Some Songs Considered #047: Lil Yachty and his Lil Boat
Welcome to Some Songs Considered, a column that recognizes they can’t all be zingers and truly appreciates the ones that are.
ATL rapper Lil Yachty’s Lil Boat is the kind of mixtape that, in the parlance of Jason Lee#, comes around once, maybe twice in a lifetime.
Like a surrealist Adult Swim cartoon that parades an outward appearance of lackadaisical hallucination yet secretly hums with the work ethic of a turbine engine, Lil Boat seems otherworldly at times, but to call it as much does a disservice to its craftsmanship and skill. It’s a triumph of 21st century music – a Rorschach test of influences and reference points from Gucci Mane to Super Mario 64 – but so distinctly New Atlanta# in its buoyant energy and try-anything lyrical approach.
Lil Boat is living proof that, in 2016, if people are calling you weird (and especially if people are calling you “a creation of the internet”) you’re doing it right – even if some people just don’t know it yet…
The oddball sing-song era of Southern rap (which should be referred to as “A.Y.T.” or After Young Thug), has found a worthy new champion in Yachty.
Fulfilling the promise on which his predecessor iLoveMakonnen has yet to deliver, Lil Yachty creates an entire collection of songs that are as infectious and distinctive as “Tuesday,” with nary a Drake cosign to speak of.
Ethereal, spaced-out production washing over woozy trap mantras is nothing new, but Yachty renews its vitality by infusing this aesthetic with candy-coated exuberance, a pure and courageously vulnerable sense of joy.
The tape rewards multiple listens – let it run and lose track of it, and you’ll probably discover an appreciation for Yachty’s surprisingly long-legged vocal range or the fact that the sonic pleasures of the video game-infused production (mostly courtesy of newcomers Burberry Perry and Digital Nas) have a jawbreaker resilience, impervious to dissolution.
You may find yourself feeling younger – the purposefully uncomplicated, youthful energy of Lil Boat can be infectious.
Alternatively, like the author of Stereogum’s (typically excellent) “Status Ain’t Hood” column, you may experience the exact the opposite feeling upon playing Lil Boat for the first time…it may make you feel old.
Last week’s iteration of Tom Breihan’s column exalts the debut mixtape from Oakland rapper Kamaiyah, while going out of its way to disparage Lil Yachty. To the author’s credit, he offers an explanation for his appreciation of the one and distaste for the other: his taste is “90’s bred,” so of course as a listener he’s more likely to appreciate Kamaiyah’s A Good Night in the Ghetto, steeped as it is in the G-funk soundscapes of classic West Coast rap.
Of course it’s okay, even as a pop critic, to unequivocally dislike a piece of music, to give no quarter in its appraisal, to be fully opposed to it. But, as a pop critic, I feel like one should try a little harder than “I’m too old for the new Lil Yachty mixtape,” because the implication there is that anyone reading it who has lived as long as the writer should feel the same way.
As a music writer, you’re a guide for other people and their experience of culture, and you should feel at least somewhat responsible for how your writing makes them feel. I didn’t feel old listening to Lil Boat, but I do feel old when critics tell me that they’ve aged out of something made by a group of energetic, creative kids that don’t even know what cynicism feels like yet. When you unpack the very idea of “I’m too old for X,” you’re ultimately left with a toxic, confining shade of a societal expectation that once people reach a certain age, they can’t understand what young people are doing – or worse, they shouldn’t, because it’s undignified.
This – and I really believe it – is death, as an appreciator of art.
Don’t let youth get wasted on the youth – we’re all just as Lil as we want to be.
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