Laughter is likely the natural reaction most listeners had when they were introduced to Lil Yachty’s “1 Night.” Before I knew the face that sung with the Auto-Tune vocals of Chuckie Finster meets Makonnen, the viral “When Bae Hits You With That 'So What Are We?'” video was a hilarious first impression of what I suspected was a parody in the lineage of Weird Al Yankovic and Slim Jesus. Premature perception went unchanged once I laid eyes on the man behind the music—a teenager whose standout feature was Clifford-red braids with Hurricane Chris beads. A trademark fitting for Vine parodies and viral Snapchats but not necessarily rap stardom.
Atlanta has always been a breeding ground for oddballs and outliers, outcasts and outsiders, and so, naturally, people questioned if Yachty's peculiar music was serious or satire. It’s fitting for the artistic offspring of Soulja Boy and Lil B to have a comedic introduction, facing down the same barrel of scrutiny as his forefathers. I didn’t believe Yachty would go beyond “1 Night,” that his commercial peak would be “Minnesota,” but an artist destined to become a bookmark only mentioned when mentally rewinding to the funniest moments of 2016. To say I was wrong would be a criminal understatement.
The Little Boat that I expected to sink within a few months evolved into a Luxury Liner. He made chart-topping, sugary cereal pop-rap with KYLE and D.R.A.M., kicked earnest bars with the bark of a stern Boston Terrier alongside Chance The Rapper and Tee Grizzley, and debated his place in hip-hop against austere, outspoken elders like Ebro and Joe Budden. With two mixtapes, Yachty become the biggest teen rapper since Lil Bow Wow, Kriss Kross and Lil Wayne―an unapologetic adolescent who embraced the internet that raised him and the youth he spoke to. No matter the adversary, Yachty always stood his ground, becoming an unlikely figure of self-assurance. Even if the music didn’t exude any of hip-hop’s conventional heart, Yachty’s every release has felt authentic and in conjunction with the daring vision of a creative who refused to be told what he should make.
Teenage Emotions, Yachty’s debut album, is the climax of a year filled with unforeseen accomplishments, unanticipated success and consistent headlines. Boat has given us plenty to talk about, and often the topic of discussion wasn’t even music, which is why my anticipation for Teenage Emotions is fairly high. I'm excited to see what the King of the Teens has in store for his first major label offering. He’s been fighting since his first big song―fighting to be taking seriously, fighting to be respected. Teenage Emotions is here, the album brought to you by a young man who represents the new age teenager raised on the internet. Fame is their birthright, genres are outdated, and rules are nonexistent.
In usual 1 Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish. May this boat ride be more Carnival Cruise than the Titanic sinking.
1. "Like A Star"
I like how the subtle back instrumental is giving me Yoshi island vibes, here’s to hoping the album is tropical. I forgot Yachty has the most personalities and characters in his music since Nicki Minaj’s Barbie phase. If he grew up in New York, he would’ve been a theater kid. Yachty and Boat is the new T.I. vs. T.I.P. Yachty, not Boat, is starting the album off, candy coated Auto-Tune for your sweet tooth. Bragging about not drinking beer and sex by the piers, the simple things in life. The childishness of Yachty’s music is adorable, like when your little cousin wants to freestyle over the songs playing on the radio. This song is a pretty basic rundown of the fascinating life of a young, rich rising star. I'm already unengaged. Production-wise and melodically this is alright, the intro had a chance to be Lucky Charms but left me feeling like there’s Raisin Bran in my bowl. I hate when a kid with so much personality doesn’t showcase it.
2. "DN Freestyle"
Digital Nas is a name you could only have as a producer. Imagine a rapper trying to call himself Digital Nas in 2017? The internet would find his home and destroy whatever microphone he recorded Mumblematic on. WOOO THAT BASS, THOUGH. Sounds like Godzilla just stepped on a Chipotle. Straight stunt rapping, talk your shit young Miles. Boat switched it up, giving us an assertive rap flow. Yeah, this beat is slapping harder than a sumo wrestler fighting for his meal. More Digital Nas slappers in 2017. I wouldn’t mind doing a drive-by with a Super Soaker instead of a Draco to a song like this. Yachty said he made more money than the president, probably fake news but I'll let him cook. Boat really is an offspring of the Based Freestyles. He does showcase a bit of a flow once things get started. I like.
3. "Peek A Boo" ft. Migos
I've been wondering what this sample is for months. I love the way it comes in with the perfect “peek-a-boo” right before the beat drops. As soon as it drops, you just gotta throw your arms up and hit the Ric Flair. An unpopular opinion: Yachty got an EAR for stank face thumpers. “Peek A Boo” will have you stealing candy from a baby and then getting aggressive when caught. Squabble Up Challenge music. I hate how simple and ridiculous, yet addictive this hook is. Rudolph with the red nose still getting mentioned in rap songs, shouts to Frosty. I need someone with Yachty’s positivity to speak about women with a bit more compassion. There’s about 20 other rappers I wish would get this instrumental, mixtape Weezy is one. MIGOS! Offset floated, also the way Migo’s ad libs play a large role in adding personality to every song they’re on is worth the feature price. I would pay a feature fee just for Migo ad libs and would still have a hit. QUAVO! To be honest, I like Offset and Quavo on this track but their performances aren’t all that memorable. Unpopular opinion: Takeoff could’ve been the sole feature for this one. The way he’s in the pocket is a much better dance than Offset and Quavo but I’ll be scrutinized for trying to break up a happy black family. Also, the fact he’s still claiming that he started the dab is hilarious since we collectively stopped caring about it two years ago. I feel like the song would be incomplete without a Pikachu/Peek A Boo rhyme. This is a record I’m on the fence about. I like it, but pretty sure life will go unchanged if I never heard it again.
4. "Dirty Mouth"
These keys are much softer than the previous productions. Yachty talking his ish—wait! THE DRUMS JUST DROPPED. I thought he was about to sing but nope. The production is hitting harder than an unexpected baseball bat to the skull. Every Yachty verse has to include how much money he has, the amount of women he’s sleeping with, and how other rappers aren’t seeing him―there’s no question he’s a rapper. THIS BEAT IS HARD! Wouldn’t expect him to jump on a beat that sounds this dirty. Deducting points for rhyming Curry and furry, but I’m a bit surprised it hasn’t been done. Four songs in and I wouldn’t mind if Teenage Emotions was an album full of Based Freestyles. YOOO! The Tip Drill reference. I love how Yachty is reacting to his bars as the ad libs, this song is strangely wavy. Scrutiny has Yachty out here trying to prove himself. Even though these lyrics aren’t miracles from the church of Nasir, I enjoy the effort.
Chords sound like cotton candy marshmallows. Auto-Tune Boat. Melody Yachty. This is so annoying that within the first minute I might be crying in pain or singing along in bliss. It’s the same melody as that “Rollie” song that I both love and loathe. It’s strange how Yachty is one of the few rappers who adjusts his Auto-Tune depending on the song. This has potential, I can see why it’s a single. Not necessarily a radio record but I feel like his demographic will eat this up like Kid Cuisine. Man, for such a shining example of positivity, Yachty loathes his naysayers. No one taught him to kill them with kindness. I love the wind instrument subtly blowing in the background. More recorders and flutes! Five songs in and I’m seeing the juxtaposition with the cavity pop and abrasive raps. Interesting how his two personas have polar opposite approaches to making music.
6. "All Around Me" ft. YG & Kamaiyah
Coach K calling YG instead of Gucci Mane or Jeezy for the gangster rap feature is wild. WOOOOO!!! Okay, this already sounds like drinking Sunny D on a hot summer day. No way, this hook is GOOD. Wait, what the hell? "I just fucked a bitch who supposed to be my godsis"? Uh… that might be the strangest rap confession I've heard all year. I thought we would have a G-funk vibe but it's more of a Southern BBQ in June, sonically. Kamaiyah is the future and I can’t wait for her to soar. This is perfect for her. Her suave yet smooth voice should rap on everything that slightly resembles a summer day—like Dom Kennedy back in 2012. If you haven't heard A Good Night in the Ghetto in this warm weather you aren't living your best life. YG is so Compton it's hilarious. I can’t imagine what YG and Yachty would talk about—probably global warming and their godsisters. YG is a strange feature here, he doesn’t exactly fit the vibe, but I do like the change in his style. It’s kinda like taking your Compton cousin to visit your Uncle Phil in Bel-Air; it's bound to be a bit bizarre. Melodically, this is my favorite singing performance of the album. An early favorite.
7. "Say My Name"
Boat is going the Destiny’s Child route. Very soft. Teddy bear adorable. Reminds me of Thug a bit. Repetition is going to kill this very long album for me, but the way he repeats these simplistic hooks will either be an instant turn off or painfully unforgettable. I must say, once again, that his production selection might be a gift I wasn’t aware Yachty possessed. All his beats have either been Grandma-hug pleasant or high school bully aggressive. Okay, verse two grabbed me. Vocal inflection change brought the song to life. Okay, now I’m singing along. I hate it, yet I love it. Catchy, yet doesn’t stand out. I just feel like I heard it before but I’d be lying if I don’t see the potential in this being a summertime bop. I find Yachty so hard to love, yet I can never completely hate him. Indifference isn’t good for the soul.
8. "All You Had to Say"
Keys soft enough to lay your head on. Singing. I really wish T-Pain was on this album but then again, I pretty much wish T-Pain was on every album. Yeah, leaning to an early pass on this one. Someone lied and told Boat he was the new Teddy Pain. He tried to hit that high note and sounded like a short person trying to touch the rim. AND THEN THE DRUMS DROP! An unexpected turn of events. Raps in the pocket, trappy drums, and stunt line after stunt line. Would’ve paid MTV to see Yachty go back to his high school and stunt on all the teachers who doubted him. Liking this syrupy slowed down switch-up. Teenage Emotions might be the most accurately titled album of the year. A lot of the feelings expressed would hit me much harder if I was 18 trying to prove myself to the world. I just happen to be 25 going through a midlife crisis.
9. "Better" ft. Stefflon Don
I know I said the intro gave me Yoshi vibes but the production for “Better” is a far more accurate song for that description. WTF. Man, this is a very island-esque jam. It sounds like I just went from a high school classroom to cruising around Jamaica. IS YACHTY GIVING ME LIFE ADVICE!? “Don’t settle for less because you miss out on more.” These feel like lyrics I needed to hear 10 years ago and possibly 10 years from now. Easily inching into my favorite so far. This guitar strumming is life. These chords. It's all so gorgeous. Didn’t see this coming. Sort of reminds me of B.o.B’s “Lovelier Than You” but more island influenced and not acoustic pop. Boat made a love song that sounds like love personified. I wish this was the last song so I could play it again. Stefflon Don is a name I don’t know but I’m loving her voice. This is quite an unforeseen change of style. Need a beach house Lil Boat album full of love songs and teenage mantras. A keeper, without question.
10. "Forever Young" ft. Diplo
Diplo once sent me an angry emoji on Twitter while I was on shrooms and nothing has made me laugh harder. Okay, Boat’s vocal tone has sounded great over these last two songs. He’s finding his place when he doesn’t overdo it. First verse is rather rapid, his fastest rapping thus far. Doing the most on this hook. Some notes just aren’t in his range to hit. Mixed feelings. The tropical, electronic production is like visiting Optimus Prime somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. Sorry Yachty, I’m taking Jay Z’s “Forever Young” over you and Diplo. Not bad, just having a hard time loving this one.
11. "Lady in Yellow"
Okay! Mixing in a little talk box effect. I feel like Boat is about to R&B slide across a sleek living room floor. Yachty the romantic. Cloud rap meets Trap R&B, a strange but alluring middle ground. Pretty sure this is what a Young Lean love song sounds like. So many strange ideas with even stranger execution. I find it funny how songs you would immediately cut off get better if you allow them to run, but that isn't the case here. I just can’t get into the “Lady In Yellow.” Would love this a bit more if Swae Lee was behind the vocals. Maybe Yachty has a future in songwriting, his ideas tend to be good/great but the execution doesn't always captivate. I enjoy how the title would be a perfect 1970s Prince song. “I just got a question, baby can I fuck?” Hahaha. Yachty is a true poet.
12. "Moments in Time."
We have entered a strange vacuum of love songs. My interest has wavered three ballads ago. “Moments In Time” is sounding like an iPhone memo that shouldn’t have made it to the recording booth. I may have thought “1 Night” was a playful parody but it was at least unforgettable. With his gift for melodies and creating catchphrases, Yachty is at his worst when he’s forgettable. Glad this one is over.
13. "Otha Shit (Interlude)"
Tempo change. Feels like music the kids in the future will breakdance to. Playful. Childish. He’s such a child. The album should have ended at 13 songs...
14. "X-Men" ft. Evander Griiim
OHHHHH!!! THIS BASS! I LIKE THIS! A monster like Beast, and the drums came in like Wolverine with the claws out. RAP YACHTY HAS RESURRECTED ME! This is a banger. I don’t know who this is on the hook but it should’ve been Carti. When Yachty puts the bass in his voice it's always funny. He is incapable of being menacing. I love this. This is drop kick your badass neighbor on the trampoline music. This is pushing your rude cousin in the deep end of the pool unexpectedly music. Dennis The Menace not Menace II Society music. “X-Men” should be a much bigger anthem—how isn’t this taking over the summer? THE BASS IS RIDICULOUS. Bring your speakers out for the Big Boat.
15. "Bring It Back."
Noooooo! How did he tease switching the album up but going right back to the singing? Ugh, so disappointed in this sequencing. Okay, this is cute. Beat dropped. '70s pop dance music. These synths are groovy. Reminds me of the Daft Punk and Weeknd song. Okay, I like this. I like this a lot. The unexpected display of range on Teenage Emotions has been my favorite part about the album besides the production. When Yachty leaves his comfort zone and shows what he can do artistically, it's a pleasant surprise. He still isn’t saying anything new but a change in musical wardrobe can make repeated themes sound anew. Slow dance under the strobe light music. Disco at the skating rink music. Need Hologram Moonwalking Michael on the remix. Oh shit, the horn! It feels very mid-'70s. Loving the arrangement. Can we get more of this? The kind of sugary cereal pop music I wouldn’t mind 10 tracks of.
16. "Running with the Ghost" ft. Grace
So many layers to Lil Boat. No wonder he needs multiple personalities. Grace has a beautiful voice. I like this. I really hope Yachty doesn’t do anything weird. It feels like this song is about to get weird. Such a quiet build-up. The first song of its kind. Okay, not too weird. Thin drums, with the weight of a string bean. If you remove the drums and rapping and add Abel, this would be a fire Weeknd song. This song is so normal, I don’t know what I expected. Good song, won’t return to it, but a good song nonetheless.
17. "FYI (Know Now)"
Starting a song by stating he’s going to fuck her mom is peak Lil Yachty. I wish there was a video of Yachty playing Call Of Duty, I feel his shit talking would be superb entertainment. There’s a waviness to the boasting. The Willy Wonka production sounds like the sweetest hot caramel. D.R.A.M. should’ve been brought in for this one. Or KYLE. This is the song you play when you swag out the tricycle and know you’re about to stunt at the playground. Pull up with the squad and showing out music, but so much of Yachty’s music sounds like this. There’s nothing new or rather interesting here other than the humor.
18. "Priorities" ft. Lacey Reign
Loving this Kari Faux-esque flow. We have a bop. The bounce and groove are so infectious. I’m rocking like Big Quint in my office chair. Not making “Priorities” a single was a big mistake, Coach K! I know the entire song is a middle finger to responsibilities and that’s rather off-brand for the King of the Teens but this is a HIT. We really needed Kari Faux on this one. Also not having your priorities in order is such a universal feeling. I relate Yachty, I relate. So many different flows! “She suck me like an insect, she my sister so I guess that’s incest.” Alright guys, now I know why this wasn’t the single. I’m logging out. The 1 Listen is over. *continues to awkwardly jam*
19. "No More"
How is this album still going? The sister confession should've been the mic drop moment. No teenager should have this much to say. I’m pretty sure no Bow Wow album was longer than 15 songs. 808s-esque Kanye Auto-Tune. Another song about how Yachty can’t trust the plethora of women he’s been talking about sleeping with all album long. Yes, Lil Yachty, I’m in agreement, "I can’t take no more" either. Another unnecessary addition to a bloated debut. Even with streaming services, I just don’t see anything appealing about this song to where it would garnish high stream numbers. The label should’ve put this one on the boat that sunk.
20. "Made of Glass"
Another love song for your headtop. Musing on unrequited love. Another immediate dud. It’s cute, like cat photos on the internet cute, but there’s only so many cats you can see before the adorable feline loses its allure. I do like the arrangement. Production is the album's saving grace. LOL! He just threw shade at Soulja Boy while trying to sweet talk a woman. Lil Yachty, so much growing up to do.
21. "Momma (Outro)" ft. Sonyae Elise
The grand finale. Oh yes, this is nice. Sonyae has pipes, bringing a bit of soul to the album. Have to appreciate Yachty’s dedication to his mother. Beautiful. “My best friend, first lady of my life, my momma.” Outside of Eminem, most rappers love their moms, right? Now, if only we could get them to treat women like their mommas…. HAHAHA Yachty with a wonderful analogy on how beautiful his mother is. It would’ve been a pretty big deal if he let this one loose during Mother’s Day as a tribute. Boat’s mom! Moms appearing on rap albums will always warm my soul. Shouts to all the rap moms.
Teenage Emotions is about the length of my high school career. I feel like I just relived going from a freshman to senior throughout the entire listening experience. The album’s length is pretty astounding from a child of the internet. I expected him to go short instead of putting a teenage attention span to the test. Especially with an album that touches on the same basic themes over and over—you can feel the minutes dragging from one song to the next. Length is likely the reason I won’t return to the album for a start to finish second listen.
Not returning to the album in its entirety isn’t necessarily a bad thing in an era of streaming and playlists. This album has records, hits that could be big or small. Lil Boat isn’t one dimensional, he isn’t trapped in the trap, but able to weave between thunderous trap bangers, pop music with the vibrancy of an Adventure Time episode, and cute ballads that will make a young lady swoon. What he lacks in substance and expansive ideas is made up with an adventurous fearlessness to switch things up.
Instead of accepting a cage and being pigeonholed, Yachty doesn’t pick a genre as his master. He’s not a rapper turned singer or a singer turned rapper, he is simply an artist weaving through whatever medium helps to keep his microwave interest. Teenage Emotions has a lot of fat that most listeners will cut down, but as a whole, the album holds songs that could potentially be enjoyed by music fans both young and old. It echoes the ethos of More Life—more music, more chances to please the masses.
I don’t think Lil Yachty is a very good rapper or on the road to being considered one of the all-time best, but that has never been his mission. He’s a kid, being a kid, and reaping the benefits that come with embracing his individuality. The music he makes is equivalent to his red hair―loud and outrageous, too unusual to simply fit in. Fitting in is overrated. Standing out takes more balls and a bolder spirit.
Teenage Emotions is loud and outrageous, unusual and bold and perfectly embodies what Lil Yachty offers hip-hop―an individual who got this far embracing idiosyncratic taste.
If you are looking for next level bars, you won’t find them here. If you’re searching for the best singing, I'd direct you elsewhere. But if you want to know what it sounds like when a 19-year-old kid is unapologetically himself and dares to make the music he wants to make, well, you might be surprised by what you find on this album.
Lil Yachty is a joke no more.
By Yoh, aka Captain Yoh, aka @Yoh31