Lil Yachty explores new genres in ‘Let’s Start Here’


The Dude

Nicolas Pavodani I Flickr

Mia Euceda, Arts & Culture Editor

Last October, rapper Lil Yachty struck gold on Tiktok for singing about smuggling promethazine cough syrup to Poland. On his latest album “Let’s Start Here,” released Jan. 27, he trades the wock for an LSD induced trip to the cosmos.

The album is a departure from the Atlanta rapper’s typical trap sound. Instead of 808 drum kicks and pounding basslines, electric guitar reverb and hazy synths accompany Yachty’s vocals.

At the album’s surprise listening party last month, the Atlanta rapper explained why he pivoted to a psychedelic rock sound. “I really wanted to be taken seriously as an artist, you know. Not just some SoundCloud rapper or some mumble rapper,” he said.

The opening track “The Black Seminole” makes note of this supposed artistic coming-of-age. “No time to joke around/the kid is now a man” he sings. It’s clear he wants to shed his mumble rap reputation for a more layered and mature image.

To channel these spacey soundscapes, Yachty recruited bassist Jake Portrait of psych-rock band Unknown Mortal Orchestra and MGMT keyboardist Benjamin Goldwasser. Indie icons Mac DeMarco and Alex G also contributed as songwriters. Despite all the loaded alt-rock star power, the record fails to offer anything interesting.

This new artistic direction didn’t happen overnight. In a 2021 interview with Rolling Stone, Yachty expressed his interest in implementing psychedelic aesthetics in his future projects.

 “I met Andrew from MGMT, and I’ve been talking to a bunch of people,” he said. “But what I’m trying to do on my next album, I’m trying to really take it there sonically.”

On his 2016 mixtape “Lil Boat,” the rapper introduced his two personalities: “Lil Yachty” and “Lil Boat,”with the latter persona being more aggressive. Unlike 2020’s “Lil Boat 3” and 2018’s “Nuthin’ 2 Prove,” Yachty leaves little room for the “Lil Boat” alter ego to flex or allude to owning firearms. His lighthearted personality shines through on “Let’s Start Here” and provides refreshingly optimistic and romantic lyricism.

Yachty is introspective on the interlude “:(Failure:).” He reflects on the importance of staying positive, even in the event of losing a finger or personal possessions. “things are replaceable, you know?”, he remarks as the guitar lets out a mellow twang. Even the song’s title serves as an example of this, as it starts with a frowning emoticon and ends with a smiley face. Even though the song isabout rejection Yachty argues it’s all about redirection.

Unfortunately, the strongest performances aren’t from Yachty, but from the featured artists. Vocalist Diana Gordonhelps deliver the infectious chorus for the disco throwback “Drive Me Crazy,” only for Yachty to undo the buildup and end with a forgettable verse about detaching himself from his sexual partners.

“I’ve Officially Lost Vision” starts off with an easy listening instrumental, only to spiral into a mind-melting breakdown.

 “All these voices in my head, I need an incision/I can see the sky falling, ah, illusion/This lil’ tiny sheet of paper could change your life,” he shouts. On this track, Yachty admits he ingested too many psychoactive drugs and describes facing uncomfortable thoughts and hallucinations.

Despite the psychedelic references, it seems like love is Yachty’s preferred drug of choice. Most of the album focuses on passionate and promiscuous themes. “I might overdose on your love,” he sings in “Paint the Sky.”

This isn’t the first time a rapper has dipped their toes into the rock world. Lil Wayne’s “Rebirth” and Kid Cudi’s “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven” were one-off experiments met with controversy upon release.

However, “Let’s Start Here” lacks the same impact.

The album comes off as a calculated risk.  It leaves the listener wondering if Yachty’s knowledge of psychedelia stops at the band Tame Impala.

Pitchfork’s Alphonse Pierre gave the album a 6/10, claiming the album has “a sound so immediately appealing that it doesn’t feel experimental at all.”

On the other hand, Grammy award winning musician Questlove shared a glowing review in an Instagram post. “This…might be the most surprising transition of any music career I’ve witnessed in a min, especially under the umbrella of hip hop,” he said.

Although “Let’s Start Here” is a lukewarm addition to Lil Yachty’s catalog; it’s a reminder of the rapper’s versatility and a preview of his future ventures.  It’s exciting to speculate about what genres he’ll explore next.