No rapper is more controversial than Atlanta, Georgia product Lil Yachty. He has almost single-handedly torn a divide between old school and new school hip-hop fans, critics, and commentators. Yachty’s goofy, cartoonish voice is fun and friendly to some and headache-inducing for others. I fall somewhere in between. His 2016 breakout mixtape Lil Boat (his nickname/alter ego) featured two of my favorite rap songs of last year. “1Night” and the “Minnesota” remix have such an innocent-meets-ignorant vibe to them. Yachty brings a carefree breath of fresh air to contemporary hip-hop. He’s helping make rap music the most accessible genre in America (if it isn’t already). However, I can see why some people have a hard time vibing with his music. He is a flamboyant jokester. But he’s just so damn catchy.
D.R.A.M. and Yachty’s five-times-platinum hit “Broccoli” turned Boat into a household name. He teamed up with superstar athlete LeBron James in a heavily shown Sprite commercial. You could feel his bank account growing with every smile. Lil Yachty and his sonic palette have a boyish charm. I believe this is something hip-hop desperately needs. Because themes of street violence and drug trafficking are so prevalent in rap, Yachty emerges refreshingly unique. The only problem is, due to his immature agenda, Lil Yachty doesn’t do much with his platform. Rather than blaze new trails with his vibrant, youthful sound, he camouflages into mediocrity. His off-beat flows and excessively sexualized bars do little to separate him from the pack.
The Georgian’s debut album Teenage Emotions takes the worst elements of his breakout tape, stretching them out over 69 minutes. That number is ironic with how often he demands blowjobs and sex favors across this album. I listen to multitudes of rap music. I can handle and enjoy explicit lyrics. Nevertheless, this project exhibits a severe lack of quality control. The album’s title is quite fitting, though. Yachty spends most of Teenage Emotions expressing extreme signs of adolescence. A bulk of the lyrics here are rebellious, naughty, and insecure. They resemble a kid retaliating from an act of bullying. Boat chooses to dwell on his haters’ negative energy instead of simply ignoring it. He’s trying so hard to sound cool when being himself would do more than suffice.
Also, Yachty’s bars on this album are the most crass and indefensible ones you’ll hear all year. I guarantee it. Contrarily, there are moments of ambitious production here, which I will always applaud. The 80’s-style pop-rock instrumental on “Bring It Back” sparked my interest. It’s a serviceable change of pace. “Better” featuring Stefflon Don has a pleasing reggae feel. But the songwriting on both is so rudimentary, it limits their replay value. Standout “Dirty Mouth” houses the previously mentioned vulgarity. However, Yachty’s flow and aggression match the hype beat. I just wish this project was more concise. At 21 tracks, Teenage Emotions is a road trip of an album — the kind where your mom controls the aux. Doused in Auto-tune and inexperience, this debut is the rendezvous of novice and novelty.