Lil Yachty returns with another decent, though less surprising, effort.
I remember an almost palpable feeling of unease and disgust the first time I heard Lil Yachty‘s Minnesota last year during the 13th episode of OVO Sound. As the mind-numbingly basic melody (played through keys that quite obviously belonged to a stock FL Studio plug-in) breezily plonked away beneath the most generic trap percussion imaginable, I remember thinking one thing, and one thing only: What the fuck am I hearing right now?
And no, not in a ‘wow, this is overwhelmingly great‘-kinda way. The rare, ‘how does anyone actually enjoy this?‘-kinda way. That was mine and many others introduction to, and first impression of, Lil Yachty.
It’s a feeling I’m not all that familiar with; I’m always open to new sounds and trends in music, but this was (at least at first) something I could never – ever – imagine myself enjoying at any level. I didn’t get the hype, I couldn’t understand how he was beginning to blow up, and I didn’t have a clue why his already loyal and ravenous fan-base were so eager to hear more.
And yet, when Yachty‘s first official release, Lil Boat, seemed to just materialise several months later, I actually fucking enjoyed it.
Still to this day, I’ll find myself returning to tracks like Wanna Be Us, I’m Sorry, One Night, Good Day, Just Keep Swimming and Never Switch Up – all infectious, frustratingly catchy songs that seem to teeter on the extremely volatile apex between ‘this is genius‘ and ‘this is complete garbage‘. It’s music that I find myself questioning how I feel about it for so long that I end up listening to it on repeat and just zoning out to it. And really, that’s the best way to enjoy music, and the best way to approach Yachty as an artist; it’s fun, positive music to vibe to, that isn’t overly complicated or any deeper than it’s surface-level lyrics or woozy and whimsical beats appear to be. Not all music has to be hard to digest or innovative, and not every album and mixtape has to be anchored in forward-thinking concepts and dense production with bars that are Rap Genius-fodder; it’s that rejection of all pre-conceived expectations of hip-hop music that helped me understand Yachty and actually learn to love trap-rappers like Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, 21 Savage, and Madeintyo.
The Atlanta native’s latest effort, Summer Songs 2, is another sugary dip into Yachty‘s perception of what makes a dope rap record in 2016 – one of the few traits that truly distinguishes him from his ‘new school’ Atlanta peers. Lil Boat‘s music is overwhelmingly happy and cheerful, drenched in his naive outlook on life and the almost-childlike innocence that makes him such a difficult artist to hate on, even if you don’t like it. He strays from spitting about drug abuse, politics, social issues, and violence (for the most part) in favour of creating charming happy-go-lucky anthems like Such Ease and Life Goes On; mindless turn-up bangers like King of the Teens, DipSet and Shoot Out the Roof; and even slow and melodic simp cuts like Burberry Perry (who recently changed his name to TheGoodPerry) assisted standout track, Pretty.
It’s hard to deny Yachty as a diverse artist, even though not every mood he dabbles in lands as well as others. A lot of the songs, particularly in the first half, are significantly more aggressive than those on it’s predecessor – there’s even a diss track titled For Hot97, Yachty‘s lacklustre yet aggravated response to how rudely he was treated on the radio station of the same name when it’s hosts (particularly Ebro) disrespected him during an interview that aired last month. While it’s nice to hear that Yachty is determined to prove himself as a passable lyricist (yes, this is the guy who’s ‘dick is so good, it turns hoes to George‘ because they get ‘curious‘), it’s a lane that doesn’t work for him as much as he’d seemingly like it to – the more seriously he begins to take himself on wax, the harder he becomes to tolerate. It’s on the more melodic tracks like Yeah Yeah and Life Goes On where he finds his footing, residing comfortably in his own position as rap’s goofiest artist as he empties his lungs through an auto-tuned warble crooning lines like ‘I know you’re tired of the bus / stack up and pull off like vroom‘.
Disappointingly, while I’m definitely no stickler for artistic growth, it’s hard to distinguish any major sonic differences between Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2 beyond the increase in production value and each album’s beautiful cover art – the synths here are still glossy and glittery, the melodies are still uplifting, and a lot of the songs sound like trap-sprinkled jingles that just happen to be four minutes long. However, the artist we get on Summer Songs 2 (while still equally immature) definitely seems more vulnerable than he was all those months ago. Where he once drawled on Never Switch Up: ‘never give a fuck about what a nigga say about me’, Yachty is now dedicating entire interludes to wail about his haters like a tantrum, and pen frustrated diss tracks to radio stations that don’t understand his music. It’s a surprising turn for the self-proclaimed ‘King of Teens’, as his defiance and ignorance towards haters and those who made him a social outcast when he was (even) younger was the crux of his initial success – Yachty puts on for ‘weirdo’ rap and just weirdoes in general, even once again bring on his roster of surprisingly capable weed-carriers to deliver guest features all over Summer Songs 2, in addition to features from rap weirdos Offset and G Herbo as well.
While Lil Yachty‘s Summer Songs 2 may not be as surprising, challenging, or as infectious as Lil Boat, and a lot of the more aggressive tracks fall flat, it’s still a solid mixtape with more anthemic cuts that continue to prolong Yachty‘s time in the spotlight of rap stardom, however short-lived that may be. But even if Yachty isn’t beneath the public glare for long, he’s making the most of the opportunities he’s being given and having a whole lot of fun doing it while it lasts.