Lil Yachty Teenage Emotions Motown / Quality Control
Joe Budden’s crusade against hip-hop happiness is, to borrow a phrase from Donald Trump’s stunted parlance, fake news. The grizzled reality show personality’s berating of Lil Yachty on his Complex web show served as yet another rusty rocket fired in this decidedly one-sided war, one waged by ageing rap conservatives against the newest of the new school. His targeting of this effervescent youngster backfired enough that the interview amounted to feckless bullying of an unflappable kid.
As the seemingly self-ordained ‘King Of The Teens’, Lil Yachty’s easy-going triumph over this pointless attack embodies just why that otherwise dubious title actually suits the 19-year-old. He’s seemingly immune to both the drama and the mumble rap critique. From the literal diversity of the cover art to the broadness of its pop trap experiments, Yachty’s follow-up to 2016’s Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2 mixtapes takes artistic risks without discarding the Auto-Tuned antics that made him one to watch.
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of bubblegum-scented moments here that remind why sour folks sought to dismiss him. Tracks like FYI and Harley reach back to the fizzy euphoria of those prior releases. Bring It Back takes Yachty directly into the pop zone, its saccharine sweetness approaching toothache levels once the bombastic 80s drum fill emerges. You could perhaps sympathise a little with those who feel trolled by the balladic sway of All You Had To Say, the tropical lightness of Stefflon Don duet Better, or the soppy seduction of Lady In Yellow – where Yachty offers the proposition: “Little miss lady in the yellow, hello/ Would you like to push petals through the meadow, with me?” To a lesser extent, Lex Luger production All Around Me veers less overtly into commercial territory, with a wizened Bone Thugs-esque verse from a supportive YG – “Don’t worry about these niggas, your shit poppin’ every party” – and an effortlessly cool one by Bay Area newcomer Kamaiyah.
Yet when Yachty chooses to go hard these days, he does well, reeling off spiteful but absurd insults to his haters with malicious energy. The flawless Migos feature Peek A Boo flips that childish title from the jump, with Yachty’s sniper’s scope locked on target. Similar bass-boosted asceticism prevails on XMen, a boom destined to ring out of car stereos well past curfew all summer long.
Teenage Emotions is a bold and distinctive artistic statement, but the excessive 21-song tracklist is overwhelming. And with this arguably being one of 2017’s most anticipated releases, there’s too much filler here for it to quite match to the hype. Still, Lil Yachty knows his young adult audience well enough to recognise that they’ll pick and choose from the gluttonous offering that is Teenage Emotions, streaming whichever tracks appeal to their generational preferences and momentary needs.