There is a strange, fluffy, theme park-like vibe to Atlanta rapper Lil Yachty’s debut project “Lil Boat.” Something about the way each song progresses, both within itself and on to the following track, feels like one big, playful bouncy house. Yachty himself described his music in a recent interview as “bubblegum trap.” This label may not sound appealing to many hip hop fans, but in reality is a quite honest and insightful evaluation.
As “Lil Boat” casually and gleefully sails through the waters of current Atlanta trap trends, it makes constant ripples of individuality. When torn down to just strict lyrical and instrumental standards, there is not a great deal here to be admired. When evaluated through a different lens, however, something more can be found.
No – Yachty is not a superb lyricist. Lines like “Diamonds so cold you might need a fan,” off the opening track “Intro (Just Keep Swimming)” and the multitude of others just like it are nothing to hold on a pedestal. In the same way the plastic keyboard sounds and seemingly recycled snares of “Good Day” show no exquisite beat work.
Nevertheless something else about lines and production on “Lil Boat” bring something more interesting to the table – their mood. Yachty’s lyrics on this project exude a sense of innocence, friendliness, and bliss. While he has been classified vocally by some as a member of the Future knock-off camp, the lack of street ego gravitas in his music makes it much different from the majority of his contemporaries. For while he may flaunt his diamonds, he does not come across as sincerely boasting about them in the truest sense; he is not throwing said diamonds in your face like you’ve never seen one before.
On the same token, the light, playful beats on “Lil Boat” carry Yachty’s words in such a way that allows them to be taken as more of a poorly constructed nursery rhyme than a trap song. When the piano hits a low note on “Minnesota” and Yachty proclaims, “You need to stay up out the streets if you can’t take the heat,” gun shots and bodies hitting the pavement don’t come to mind. Instead, a simple sentiment from a young, happy rapper on things a shade darker than his usual subject matter is taken with a grain of salt and (hopefully) an appreciation for the fact that Yachty could be rapping strictly about street life, but instead keeps things relatively fresh.
In an interview on radio station Hot 97, Yachty stated that one of his biggest influences in music is Coldplay’s Chris Martin. This came as a surprise to many, but it shouldn’t have. Yachty shares something with Martin that is not genre specific: a desire to make happy, cotton candy tunes whether anyone else likes them or not. This has been seen in hip hop recently by another young rapper, but with a much different style. Chicago’s Chance The Rapper notoriously brings a great deal of positivity to his music, layering it with upbeat tempos, choir additions, and happy-go-lucky lyrics. He has not done so to the extent of Yachty, however.
What Yachty does on “Lil Boat” is take the basic Atlanta technique, (forget all of the glossy production, forget the carefully laid verses) and loaded it with joyfulness. This is not to say that what Yatchy is doing warrants an award or is all that particularly innovative, but that while he may lack the particulars, there is a rhyme and reason to his craft.