Fame is a fickle thing, isn't it? As brilliant as Lil Yachty
's meteoric rise to stardom was, his humbling return to earth was equally impressive. The self-titled King of Teens lived by the sword and died by the sword, and in trying to capitalize on the success of his debut mixtape Lil Boat
he found that he could only ride his Instagram-ready image for so long before having to actually display his talents, or lack thereof depending on who you ask.
Yachty claimed that Teenage Emotions
wasn't well received because people just "don't understand" him, but instead of doubling down and staying true to himself, Lil Yachty has chosen to use the relative failure of Teenage Emotions
to dig himself into an even deeper hole with his newest release Lil Boat 2
A sequel in name and nothing much else, Lil Boat 2
is according to Yachty, "the complete opposite of Teenage Emotions
. This is like turn up music. Strip club slash most pit, festival, young, youth, push-each-other shit". And while that's good and all in comparison to Teenage Emotions
, it goes against everything that Yachty created with the original mixtape, and is a complete 180 from the brand that he has built himself over the years. Lil Boat
struck a chord with the youth because it was aesthetic, light and playful. It defied the notion that rap music had to be dark and hardened and aggressive and it spoke to a generation that thrives on nihilistic memes but really just needs a hug. But that same generation saw through the veneer on Teenage Emotions
and demanded that if Lil Yachty was going to be their voice then he better produce something worth singing along to.
Lil Yachty claims that Lil Boat 2
is about him being true to himself and sticking to his guns, but really it seems like more of a tactical retreat. Additionally worrisome is how much influence his label Quality Control is beginning to rub off on him, as Lil Boat 2
drops all the carefree pretenses that were found on its predecessor and instead comes across as an attempt to emulate Yachty's label mates Migos.
The new mixtape is a difficult beast to make heads or tails of. At times you hear flashes of the old Yachty, the one who could revel in walking the catwalk at NYFW and posting self-deprecating memes, but more and more a Migos-influenced Yachty begins to rear his head. Tracks like "MICKEY", "BABY DADDY" and "OOPS" are spiritually closer to Culture II
than Lil Boat
and show Yachty clearly out of his element. Dark trap beats just aren't his style, but most importantly, Yachty just doesn't feel at home trying to flex about fame, fortune and ice alongside Offset and 2 Chainz. While Yachty says this is who he is, critics be damned, it really feels more like a defensive stance taken by one who is struggling to keep up with the shifting demands of popular taste and so picks a hill to die on. This is how Lil Yachty's world ends, not with an emphatic, love-fueled banger, but on a sad, minimalist track with Offset making various sounds and "skrt skrt"-ing in the background.
There are glimpses of what Yachty was, and what he still has the potential to be if he so chooses, the album closer "66" being a fine example of such. Like or not, Yachty really isn't all that great as a rapper, but he shines with his carefree rap-sing verses over melodic and atmospheric beats and while assisting Trippie Redd. And while "SELF MADE" could do without the needless bluster, it's still a nice vapor-infused chillwave track suited for Yachty's laid-back vocals and approach.
Lil Boat 2
's defining moment probably comes from the track "love me forever". As a sultry muted piano and flute start to play, producer Buddah Bless slaps his watermark on the track with the signature line "Buddah Bless this beat", and before Yachty can even take over you're made well aware that this is more a commercial endeavor than it is artistic. For Lil Yachty his financial success is intrinsically linked to his personal success, and in an attempt to repair his battered ego following Teenage Emotions
it seems he focused more on the paper chase and less on the artistic process.