy Boat? Sure is. It’s just that, as he puts it on “the BLACK seminole.”, he’s got “No time to joke around/The kid is now a man/And the silence is filled with remarkable sounds.” We could call the silence he’s referring to the years since his last studio album, 2020’s Lil Boat 3, but he’s only been slightly less visible than we’re used to, having released the aforementioned Michigan Boy Boat mixtape while also lending his discerning production ear to Drake and 21 Savage’s ground-shaking album Her Loss. Collaboration, though, is the name of the game across Let’s Start Here., an album deeply indebted to some as yet undisclosed psych-rock influences, with repeated production contributions from one-time blog-rock darlings Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and Patrick Wimberly, as well as multiple appearances from Diana Gordon, a Queens, New York-hailing singer who made a noise during the earliest parts of her career as Wynter Gordon. Also present are R&B singer Fousheé and Beaumont, Texas, rap weirdo Teezo Touchdown, though rapping is infrequent. In fact, none of what Yachty presents here—which includes dalliances with Parliament-indebted acid funk (“running out of time”), ’80s synthwave (“sAy sOMETHINg,” “paint THE sky”), disco (“drive ME crazy!”), symphonic prog rock (“REACH THE SUNSHINE.”) and a heady monologue called “:(failure(:”—is in any way reflective of any of Yachty’s previous output. Which begs the question, where did all of this come from? You needn’t worry about that, says Yachty on the “the ride-”, singing sternly: “Don’t ask no questions on the ride.”

27 January 2023 14 Songs, 57 minutes Quality Control Music/Motown Records; ℗ 2023 Quality Control Music, LLC, under exclusive license to UMG Recordings, Inc.

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IMAGES

  1. Lil Yachty Releases Wild New Psychedelic Rock Album 'Let's Start Here

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  2. Lil Yachty Guides Listeners on a Trippy Journey with ‘Let’ s Start Here

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  3. Lil Yachty Releases His New Trippy Album, 'Let's Start Here'

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  4. Lil Yachty Says His New Album Is Special & Separates Him

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  5. Lil Yachty's 'Let's Start Here' Album: Stream It Now

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  6. Lil Yachty Shows Out At “Let’s Start Here” Album Listening Party

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  3. Lil Yachty’s New Album Shocked This Artist 😳👀

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COMMENTS

  1. Lil Yachty - Let’s Start Here. Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

    Lets Start Here. is Lil Yachty’s fifth studio album, it is a direct follow-up to his August 2021 mixtape BIRTHDAY MIX 6.

  2. Let's Start Here - Wikipedia

    Let's Start Here is the fifth studio album by American rapper Lil Yachty, released on January 27, 2023, through Motown Records and Quality Control Music. It is his first studio album since Lil Boat 3 (2020) and follows his 2021 mixtape Michigan Boy Boat.

  3. Review: Lil Yachty's 'Let's Start Here' - Rolling Stone

    The rapper and musician's ambitious left-turn incorporates experimental rock and jazz with near-flawless execution, arriving at something that feels genuinely brand-new. Read the full review of his new album, which features collaborations with MGMT, Tame Impala, Fousheé and more.

  4. Lil Yachty’s Rock Album ‘Let’s Start Here’: Inside the Pivot

    Lil Yachty talks about his psychedelic, adventurous and personal fifth album, which features live instrumentation and co-writes with Mac DeMarco, Nick Hakim and more. He also reflects on his career, his influences and his relationship with rap.

  5. Lil Yachty's New Album 'Let's Start Here' Release Date, Cover ...

    The rapper shares the AI-generated cover art and reveals the album is a non-rap, alternative project with live instrumentation. The album is the second chapter of his leaked "Sonic Ranch" project, following his viral single "Poland".

  6. ‎Let’s Start Here. - Album by Lil Yachty - Apple Music

    Lil Yachty's first studio album in three years features diverse genres, collaborations, and influences. Listen to songs like "the BLACK seminole.", "sAy sOMETHINg", and "REACH THE SUNSHINE."

  7. How Lil Yachty Ended Up at His Excellent New Psychedelic Album

    Rap's preeminent oddball made a hard left and crafted his first great album. Here's how he went from bubblegum trap to psych rock.

  8. Lil Yachty on His Rock Album 'Let's Start Here,' Duetting ...

    Lil Yachty talks about his rock album 'Let's Start Here,' his new song with J Cole, plans for the hip-hop album he’s already recorded, and what’s next.

  9. Lil Yachty Announces New Album 'Let's Start Here,' Release Date

    The rapper's first solo album in three years will feature his signature style and some psychedelic influences. See the surreal cover art and get more details on his upcoming project.

  10. ‎Let’s Start Here. - Album by Lil Yachty - Apple Music

    Listen to Let’s Start Here. by Lil Yachty on Apple Music. 2023. 14 Songs. Duration: 57 minutes.