Lil Yachty – Teenage Emotions (Motown)

Oh Buoy.

Where do I even begin?

Lil Yachty, the self-proclaimed ‘King of the Teens’ has been making waves thanks to his mixtape Lil Boat and the effervescently mindless Broccoli one of the biggest hits of 2016.

But like a teenager’s hormones, his debut album  is all over the place.
Everything from his aesthetic to his rhyme scheme has been a source of contention among the hip-hop community. He raised the ire of purists by professing his ignorance of Biggie and TuPac, but it wouldn’t make sense for a 19 year old whose first port of call was to get famous on Instagram before dropping a Rugrats-sampled single to know them anyway. Lil Yachty purposely styled himself as being the diametric opposite of these greats- he’s more Gucci Mane than G-Funk and more Autotune than Apathy.

And therein lies the rub of Teenage Emotions– in order to listen to it properly you have to subconsciously or otherwise align yourself to hip-hops internal warfare in the 21st century. Are you all about the childlike nonchalance of  the likes of Lil Yachty and Migos or do you prefer to quote Pharoahe Monch and meditate on the finer points of J-Dilla? It’s surprising that an album created to have the same consistency of cotton candy has sparked such deep dialectics.

It’s easy to see why Teenage Emotions enrages traditionalists who dismiss it as ‘mumble rap’ an increasingly unhelpful catch all phrase- where the rappers are bound by their disregard for enunciation just as much as their newness and popularity. But here’s the thing-like any genre, hip-hop is always scandalizing itself, the older generation eye roll and bemoan the punks who dare to tear down tradition. It’s important to note that just twenty years ago, Tupac was fighting for Conscious Hip-Hop.  Within this debate, Lil Yachty is interesting because the fact that his music is pointless anyway is beside the point.

The audaciousness of Lil Yachty’s disregard for virtuosity would be almost admirable if Teenage Emotions had been an album that focused on the real, complicated emotions that come with being a teenager. Instead we get an album that is bloated with its own self-importance ultimately lacks any musical, lyrical or thematic flow. The only thing that remotely links Teenage Emotions to being a teenager is that his flows are akin to attempting a conversation with a boy in the throes of the “monosyllabic grunt” phase. It’s awkwardly self conscious and self consciously awkward and no Snapchat filter can save it.

Lil Yachty’s game has  always played second fiddle to his aesthetics and social media strategy. On Teenage Emotions he makes the fundamental mistake of trying to pass himself off as a rappers rapper complete with lyricism and the results are disastrously off brand.We all do embarrassing things when we’re young, but not all of us have the “opportunity” to create it with the backing of a major record label. Lead single Peekaboo is a prime example of this. With no hook, rapping completely off tempo and with no decent vocabulary to back himself, Lil Yachty attempts to rely on the low-blows- racism and misogyny- but even fucks that up with the line “my new bitch she yellow she suck my dick like a cello.” This line alone is offensive on so many levels.

But if you delve below the surface of the frightfully millenial expensively stark sounding trap beats and nagging hooks there’s a disturbing trend of misogyny throughout Teenage Emotions. That he proclaims he’s “never sipped a beer” in his opening track does nothing to redeem him in the ears of this reviewer, as he complained that  “bitches who want nothing but [his] money” while Say My Name– a title taken from a feminist Destiny’s Child track- is used by Lil Yachty to promote his fame and sexual prowess even further. Bafflingly he rounds off the album with a shout-out to his mother- I hope she’s proud.

Kate Powell