Released in May 2017, Lil Yachty’s debut album, Teenage Emotions, fell leprechaun short of selling 50,000 copies upon release. Of course, Yachty was deemed a flop by those who overemphasize the value of sales, especially the sacred first-week numbers. The surprise wasn’t the lack of units moved, but how ineffective the album was as a whole. Unlike fellow Quality Control act Migos and their critical and commercial smash Culture, there weren’t any singles on Teenage Emotions that took off. In an era where streams allow fans to encourage the selection of what song deserves label backing, no big stir followed the moderate success of the Migos-assisted “Peek a Boo.”
Why did Teenage Emotions fail? Lil Boat essentially curated a people-pleaser project, the kind of faux, post-More Life playlist meant to cater to various musical taste buds. Instead of going thin, he spread himself wide―rapping as if he could win over naysayers, singing in the key of crossover pop, and touching various genres and subgenres in search of diversity throughout a long 18 songs. Teenage Emotions proved the young QC star wasn’t a one-trick pony, but his lack of commercial success begs the question of whether the teens know what they want from their king. Does the king even know?
Lil Yachty named his follow-up album Lil Boat 2, a sequel to his 2016 breakthrough mixtape. This may be symbolic of a return to roots; Lil Boat is home to the infectious “Minnesota” and the viral “One Night.” The title could be purely a marketing decision, as artists tend to create series tied to their successful, breakout projects. Or, this is chasing former glory to regain lost footing―familiarity attracts in ways newness doesn’t.
I’m not sure what Yachty’s career trajectory is. It’s hard to build a solid foundation on social media outrage, viral videos, brand partnerships, and flashes of artistic flair. How well Lil Boat 2 is received could bring clarity to what he has in store for the remainder of 2018. This isn’t a make-or-break project for Yachty, but it could be the difference between soaring tomorrow and plummeting today.
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.
1. “Self Made”
Soft chords. You could sprinkle them on top of ice cream. Rapping Yachty. Ha. Jibbs line. He had to be five years old when Jibbs' chain was hanging low. The mix sounds like the dirty ring around a moldy, disgusting bathtub. Where is the Clorox? Bass is a Leviathan. It’s really easy going, but also fun. Easygoing, stunting Yachty who is proud to be out of his mom’s house. I dig it.
2. “Boom!” ft. Ugly God
“We are stressless. Niggas are stress-free.” Carefree black boyz music. A bunch of “Yeps!” in perfect harmony. Boat sounds like he’s in the booth with Ugly and this is the trap version of Goten fusion with Trunks. I can’t help but enjoy two young men celebrating getting out of their mom’s house through their creative endeavors. I wasn’t a big fan of Ugly God’s album but I like this. Nice little bounce. The hook is going to erupt at concerts. Yachty sounds far more in his element than the try-hard raps on Teenage Emotions. Did he say wrist on Lemony Snicket? Hahaha. Okay. I’m happy with this one.
3. “Oops” ft. 2 Chainz & K$upreme
DISGUSTING. Bass is hitting my face harder than the smell of a fart in a packed elevator. My god. Yachty is water skiing. I'm loving this minimalist trap. CHAINZ! He really sounds like luxury when he arrives despite rapping over a beat as dirty as Trick Daddy's fingernails. Young rappers have no regard for a clean mix. I sorta like it. Trap music should feel like walking through a trap house. There are so many funny flows on display. Yachty sounds like he’s enjoying himself. This reminds me of early Migos. Trap music with a dab of fun.
4. “Talk To Me Nice” ft. Quavo
“Talk To Me Nice” is a Drake song title. “I’ve seen more M’s than a Maison logo.” Okay, Boat. Yachty rapping like he still has his slippers on. Not quite monotone but his energy is mellow. The Quavo hums underneath his voice are what I imagine it feels like to have a guardian angel supporting you through life. Just heavenly. More feature guests assist in maximizing Yachty’s enjoyability. Quavo sounds better here than on most of Culture II. Every feature has shown up. I was worried The Boat wouldn’t stay afloat, but he's riding these waves without much effort. Ha. There are lyrics here. I like the rat trap bar. Okay, okay. I’m not even remotely bored.
5. “Get Money Bros." ft. Tee Grizzley
Grizzley and Boat reconnect. The album has been all trap songs. Yachty has rapped on every record. He hasn’t touched Auto-Tune since the first record. All stunt bars and hilarious references. Who made this beat? It’s saucy. These hi-hats are menacing but my shoulders can’t help but shimmy. Tee Grizzley with a new flow! He has an excellent rap voice. He said his chopper put a driver in the back. I laughed and shivered at the same time. Is it me or does Yachty's voice have a bit more weight to it? Far less kiddie. If he was a Rugrat on Lil Boat, Lil Boat 2 is All Grown Up. An early favorite. Get Money Bros., watch out Mario and Luigi.
6. “Count Me In”
First solo since the intro. Pi'erre Bourne beat. OMG. I’m almost certain he made this beat inside a trash can. The bass is dripping dumpster juice. Yachty’s voice sounds like it’s on top a pile of dead Fortnite bodies. I can’t get over how poor this song sounds, yet, Yachty is rollerblading across this land of garbage and litter. I like this new Yachty rap voice. I don’t like this song, but it’s going to be huge with the kids on SoundCloud who like their rap music recorded on Xbox Live microphones. I swear the bass sounds like it has an infection. Someone send this beat to a medic.
7. “She Ready” ft. PnB Rock
Singing Boat. No, that’s PnB. Honestly, I’m not sure. I would say Fetty Wap if it wasn’t for the feature credits. It literally sounds like a remix of everything Fetty was doing in 2015. Melodic Boat. I like these keys, but this beat just makes me want to play “Mask Off.” Yes, Fetty Wap’s sauce is being repurposed. Protect thy sauce at all costs. There’s an alternate universe where Walt Disney signed Yachty before Quality Control and he made nothing but Mickey Mouse trap-bops. There are some redeeming qualities about this song but none that make me eager to revisit it in its entirety.
8. “Love Me Forever”
Another love song. Boat is going to do a love album one day and there’s nothing we can do to stop him. His singing has never been endearing, it always came off as a parody, but so do a lot of rappers who aren’t naturally blessed with good vocals. I’ll skip this one. Buddah did bless the beat, though. Lovely production.
9. “Das Cap”
I’m ready for Drake to have his cap bar. Back to the trap vibes. Interesting how Lil Boat has switched things up. “Stay with the cannon the click is wilding out.” No mind-blowing bars, but there seems to be more effort going into what he’s saying. He’s a full-blown Atlanta rapper now. “Das Cap” is cool. Doesn’t quite hit like the previous records. Production has made up for how filthy the mixes have been. Hearing some Rick Ross-worthy thumpers.
10. “Pop Out” ft. Jban$2Turnt
Admittedly, I don’t know Jban$2Turnt. Joe Budden really turned nice Miles McCollum into an aggressive, trap banger-producing Atlanta rapper. I swear this beat feels like falling into the void. It’s a suffocating black hole. Yachty sounds like he recorded this in a detention center for teens suffering from anger issues. I would punch Chuck E. Cheese to this. I would go to Dave & Buster's and hit licks on kids' tickets while this played. Doing hoodrat things with your friends' music.
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11. "NBAYOUNGBOAT" ft. NBA Youngboy
Missed the NBA Youngboy wave. Not sure why he’s such a favorite. This is a banger… Jesus. The drums sound like the cops are knocking down my doors. Great tempo. Bouncy. I can’t remember the last time I ever wanted to play Yachty in my car… I don’t think I ever wanted to. I can’t get over this transformation. Chuckie Finster is now Chuck Fuck Up Commas. Yeah, Yachty decided to spend this entire tape making softcore street anthems. QC has done it again.
12. “Mickey” ft. Offset & Lil Baby
If Yachty’s production was a person they would probably be in custody for unlawful acts. Offset is rapping over a beat that sounds like it was made in Rikers. I was hoping for a more explosive verse from Offset. More stunt raps. I really hope Yachty is making all the money he has spent the album bragging about. I remember the first time I heard about Lil Baby, it was at a party, and I thought they were saying a little baby just got out of jail and started rapping. Imagine my surprise when I realized the rapper's name was Lil Baby. He’s ripping it. Another good rap voice. Sorta reminds me of Yung Nudy. Very monotone, but the energy is menacing. He just sounds like a guy you would only want to cross in a game of tic-tac-toe. This was cool. Really enjoyed Lil Baby but Offset and Yachty left me wanting more.
There’s no light in Yachty’s voice. He sounds as if he’s been awake for 17 days. Someone, please get him a cough drop and a hug. Nah, the added weight really creates a contrast with the cemetery instrumental. The album does suffer from repetition. It’s far too long. I believe he accomplished all he needed a few songs ago. If he plans to continue stuntin' on my life over beats made in homes an informant away from being raided by police I’m going to be bored soon.
I'm loving how this beat sounds like something Gucci Mane should’ve rapped over in 2009. Why isn’t Guwop on this!? I really want to ask Coach K about Yachty’s vocal tone. This has to be intentional. It’s almost like a silent reinvention. “R.I.P. to Kurt Cobain, nigga.” I’ll skip this one until Gucci gives it his blessing.
15. “WHOLE lotta GUAP”
Now he’s just making GTA Radio music. Man, QC really needs to learn how to shave off the fat. This is very Playboi Carti-esque. Ad-libs and flows are very Carti. I’m interested but also annoyed that he has continued to rewrap similar ideas and regift them to us. I have so many questions about how we got here. Hearing some Chief Keef. Maybe more Keef than Carti as far as influence goes. Shout out to Chief Keef influence.
16. “Baby Daddy” ft. Lil Pump & Offset
Ha. The line about resisting peer pressure to drink. This is already better than the last few songs. Pump! "Gucci Gang" flow. I really hated on that song, for good reason, but it’s painfully catchy. I really can’t wait to discuss Yachty’s vocal change. It’s really eating at me. Offset! Need to do a piece about how vocal cadence really makes or break how an artist sounds over trap beats. Offset has the perfect voice for records like this. “Shoot out the roof no aim” doesn’t sound like something that should be brag-worthy.
17. “66” Trippie Redd
Final song. Yachty could’ve cut at least five records. A lot more airy than the previous songs. Trippie Redd with the pleasant melody. I hear hit potential. The kids are going to eat this up. Stream numbers will be ridiculous. “Flexing until I’m 66” is an artist with foresight. Any chance Migos wrote this album? This trap transformation is just too seamless for questions not to be asked. End with a bop. Always end with a bop. Mantra all 2018.
On the first Lil Boat mixtape, Lil Yachty introduced Lil Yachty and Lil Boat as the nephews of Darnell Boat. The separate names were meant to exemplify two different approaches to making music. The tape is split between the two personas―Boat provided the bubble gum trap and Yachty brought the melodic, boat music. There is a complete absence of Yachty across Lil Boat 2―only two songs incorporate singing―the more aggressive persona has eclipsed the softer side. As I stated numerous times throughout the review, embracing Lil Boat as his sole creative voice has transformed Yachty’s music from its kiddie pool roots and delved deep into murkier seas.
Yachty’s newfound bravado compared to Teenage Emotions is reminiscent of when Steve Urkel first became Stefan Urquelle―a cooler, more suave version of the dorky genius. Instead of leaning into a wide palette of sound and style like his debut offering, Lil Boat 2 embraces modern trap aesthetics as its primary color. His chest is pushed out further, there's more bass in his voice, and his delivery has lost its awareness. He doesn't say anything remotely new, or insanely clever, but I prefer his braggadocious energy than his melodic musing or rapping with the intent to impress elders. While all the bragging and boasting overstays its welcome by a handful of tracks, it’s a far more enjoyable project than Teenage Emotions.
When he first signed, I saw Yachty as the outcast of QC. His hair was red, his voice was high, and the art of his storytelling was unlike the other signees. Lil Boat 2 sheds the black sheep’s wool and gifts him the dentures of a wolf. It sheds Yachty the whimsical singer nearly entirely. With a little more bite and a lot more bass, there’s potential for Yachty to see his trap offerings enter summer banger territory.
Trap music may not be his natural, sonic temperament, but that’s why Yachy incorporates a deeper voice paired with a deadpan swagger―Lil Boat 2 is a slight reinvention. Musically and sonically, the successes of Tay-K, Lil Pump, Ugly God, Trippie Redd, and other breakout SoundCloud stars has had a strong influence on an artist that entered our music consciousness on the strength of bubblegum buoyancy and melodic sing-alongs.
Nearly a year removed from a debut studio album that fell flat, Yachty has ditched the pop sheen of tracks like "Forever Young" or "Bring It Back" and doubled down on disaffected and rattling trap—to maintain his proclamation of King of the Teens, Yachty adopted to what the teens are gravitating toward.
This is the pivot of an artist trying to run with the crowd and not fall behind. Yachty has upgraded his boat to set sail for new waters, and it's a far more impressive sight to see than I ever imagined.
Early Favorites: "Boom!," "Oops," "Get Money Bros."
Early Not-So-Favorites: "She Ready," "Love Me Forever," "FWM"
By Yoh, aka Lil Yohtanic, aka @Yoh31