Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Yachty, two fluorescently haired performers, were honored as XXL Freshmen in 2016 without truly being rappers. Yachty and Uzi will always be at odds with each other because their similarities are unavoidable.
“I’m a rockstar,” Uzi gargled on the hook of fellow Philadelphian Meek Mill’s “Froze.” His musical influences Goth and Emo. Uzi cited Marilyn Manson and Hayley Williams of Paramore as role models.
Yachty, however, doesn’t exist in one genre. “1Night” off of Lil Boat and the Diplo-assisted “Forever Young” off Emotions are pop. The Young Thug and Quavo-assisted “Minnesota” sounds like they’re cooking in the traphouse with an E-Z Bake Oven.
If Uzi’s 90’s icon is Marilyn Manson, Yachty’s is Bart Simpson. Yachty’s schtick is being a child where Uzi’s is being Emo. Yachty is “King of the Teens,” but he’s twenty. He’s a lewd, sugary troublemaker.
On first listen, it’s clear Yachty is lost like your average 20 year old. Not poetically like Lorde on Melodrama, but like a college sophomore who needs to choose a major before summer break. He can’t pick a subject to focus on, but he doesn’t have the skill to double major.
Criticism and his colleagues’ success have pushed him in the wrong direction. Joe Budden, the rapper turned talking head, was critical of Yachty as a weak mumble rapper. Yachty protested to Budden that he wasn’t a rapper. Instead of staying true to himself, he tried to prove himself to the elder statesmen.
Also, Migos, Yachty’s labelmates at Quality Control, are off-the-chart successes since “Bad & Boujee.” Offset and Quavo appear three times on his new album, Lil Boat 2, which is odd because Yachty reportedly has a collaborative project on the way with Takeoff, the one Migo who doesn’t show up.
Yachty wants success like his QC brethren. The Atlanta trio became the C U L T U R E because they paved their own lane and everyone wanted to be them. Yachty started his own lane, but it wasn’t getting him to the finish line fast enough.
Most of Lil Boat 2 sounds like rejected tracks from Migos’ nearly two-hour album, CULTURE II. Yachty is angry he hasn’t gotten his due respect, as a rapper, not as a pop artist. The lack of success is affecting his mood. However, Yachty got his reputation because he was trying to spread positivity like when he recorded verses over the Super Mario 64 menu song.
Two tracks, “Love Me Forever” and the PNB Rock-featuring “She Ready,” sound like authentic Yachty tracks. One glimmer of hope comes at the end with “66,” a collaboration with soundcloud rapper Trippie Redd. The closer is on-brand pop-trap. Lyrically, Yachty’s stunting about cars and women over what sounds like the product of both Metro Boomin’ and The Chainsmokers. (This is not a Chainsmokers endorsement.)
Lil Yachty isn’t really a rapper. Everybody thinks he is even when he says otherwise. He allowed himself to be measured by benchmarks set for rappers. Yachty is a pop star and should write pop songs. He’s never going to be a rap phenom like Migos. He could be the rap-game Charli XCX.
XCX blew up off from Myspace like Yachty on Soundcloud. She received hits with collaborations with Iggy Azalea and Icona Pop and a single on the Fault in Our Stars soundtrack. She released a major album Sucker that was received much like Teenage Emotions. Charli XCX was set up to become a Camila Cabello-level star, but she decided to go her own way.
She started collaborating with outsider producers like the PC Music collective and fringe artists like Cupcakke and Brooke Candy. In 2017, releasing Number 1 Angel and Pop 2 and the inventive single “Boys” instead of the Sucker follow-up. Those mixtapes were critical smashes while reinterpreting pop and bringing outsiders into the fray.
“1Night,” was a revelatory pop-rap hit and“Broccoli” was a party starter that basically set off the flute rap wave months before “Mask Off” and “Portland.” Yachty is a pop creator like Charli, but subpar rapper and singer. He’s also a ray of positivity and creativity. His music is fun because he’s a kid.
Yachty has a crew of oddballs in his Sailing Team collective with his underrated producer TheGoodPerry (fka Burberry Perry) and up-and-comer Kodie Shane. He’s done multiple collaborations with Diplo who could help him branch out to other interesting producers with pop idiosyncracies.
Lastly, Yachty should embrace the competition with Uzi and challenge him as a peer. Uzi is an original who’s songs always sound like they were made for just him. Uzi has challenged rap by making the songs he wanted to make, not obliging a system. Where Uzi makes emo rap, Yachty makes pop rap. Uzi is doom and gloom and Yachty is candy and sunshine.
Best Track: “66” featuring Trippie Redd
Albums worth listening to instead of Lil Boat 2:
- David Byrne’s solo first album in 14 years, American Utopia.
- Cocoa Sugar from Young Fathers, who are about to blow up.