Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Lil Yachty Fulfills Big Rocker Dreams

Lil+Yachty+Fulfills+Big+Rocker+Dreams

★★★★☆

After building a career around eccentricity, Lil Yachty cranks his musical weirdness dial to the max in “Let’s Start Here,” his fifth studio album.

Released Jan. 27, the album attempts to realize the Mableton, Ga. musician’s artistic ambitions beyond his signature “bubblegum trap” sound. “Let’s Start Here” marks an unexpected departure from Yachty’s previous discography, as it forays into a blend of psychedelic rock and funk.

Yachty is no stranger to experimentation. While he is most associated with the Atlanta rap scene, Yachty’s 2021 mixtape “Michigan Boat Boy” saw him collaborate with Detroit-based artists to promote the city’s unorthodox style. That same year, Yachty joined forces with Tame Impala on a remix of “Breathe Deeper,” foreshadowing his creative trajectory.

The bombastic album opener “the BLACK seminole.” blows all expectations into smithereens. The 6:52 minute lead track begins with Yachty’s ethereal, autotuned vocals layered on top of eerie synthesizers before exploding into distorted guitar solos, impassioned drums and feature vocalist Diana Gordon’s inhuman scream-singing.

Yachty proceeds to genre-hop his way across psychedelic sounds over the course of the album. Whereas “the BLACK seminole.” mixes the intense guitar riffs of Pink Floyd with the loud, progressive rock chaos of King Crimson, “the ride-” is more reminiscent of Tame Impala, as high-pitched vocals accompany unconventional instruments; the funky bassline that drives “running out of time” contains shades of Bootsy Collins and Thundercat.

Despite these obvious influences on “Let’s Start Here,” the album still flows rather effortlessly thanks to its strong production. A supergroup of industry veterans, ranging from the Raisen brothers to Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jake Portrait and Magdalena Bay, helped maintain the album’s focus as it weaves between contrasting moods with exceptional finesse. Lush, warm chords quickly flow into stripped-down vulnerability and raw angst with great precision, imbuing each song with its own distinct character without much clashing.

Among the many talented artists featured on the album, Gordon is the clear standout, adjusting perfectly to her ever-changing role from the sweet, soulful singing in the Bee Gees-inspired “drive ME crazy!” to rage and sorrow in “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!” Other features like MGMT’s Benjamin Goldwasser, Mac DeMarco, Daniel Caesar and Teezo Touchdown all succeed in bringing additional life to the album in their respective performances.

The genre-bending nature of the album, however, causes Yachty’s vocal performance to fall flat, especially during his more tender moments. The heavy use of autotune, though it adds an intriguing dimension to certain songs, becomes distracting in “pRETTy” and “sAy sOMETHINg” by creating an unnecessary harshness to two otherwise mellow songs. Other songs, such as “paint THE sky” and “sHouLd I B?,” begin to sound exhausting due to a lack of innovation and experimentation, and Yachty’s subpar vocals add little value to the songs’ perfunctory natures.

Thankfully, Yachty breaks up some of the more monotonous segments of the album with bouts of intense creativity. “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!” keeps listeners off-balance by transitioning from its McDonald’s jingle-esque intro to thumping basslines that roar over Yachty and Gordon’s unsettling, intertwining vocals. “The Alchemist.” also gives listeners a strangely fun track, with its extremely fast-paced buildup shifting repeatedly into Fousheé’s slow, yet expressive, vocals.

In the same way that “the BLACK seminole.” served as a bold introduction to the album’s concept, Yachty looks to unsettle listeners once more with the ending track “REACH THE SUNSHINE.” Featured artist Daniel Caesar delivers a deceptively minimalist verse before the song crescendos to a thick wall of synths, slowly trickling back down to a hauntingly beautiful resolution that leaves the audience with an echoing chorus and a singular grand piano in the background.

“Let’s Start Here” is a testament to Yachty’s artistic maturity, a product of an intensely ambitious vision combined with an acumen for collaboration and attention to detail. The project subverts all expectations with its deliberateness, yet it still maintains Yachty’s signature playfulness as he challenges listeners with a delicious weirdness.

“Truth be told, all I ever wanted was to be respected as an artist,” Yachty said in a Twitter post shortly after the release of the album. He should be.

The album, with all of its shortcomings and flaws, is still one of the boldest musical statements in recent memory. It deserves to be celebrated as such.

And so, the self-proclaimed Lil Boat embarked on an artistic voyage, traversing a sea of rocker dreams in hopes of discovering a cove of authenticity and inventiveness.

So far, it’s been smooth sailing.

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