By Thomas Infante
Editor in Chief
Atlanta rapper Miles McCollum — better known as Lil Yachty — has simultaneously been an outlier and a trendsetter in rap music since his sensational online debut in August 2015. Within a genre dominated by generic trap production and lazy lyricism, Yachty stood out with glitzy pop-inspired instrumentals and positive lyrics that he either rapped anthemically, or slathered in auto-tune and euphorically crooned. This was the musical niche he occupied since his debut 2016 mixtape “Lil Boat,” but he struggled to further develop that sound on his 2017 studio album “Teenage Emotions.”
His latest release, “Lil Boat 2,” released on March 9, shows the now 20-year-old rapper largely abandoning his original sound, embracing trap music both with his choices of beats and featured artists, which include Offset, 2 Chainz and Quavo. Several of these songs get quite monotonous, but there is enough good in the tracklist to keep the album afloat.
The album’s voyage begins with the track, “SELF MADE,” with a sparkly, aquatic-sounding beat reminiscent of Yachty’s early material. The following track, “BOOM!,” sets the proper tone for the rest of the songs to follow. A minimalist, bass-heavy beat gives the song a high-energy vibe that pairs well with the rappers’ ridiculous lyrics. Featured rapper Ugly God’s verse is underwhelming, considering how funny he can be on his solo material, but Yachty comes through with bars like “Leave a nigga lumpy like cheese grits, dick about as long as four fish sticks” that are difficult to not appreciate.
The next track, “OOPS,” has solid performances from Yachty and featured rapper 2 Chainz, who play well off each other on the bare, empty instrumental. Their lyrical deliveries are solid, but the lyrics lack enough substance to make this track particularly memorable.
The following song, “TALK TO ME NICE,” suffers from the same issue. The beat combined with Quavo’s background vocals make the track sound like a dozen other Migos songs. According to a March 9 interview with Genius, Yachty and Quavo made this song about a day before the “Lil Boat 2” dropped, which partially explains the its played-out sound.
The album continues with “GET MONEY BROS.” featuring rapper Tee Grizzley. He and Yachty go back and forth trading verses, flowing well together and dropping a few more crudely hilarious lyrical gems like “Used to ride ‘round bagging hoes in a Civic, shawty slurp nut like a blueberry Mistic.”
He trades verses in a similar way on the track, “NBAYOUNGBOAT,” featuring rapper NBA YoungBoy. Their fast paced flows work around the beat that intermittently subtracts changes to make the lyrics sound more punctual and powerful, even if little is really being said. According to Yachty, all the guest verses on the album were recorded in-person in the studio, giving Yachty and his guests a consistently cohesive vocal flow.
“Lil Boat 2” deviates from its trap-influenced course briefly for tracks like “she ready,” which features rapper/singer PnB Rock. Yachty said that he recorded his verse while playing “NBA 2K” through the window of the recording booth, which is even funnier considering this is easily one of the best songs present. The instrumental to this song is driven by an upbeat flute melody reminiscent of the beat from Drake’s 2017 song, “Portland,” but infinitely friendlier and catchier. The auto-tuned chorus sung by PnB Rock matches perfectly with Yachty’s lyrics about maintaining a relationship while being famous.
The above tracks are all enjoyable to varying degrees, but there are just as many that are either mindlessly repetitive or completely unlistenable. The track “COUNT ME IN” is aggressively terrible, with a sickening, poorly-mixed bassline that overpowers the dull lyrics and instrumental. The song, “DAS CAP” features a horrible beat by Southside with a repetitive background noise that sounds like nails scraping against a chalkboard.
Generally, the lesser songs on “Lil Boat 2” are bland rather than completely awful. Yachty’s performance on “WHOLE lotta GUAP” rips-off Playboi Carti’s braindead adlib rapping style, and the beat only exasperates this. “POP OUT” and “FWM” are similarly mundane. Tracks like “FLEX” and “MICKEY” have better lyrics and flow, but have equally dreary production.
It’s no wonder that there are no features on most of the worst songs, as no sane rapper would go near some of these abysmal instrumentals. These songs depreciate the album as a whole and make the second half of it somewhat of a chore to get through.
The album recovers near the end starting with “BABY DADDY.” It features rappers Lil Pump and Offset, who complement the dark instrumental that sounds like it came off a 21 Savage album. Neither of the featured rappers stand out much, but both do an adequate job of rapping and give a nice variety of voices to the song.
Described by Yachty as “the hottest record on ‘Lil Boat 2,’” the final track, “66,” is a highlight. The beat features a dreamy synthesizer melody and bass-heavy percussion, with Yachty and featured rapper Trippie Redd having their own distinct flows that both work well.
One of the project’s strengths, ironically, is its length. With 17 tracks totaling only 45 minutes, it’s fairly short compared to Migos’ 2018 mixtape “Culture II,” which had 24 tracks and was an hour longer than “Lil Boat 2.” While Migos’ mixtape suffered from being bloated with numerous four and five-minute tracks that should have been shorter or cut entirely, Yachty mostly avoids this by ending the majority of his songs after about three minutes. This means that the best songs are harder to get sick of, but there is also less to enjoy overall.
The album’s main shortcoming is its unoriginality, which has only recently become a problem for Yachty, whose breakout single “One Night” is and forever will be etched into my subconscious. I’d rather listen to Yachty make uninspired trap music than hear him recycle his past work, or try to emulate the emo/hip-hop style of newer rappers like 6ix9ine and XXXTentacion, but it would have been nice if he expanded on his older sound like he did on tracks like “love me forever,” which is sonically distinguished but tragically short.
“Lil Boat 2” is inconsistent, and I hope he continues to experiment with his sound in order to best fit his musical strengths, but this album proves Yachty’s versatility in the current rap music scene. He can alter his musical style and lyrical deliveries to fit the profile of almost any of his contemporaries, while still setting himself apart with his ludicrous lyrics and memorable vocal melodies.
Yachty said in an interview that he had about 75 requests to do features on other artists’ songs, and I don’t predict that number decreasing anytime soon. “Lil Boat 2” won’t change anyone’s mind about the rapper, but any fan of him or rap music in general is bound to love at least a few tracks on this fun, charismatic and occasionally ridiculous album.