Friday, July 22, 2016

Lil Yachty - Summer Songs 2 Review

Scathing criticisms of what was deemed utter trash is what lured me in the first day Lil Boat The Mixtape dropped. The next thing I heard, a Finding Nemo sample, an introduction by a fictitious uncle, and an unholy banger from a children's nursery rhyme, immediately turned me on to the mystery behind Lil Yachty. Braided red hair, an unknown obsession with nautical themes, and a voice that would make a prepubescent teen groan with baritone instantly made the Atlanta Trap teen the genre's most peculiar figure, usurping Young Thug by quite a considerable margin. He sported a style untested in Hip-Hop's waters, something many now call Bubblegum Trap, a bold face commitment to a sound that most would be sure to laugh at. And yet, his popularity grew with features, endless loosies, music videos, growing Hip-Hop connections, an XXL freshman appearance, and now this, Summer Songs 2. The mixtape, which aims to incorporate his swath known as the Sailing Team, shows more consistency from Yachty's rapping and singing, and a pure and clean improvement from Burberry Perry's production, but fails to deliver the necessary bangers to extend its longevity.

If there's one thing many can't deny from Lil Yachty it's a clear and concise self-awareness. At such a young age he's already proven to be a marketing mastermind. The odd teen out who sees value in aesthetic's many would gawk at, Yachty bears a strong resemblance to the rise of Tyler, The Creator. And just like the LA native, Yachty, on the project that followed his increased notoriety, teams up with his version of Odd Future, bringing a rambunctious crew to the forefront. Excluding Lil Herb and Offset, every featured appearance here comes from these largely unknown up-starters. And, unfortunately, it shows. Without foreboding charisma and a bubbling personality, the no-name infiltrators are forced to earn their presence off skill alone, something Yachty has never done. Because let's face it, Lil Boat is not talented. The appreciation and respect of his worth comes elsewhere, something these faceless emcees can't possibly attain. There is no denying their placement in the screwball world of Summer Songs 2 makes sense, it's just, as entertainers, they don't provide me with anything Yachty wasn't already accomplishing in spades.

Being that this is a Lil Yachty project though, let's focus on him. Right off the bat, no there is no song here as stupidly addictive and fun as 'Wanna Be Us' or 'Minnesota.' There also isn't anything as melodically catchy as 'One Night.' What Summer Songs 2 efforts though is an improvement in consistency. As a counterintuitive shot in the foot, Lil Boat's singing half steered the debut mixtape nearly off a cliff. Here though, apart from the innocent life lessons of 'Life Goes On' and the relational slog of 'Yeah Yeah,' both slathered in Yachty's ear-wretching autotune, the bulk of his singing attempts feel surprisingly solid. The naive and nostalgic-burnt 'Such Ease' powers through a sing-a-long chorus and Perry's simple yet effective lullaby to be nothing more than lovable, while finale 'So Many People' executes the same feat, just barely overriding the brain fart of obsessed fan phone-ins. It's on this closer that Yachty's full scope can be seen, as an atmospheric drum procession pulled out of today's best Alternative R&B, think dvsn or Blood Orange, rattles in and out of his hollow breaths. Even on 'Pretty,' the crackling crooner sounds like Drake of all people. If not for anything else, Summer Songs 2 improves on Yachty's weakest aspect.

Even rapping-wise, the parched emcee fulfills wishes of turning up the temperature. On tracks like 'For Hot 97' and 'Up Next 3,' the teen whizzes through alliteration at breakneck speeds. What he loses in elementary banter, he gains in an appreciation of variety. This does see the memorably senseless bangers fall by the wayside, a con of significant proportions. Yachty's at his best when everything is dumbed to its ultimate levels, a purveyor of Trap inversion if you will. For all the chaos Atlanta has created, Yachty (and Perry) stripped the glitz and reduced the instrumentation to nothing more than the basic necessities. The jokes of nursery rhyme beats aren't unfounded. The most convincing experimentation of this on Summer Songs 2 is 'Dipset,' which easily makes it the mixtape's best song. With a candid hook, silly verse from Yachty, woozy flow from Offset, and a gorgeous beat that samples Cowboy Bebop, 'Dipset' is another prime track to join the ranks of Bubblegum Trap's best. Nothing else in terms of Yachty's vicious side comes close to competing with that track here, a downside to his focus on improving elsewhere.

Intended as a simmering getaway, Summer Songs 2 didn't need to have lyrically poignant songs, and while Yachty obviously isn't breaking any barriers here, the bulk of the tracks don't hide behind a sleuth of empty bars. Sending signals about his cognizance, both 'Intro' and 'King Of Teens' center around Yachty's new-found role as bishop of the youth. It's silly, but with these two songs, and others like 'So Many People' and 'Life Goes On,' Yachty reveals he's not afraid to open up, in somewhat embarrassing fashion, his relationship with his fans and what they've done with his short, combustible career thus far. On 'Idk,' 'Yeah Yeah,' and 'Pretty' the teen extrapolates on his growing maturity when it comes to relationships, selling short his own stature through humble roundabouts. They aren't unconventional for Hip-Hop and R&B, but it's refreshing to see sensible progression in a developing mind, the same one that not more than a year ago dispelled the notion of commitment with 'One Night.' The content of Summer Songs 2 is appealing in that it's not centered around fraudulent bravado but rather Yachty's own, personal exclusivity. However, improvements aside, Summer Songs 2 just doesn't offer the same level of undisciplined intrigue and fun as its predecessor, despite quelling notions that Yachty's sound is a flash in the pan. 

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