Lil Yachty takes a jaw-dropping left turn on his fifth album, taking control of perspectives to permanently redefine his career.
You’re perhaps familiar with Miles McCollum; also known as Lil Yachty; also known as Lil Boat. A charismatic, red-braided XXL Freshman that blew up in the height of the SoundCloud era with hits such as “Minnesota” and “One Night”. His music was a product of the time, led by youthful energy—the only constant in the ever-changing waves of rap trends. Yachty’s been no stranger to the critics’ cane, yet he’s fought through it all to grant cultural moments as recent as this year. But memes are not what Lil Yachty wants to be remembered for. In his own words, Yachty seeks to be “taken seriously as an artist”. With his latest effort, his wish has come to fruition.
Let’s Start Here is one of the biggest rebrands in modern rap, an unprecedented yet delightful pivot into progressive rock that unlocks not just a new layer of Yachty, but new skin.
Let’s Start Here is what you’d get if Pink Floyd, MGMT and Tame Impala had a rap-leaning lovechild. The trap 808s are chucked out for guitars, drums and synths, packed with non-linear twists and turns that make the record a genuine alternative rock album. The risk can be likened to Tyler, The Creator’s IGOR, Childish Gambino’s Awaken My Love and Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine, albums that take an artistic risk and stick the landing. To help him out, Yachty enlisted collaborators such as Patrick Wimberly, Mac DeMarco and Magdalena Bay (an UNO-reverse on white artists enlisting black collaborators for their hip-hop-centric efforts).
Across the experience, Let’s Start Here is layered and segmented, never leaving room for foresight. Intentions are set from the seven-minute opener, “The Black Seminole”, trudging along its guitar riffs that gently mutate every sixty seconds. The journey’s topped off with a show-stopping performance from Diana Gordon, sealing a contender spot for best album opener of 2023. There’s atypical allure to cuts like “The Zone” and “I’ve Officially Lost Vision!!!!”, indulging in structural chaos that keeps the album fresh. Some moments are more conventional, namely the funky numbers “Drive Me Crazy!” and “Running Out of Time”.
While not wholly original takes on the genre, they fare well. Yachty influences are worn on his sleeve, but he doesn’t allow Let’s Start Here to sound like mere imitation. At the end of the day, Yachty still has to make competent songs out of the sound; and he does this superbly. Ear candy is found at every turn, supplying unforgettable hooks and melodies to match the calibre of the production.
Yachty is notoriously known for his flat vocals. However it works to the benefit of the record, and is what makes Let’s Start Here more than a knock-off rock album. We are far removed from the days of bad singing as a turn-off. Now, there’s room for vocalists like a Young Thug or NBA YoungBoy—rough around the edges but packed with a unique tone and emotion. Yachty ends up sounding one-of-a-kind on the production, adding heavily to the alternative edge of the record. We don’t get a song as odd as “Pretty” without Yachty’s newfound vibrato vocals. Though he is smart enough to know he cannot carry all the moments himself, which is why contributions from Diana Gordon, Justine Skye, Fousheé and Daniel Caesar are more than necessary.
The bigger test for Yachty now is whether he can achieve the same results in a hip hop effort. With Let’s Start Here, he has excelled in a field where even Lil Wayne and Kid Cudi couldn’t pull off effectively. But his mark within hip hop still has an asterisk on it, the culture in which he’s created his name. If he can deliver in those regards, Lil Yachty will complete one of the most unprecedented upgrades in rap history.
Even if he doesn’t make that undisputed rap album, in years’ time, conversations about Lil Yachty’s career will still end with “But he made Let’s Start Here.” The weight of this record is one that takes perspectives on Yachty from zero to a hundred. We’re here for the ride.
8.5 / 10
Best tracks: “The Black Seminole”, “The Ride”, “I’ve Officially Lost Vision!!!!”, “The Zone”, “We Saw the Sun!”, “Say Something”