You have to wonder if Lil Yachty’s label, Quality Control Music, insert a clause into every record deal they offer which handsomely rewards prolificacy. Take their jewel in the crown, Migos: the trio are set to release their third ‘Culture’ album early next year (the series’ previous instalment, which came out in January, consisted of 24 tracks and lasted for an energy-sapping 106 minutes), taking their total up to an astonishing four studio albums in the past three-and-a-half years. In addition to that, solo records from each of the Migos are set to continue the windfall, with Quavo having kicked things off this month with ‘Quavo Huncho’.
It’s an exhausting workload, but QCM’s flourishing prosperity suggests that the hard graft clearly produces success. Their saturation of the rap market over the past five years shows little sign of slowing, which is why it is almost unsurprising to be confronted with the second Lil Yachty album of 2018. ‘Nuthin’ 2 Prove’ swiftly follows the 21-year-old’s second album ‘Lil Boat 2’, which arrived back in March. These two records have also been supplemented by this summer’s ‘Birthday Mix 3’ – clearly, Yachty has a lot to say, and he’s got just the platform (read: QC’s megabucks) to do it.
But Yachty’s highly productive streak does indicate that he cares very little about adhering to the quality over quantity maxim: if the man has an idea, you can safely assume that he’s going to go into the studio and record it. That hasty approach to making music does carry its risks. He falls short on the sparse likes of ‘Riley From The Boondocks’ and ‘I’m The Mac’ Sadly, not least due to some rather mixed messages. On the former, he tells a love interest that he’d pay for her uni fees as “we need more like you / Really need less like me”; on the latter he informs us that he “dropped out of school / That shit was for the pussies”, with all the edginess of an angsty teen desperate to impress a group of older kids.
‘Nuthin’ 2 Prove’ is stylistically split into two parts, with the first seven tracks essentially blurring into one long boastful, trap-driven drudge (with the notable exception of the refreshing ‘Yacht Club’, as its engaging back-and-forth with Juice WRLD provides a much-needed boost). On lead single ‘Who Want The Smoke?’, Yachty is outshone by the sheer presence of hip-hop’s foremost couple, Cardi B and Offset, though the tracks signals a turn into Yachty’s more accomplished side: trap-pop.
While he may still rely on auto-tune (as much on break-out 2016 mixtape ‘Lil Boat’), Yachty’s melodic, tender side is a far more palatable prospect. ‘Worth It’ sees the main man cooing “I’ll love you for who you are” as he preaches a mostly wholesome message of self-love, while the unshakable hook of the bouncy ‘Everything Good, Everything Right’ is evidence of the kind of wide-eyed, hands-in-the-air goodness that led to Yachty featuring in a Disney advert and even a Warner Bros cartoon this year. The album’s clear stand-out moment can also be found on this tuneful Side B, with the Faith Hill-sampling and Trippie Redd-featuring ‘Forever World’ suggesting what a booming, spaced-out DVSN instrumental would sound like with Yachty on board. This includes a pair of confessional verses (“I’ve had so much heartbreak that I bleed black,” he sighs at one point) from an introspective Yachty – and it’s a pretty glorious experiment.
With a swelling back catalogue, it’s becoming increasingly clear what does and doesn’t work for Yachty’s solo output: skippable braggadocious freestyles? No. Endearing and experimental takes on hip-hop that demonstrate his more individualistic approach to being a major rap artist? Yes please. If, as the album’s title suggests, Lil Yachty now believes that he has nothing to prove, then he should play to his strengths and focus on what he does best – and at least we know we won’t have to wait very long to see what he does next.