It’s not often that you’ll see a major artist take a pause from posturing to acknowledge their own shortcomings, but then Lil Yachty isn’t any ordinary artist.
The effervescent 20-year-old Atlanta rapper – who has cherry-red hair, once sampled the Super Mario 64 soundtrack, and recently learned the difference between a cello and a clarinet – owned up to feelings of disappointment shortly after the release of his May 2017 debut studio album, ‘Teenage Emotions’. That record became arguably better known for the divisive response to its awesome artwork rather than any of its tracks, resulting in a disappointing commercial performance.
Yachty later took to Instagram to reflect on why his debut LP had fallen short of expectations. “I understand first-week numbers didn’t do what most people expected, but that’s only because they don’t understand me. They don’t understand us,” he wrote in the now-deleted post. “I don’t expect anybody to. I make it for those who listen. I feel like my brand is so big and blew up so big [that] it blew up bigger than my actual music.”
Yachty’s exuberant persona (sorry, “brand”) has certainly taken precedence over much of his recent recorded output in the past year, with the rapper more likely to make bigger waves through his entertaining clashes with hip-hop’s old guard or his ability to light up a Bar Mitzvah party than any of his extended music projects.
Just 10 months on from the bloated ‘Teenage Emotions’, though, Yachty seems intent on righting the wrongs of 2017 through the quick turnaround and subsequent arrival of studio album number two. He’s even returned to a winning formula in naming said album ‘Lil Boat 2’, therefore designating this project as the sequel to his break-out 2016 mixtape ‘Lil Boat’.
Those craving the icy ‘Minnesota’-style breeze of that mixtape won’t find too joy here, though – even as opener ‘Self-Made’, which sees Yachty promise that he’ll be “ballin’ ’til it’s 2080“, teases a return to the melodic merit of ‘Lil Boat’. Yachty instead lets his raps take precedence on the album, albeit with varying results: the unsettling ‘Boom!’ features an unlikely reference to Lemony Snicket that’ll raise an eyebrow or two, before the tragic ‘Oops’ staggers in to the party like it’s bolted past security – you honestly wonder how it made the cut.
Clocking in at 47 minutes (despite its 17-track length), ‘Lil Boat 2’ feels like a vast improvement from ‘Teenage Emotions’ simply as it doesn’t feel like an ordeal to listen to. What that does do, however, is narrow down your focus, which tends to land on Yachty’s predisposition for telling us just how rich he is now: ‘Whole Lotta Guap’ and ‘Das Cap’ are very guilty of this grating trait, while ‘Mickey’ even has Yachty claiming that those who hate him are actually just jealous of his wealth.
Elsewhere, Migos‘ ringleader Quavo turns up on ‘Talk To Me Nice’ to sprinkle some much-needed star quality, but it’s not until ‘She Ready’ – which delightfully chugs along with its bumping, flute-laden beats like it’s a cousin of Drake‘s ‘Portland’ – do you really find yourself tuning back into the voyage of ‘Lil Boat 2′. Closer ’66’ is a welcome source of relief from the overbearing raps too, transporting Yachty’s talents skyward with the kind of cloud-rap instrumental Yung Lean circa-2013 would’ve felt comfortable throwing his bucket hat on.
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A quick glance at Yachty’s social media profiles demonstrates that, much like his bank account, his number of followers (over five million on Instagram, for one) isn’t a major source of bother for the rapper. But, if he’s hoping to allay his numerical problems of 2017 – that is producing an album which’ll convince those millions to stream, download or share it en masse – then sadly ‘Lil Boat 2’ is unlikely to win him many new admirers.