Lil Yachty has something to prove. Even if he claimed otherwise in his 2018 album Nuthin' 2 Prove, approval seems to be something that's always in the back of his mind. In the past, this drive has worked to his disadvantage, as Yachty often struggles to be something he's not. His carefree, nasal back-and-forth between singing and rapping has drawn the ire of rap purists, yet this irreverence for traditional hip-hop conventions is what attracted his legion of young fans. When he did try to prove his naysayers wrong by engaging in "serious rapping", he lost the charm he had in the first place. With Let's Start Here., Yachty finally achieved what he set out to do since long—taking an unexpected turn without losing what makes him unique.
Let's Start Here. traded in video game-inspired samples and sugary trap beats for extended guitar solos, psychedelic riffs, to freeform progressive compositions. The album starts at a slow-burn pace, before Yachty's unmistakable vocals come in, filtered through autotune that seems more spacy than anything he has ever done before. Most of the time, the album floats in a relaxed, time-warping manner—revelling itself in its own heady trip. Similar-minded guest features like Teezo Touchdown—an artist who also doesn't fit in a singular box—on "the ride-" blends seamlessly into the trippy soundscape.
Yachty himself appears refreshingly candid in the album. He doesn't try to create big psychedelic concept albums—like Pink Floyd that he cited as an influence, for example—but to experiment with a new sonic palette through his own character. This, he's done successfully. While Let's Start Here. is full of sounds that has never been associated with him before, Yachty managed to stay himself and not feel like a background character in his own project. None of the lyrics are forced to be deep observations of the cosmic—some only contain vague observations that would only make sense to him personally, some even only recount his experience in taking one too many pills—yet the charm is intact precisely because of that.
Throughout the album's leisurely, near an hour duration, Yachty morphs along with the music. Amidst the trippy psychedelia, moments of funk and ambient are peppered throughout. To his advantage, Yachty didn't try to rap in the album, he instead oscillates between singing and speaking-with even one ambient spoken word track.
Of course, the references are apparent. Throughout the listen, moments where one might think "this sounds like Tame Impala", or "this sounds like Silk Sonic" are numerous. Even Diana Gordon's outro on opener "the BLACK seminole" calls to mind her feature in Yves Tumor's "Kerosene!". And yet, Yachty's interpretation of said sounds feels earnest in its zero-pretension approach. After all, this is his first trip this far out. Now that he's moved past the goal of impressing his "elders", Yachty can finally start to tread on new grounds.(alm/tim)