Friday, March 11, 2016

Lil Yachty - Lil Boat The Mixtape Review

The day Lil Boat The Mixtape dropped to the surprise of most on Lil Yachty’s Soundcloud, I was just beginning my journey down the rabbit hole of Post-Trap artists. See when Travi$ Scott remixed Madeintyo’s ‘Uber Everywhere,’ I was at a loss. Having never heard of the Atlanta artist, or other up-and-comers like Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi or Father, I found myself questioning where I’ve been and how they were all appearing as notables with the already notable Travi$ Scott and Young Thug. I became enthralled discovering this sound of the moment, influenced greatly by the catchiness of Drake, the cornball nature of Thugger, and the vocal non-conformity of ILoveMakonnen. But, by pure coincidence, Lil Boat dropped and thus I latched. Acting as the weirder little brother of the already peculiar Young Thug, Lil Yachty sees the bustling Atlanta scene as an outlet for one to let their identity flow. It’s got Trap and Alternative R&B squeaking through every piercing autotune, with a schizophrenic personality that accounts for the contrast, leaving a mixtape that’s on top of the ever-shifting climate of Hip-Hop, making sure to be stranger than what’s next to come.

On ‘Intro (Just Keep Swimming)’ Lil Yachty presents his two personalities, both fitted cleverly into the artist name and mixtape title, with Darnell Boat, their uncle, and a sample from Finding Nemo. That’s how the mixtape starts, and if that doesn’t give you an indication to the weirdness soon to ensue, the two voices colliding in disparity will. Lil Boat raps, Lil Yachty sings, split evenly throughout this mixtape with the former taking up the first half, the latter the second. Even though the screwy teen takes on this Trap/R&B duality like most, he attributes a reason. Hearing endearing romanticism spill out the mouth of someone spouting demeaning slurs moments ago was always distasteful, giving them separate personalities eases the burden of hypocrisy. But nevertheless, in this regard he’s the same as many others before him. Where he stands out is through clear ugliness. Ever since artists found that gross textures can be beautiful if looked upon with the right lens, musicians have been taking advantage of grizzly sounds to accomplish this feat. T-Pain did it with autotune, and say what you will about the technique, it wasn’t just a fad, being constantly reworked to suit needs. On Lil Boat, Lil Yachty uses it in overdosing spades.

The effect is inconclusive. He, rightfully so, hinders on it obsessively, masking his vocals and lyrics by essentially turning his personality into a walking, talking, feeling robot. While the first half has other methods to consume the listeners attention, the second doesn’t, resorting to Yachty’s whining autotune for a chance at reaching emotive release. I see it, and sometimes feel it, but this form of musicianship, agonizing over relational quips using minimalist textures, has been done far better by The Weeknd, ILoveMakonnen and Bryson Tiller. The five song stretch from ‘One Night’ to ‘I’m Sorry’ essentially takes the same idea and repeats it, to the point where ‘1Night,’ the track that got him noticed, immediately follows its twin brother despite sounding virtually identical. Thankfully these are just ideas, with four of the five failing to eclipse three minutes, saving infinite boredom for another time. Combine the best of these into one full-fledged song and you absolutely have a ATL club scene serenader on your hands, the closest of which being ‘Never Switch Up,’ which sees Yachty linking autotune to melody for a chorus that soothes rather than irritates. 

None of this is why I decided to review Lil Boat though. The true reason lies behind when Lil Boat himself arrives for some Dirty South bangers which sets anchors on both greatness and absurdity. Like a talentless art school student constantly finding goldmines, the first half of Lil Boat features some of the most exuberantly ridiculous Bubblegum Trap I’ve ever heard. Now sure, that’s not really a genre, but for Yachty it should be. ‘Wanna Be Us,’ and I have no qualms in saying this, is one of the best songs of the early year. It’s a bonafide jam that takes a simple melodic chorus and draws different parameters on it, bringing in a quiet female vocalist to offset his bounce. For people who aren’t in the mood for an ear worm, steer clear, cause this won’t leave you any time soon. And while it makes sense considering who’s featured on the track, ‘Minnesota (Remix)’ will unfortunately outshine it. New age Atlanta in a nutshell, chirping ad-libs, preposterous lyrics, and squawking vocals play over a keyboard that could be played by a five year old. Slap a bass on it, throw in some hi-hats, and it’s yet another slapstick banger primed for Internet embracing.

Even when Yachty resorts to tried and dried tropes by Hip-Hop standards he reams something interesting out of it. Much of this can be attributed to his flow, which at times is stellar, like ‘Not My Bro,’ where he slurs excessively like his mouthed is combed in honey. The same can be said for the gleaming glee of ‘Good Day’ and its sight through which it sees wealth and gratefulness. This almost goes without mentioning the 90’s kid at heart-inspired trip ‘Run:Running,’ which uses old Nintendo sound effects to elevate typical Trap instrumentation to non-conforming standards. Combing over all of Lil Boat and you’d be struck wondering where and when Hip-Hop went in this direction. The answers to those are obvious; Atlanta and the explosion of the Internet. What’s not is why? Freeform expression is finding its way into hardened rap forms, where street slangers can sport crackly voices and red beads in their hair and be accepted. And that’s a great thing. And while you’d think Young Thug is the sole influence of this transition with Yachty, he is the biggest one, the originator, dwelling in Atlanta too, found these styles a decade before the internet rose; Andre 3000. This trend-setting, trail-blazing South has been pushing the limits of Hip-Hop, and no matter how much (sometimes fair) ridicule they endure, the genre is better off because of it. Lil Boat is just another stepping stone in the process.

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