The most divisive figure in hip-hop is 19 years old, has red hair and does not even consider himself a rapper. He is a “rock star” who creates “bubble-gum trap” and has admitted to not having a familiarity with two of hip-hop’s legends, Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac. This man is Lil Yachty, also known by fans as “Lil Boat,” in reference to the yacht in his name.
Yachty’s songs are not too similar to the no-joke trap hits that have topped the charts as of late such as “Black Beetles” and “Bad and Boujee.” Instead his songs are filled with samples of the Rugrats theme song, the GameCube starting sound or music from Super Mario. This all further demonstrates that Yachty is more concerned with having fun with his music than abiding to societal norms within the hip-hop community.
One of the many points of contention with Yachty’s music is his use of autotune and falsetto, further blurring the lines of what can be defined as hip-hop. On tracks such as “Minnesota,” in which a simple piano hook repeats throughout the song (and subconsciously gets stuck in every listener’s head for days), Yachty’s rapping more closely aligns with speaking over a beat than a normal hip-hop flow.
The same can be said about his verse on “Broccoli,” one of 2016’s biggest hits. Rhyming “mama” with “Bahamas” and a string of lines in which “rose,” “froze,” “toes” and “bows” are just two of the examples of lyrical simplicity that Yachty has seemingly chosen as his forte.
And while he garners hate daily from everywhere from fellow rappers to hip-hop heads across the country, Yachty claims just as many fans. He has worked with Chance the Rapper and modeled for Kanye West’s Yeezy Season Three, the latter of which is often referred to as the moment Yachty came into the national eye. It is also true that the vast majority of the younger generation of hip hop listeners look up to Yachty as one of the faces of the genre.
He is the self-proclaimed “King of the Teens,” someone who can rap and represent that demographic, well, because he is still a teen himself. It’s quite possible that the teens he reigns over share his views about certain rappers from 20 years ago being irrelevant, and yet it is that exact fact that boils the blood of many hip-hop elders.
Why does any of this matter? Because Yachty might just be the young and energetic face of music that won’t fade into obscurity anytime soon, continuing his climb up hip-hop’s ladder.
While artists like Soulja Boy and Chief Keef were both in similar positions to what Yachty is now and squandered their opportunities, they did not have the apparent drive for stardom that drives Yachty.
In an interview with the New York Times at the end of 2016 Yachty said, “I’m not a rapper; I’m an artist, and I’m more than an artist. I’m a brand.”
When a brand includes being in Sprite commercials with LeBron James, a clothing deal with Nautica (a mutual capitalization on shared aquatic names) and a debut album set for this year, it is pretty clear it is built to last. And with Yachty’s feel good music and positive influence on his listeners (he does not drink alcohol or do drugs and has said he will not rap about such subjects), the only question left to ask is: When will everyone embrace Lil Yachty with open arms?