In my review of Lil Yachty’s breakout mixtape Lil Boat, I compared the 19-year-old to a Kickstarter that raised $1,050 for someone to get an $8 Burrito from Chipotle—the novelty has far exceeded where it should have stopped. After appearing on the Chance the Rapper record, “Broccoli” by D.R.A.M., “After the Afterparty” by Charlie XCX, and a weird remake of “It Takes Two” by Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock for a Target commercial with Carly Rae Jepsen, it appears the teen-celebrity rapper who can’t name more than five songs by Tupac Shakur or the Notorious B.I.G. is here to stay.
With other contemporaries such as Future and Young Thug are shrouded in hazy production and lean-induced despair, Yachty shines like bright neon light up shoes, rapping over Super Mario 64 songs and blissfully discovering how auto-tune works. That’s exactly what he did on Lil Boat with songs like “One Night” and “Minnesota” that, while sounding innocent and gleeful, unfortunately included the usual crude and obscene lyrics of a young and unruly teen rapper.
On his debut studio record Teenage Emotions, Yachty kicks off with “Like A Star,” a track that demonstrates both better production and songwriting, though lyrically entirely too similar to something that would have appeared on Lil Boat. Yachty might have wanted to be rap’s millennial hero with the all-inclusive album cover, but when it’s followed with a track like “Peek a Boo” with label-mates Migos, it’s hard to put the pieces together.
For one, artists who say that they have all-inclusive beliefs keep making songs with Migos, possibly the most popular rap group on the planet that has also been unafraid to share their down-right homophobic views. As well, “Peek a Boo” is a track with the repeating chorus “play with that pussy like Peek a Boo,” as if comparing a woman to a game you play with two-year-old’s could ever possibly be sexy and not kind of really gross and demeaning.
There might be a solid demographic spread on the album cover, but Teenage Emotions is all about Lil Yachty. Tracks like “Dirty Mouth,””X-Men,” and “Priorities” fit right into the Lil Boat category of heinous lyrics and borderline singing-ability, with the material never leaving the low-grade intelligence of “hey girl, can I fuck?” Even tracks like “All Around Me” with YG and Kamaiyah sound like everyone is out of place, or “Say My Name,” where it feels like he’s struggling to stay in time, constantly fighting his own tempo.
Yachty doesn’t really hit his stride until the middle of the record with “All You Had to Say,” an actual honest and heartfelt, introspective track into Yachty’s life that says more than the usual “I done had sex with six different whores” kind of lyrical material. He keeps the streak going with radio-ready hits such as “Better,” “Forever Young (with Diplo),” “Bring It Back,” and “Running with the Ghost,” all towards the latter half of the record.
It’s a surprising twist of tracks in which I actually enjoy listening to Yachty and see his future value as a pop-rap artist. I still can’t stand Lil Yachty’s blunt and downright degrading lyrical material, but he showed me on Teenage Emotions that with age, he might actually be able to put out something worth while.