For many, Lil Yachty was the welcoming introduction to the world of trippy melodies, roaring 808 Patterns and auto-tuned ‘mumbling’ that had been coming from Hip-Hop’s underground for some years now. The playful colours and themes that radiated from Lil Boat, coupled with visuals that could have come from an early Yung Lean video struck this underground mass with something new. Something they could laugh along with. More recently, since his success in the mainstream, this joke has come to an end, replaced by Yachty himself.
It is fair to say that the projections for his latest album were not met despite the 46,000 copies sold in the first week. This raises questions to whether these projections were correct in the first place, maybe indicating that Yachty was never really as popular as people thought. His 3.1 Million strong Instagram following seems to say otherwise, but can it simply be a lack of quality from the 21 songs on ‘Teenage Emotions’ that has caused many to say “Yachty is dead”?
Personally, I looked to the artist’s equally controversial come-up to explain this thought, reminding myself of the back-and-forth reasoning between the older generation of rappers and the newer wave. Watching Yachty awkwardly claim that he was not a rapper (or like other rappers), when faced with accusations that he was talentless, was refreshingly adorable when compared to his clichéd gangster rap predecessors. This allowed a more laid back and optimistic character to soundtrack the lives of Hip-Hop fans and strange eclectic teens, almost definitely encouraging the likes of Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti in their more recent rise to relevance. The track ‘One Night’ was said to be an overnight success and from an individual that has clearly tried to differentiate himself from the industry’s expectations, this track went viral of its own merit. And with artists like XXXtentacion and Lil Uzi tagging their Soundcloud uploads with ‘#Alternative Rock’, how can it be fair to put these artists up against more traditional rappers.
The numbers generated by his releases may not be breaking records but Yachty’s integrity towards his fans and the music that he wants to make has never been compromised by success. The “King of Teens” brand that huge companies like Nautica have tried to monetize turned the artist into exactly that: a brand. Therefore, the childish and fun characters of Lil Yachty and his alter-ego Lil Boat were not able to mature properly to the exposure that they received, letting others view them as more contrived versions. The fans are the ones that Yachty will remember as detailed on his Instagram and it is only them that understand the simple beginnings and humble achievements of Miles Parks McCollum and the ideas that have brought him to his position. I believe Lil Yachty is a testament to underground scenes anywhere, as they display unprecedented artists and creative outsiders who are pressured by the rest of the world to lose what it was that brought such characters into existence.
Guest Blogger: Charlie Ellis