March 28, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Lil Yachty turns to psychedelic rock

Let's Start Here

Quality Control Music / Motown

Lil Yachty completely reinvents himself on his newest album, which departs from his usual trap bangers for an exploration of psychedelic rock. It came as a shock at first, but yes, the new Lil Yachty album “Let’s Start Here” shows the pop-rap-star exploring drastically different sounds than he is used to. The strangest part: he sounds completely comfortable there.

The shock value of this record starts strong with the ambitious and multi-phased “the BLACK seminole,” which is pretty much a “Dark Side of the Moon”-era Pink Floyd song with Lil Yachty singing on it. The track even includes a massive and cathartic vocally screamed outro by Diana Gordon in a clear homage to Floyd’s “The Great Gig In the Sky.” At first, the heavily autotuned and half-spoken Lil Yachty vocals are hard to digest over this new sonic backdrop, but somehow, he easily settles down into this bizarre crossover of genres. Once the shock wears off, it all sounds natural.

This bold new direction goes over well, in part because of the production efforts from former “Chairlift” member Patrick Wimberly, and most notably, Justin Raisen, who was the main producer on “Heaven to a Tortured Mind” (2020) by Yves Tumor. Those who have listened to this album (which is highly recommended) will easily be able to point out similarities between it and “Let’s Start Here.” While not as bold as “Heaven to a Tortured Mind,” the genre fusings and excellent psychedelic sensibilities on “Let’s Start Here” seem to be very inspired by it — especially with Yachty’s choice of Gordon as a vocalist on multiple tracks.

Lil Yachty’s collaborative spirit doesn’t end there. “Let’s Start Here” contains features from Teezo Touchdown, Justine Skye, Daniel Caesar and Fousheé. The most surprising collaborations come from the writing credits, however, which include Mac DeMarco, Alex G, and even Magdalena Bay — a smaller pop duo who released one of the best synth-pop albums ever in 2021. It’s writing and production credits like these that really prove Yachty’s appreciation for the genre he is pivoting towards, and his inclusion of small trailblazers like Magdalena Bay is as successful as it is respectable.

It has to be stressed that Yachty does not always use this team of collaborators as a crutch. He takes on a more visionary role in this project. Even though he is reliant on these new faces and collaborations to execute this new sound well, his passion for psychedelia is clear. Whether it’s the more soulful and sexy “pRETTy,” or the otherworldly, face melting-ly psychedelic “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!,” Yachty’s vision for an ambitious and memorable musical statement is executed flawlessly.

The main prevailing issue of this album is that it does come across as uninspired at times. The heavy reliance on the same aesthetics developed by Yves Tumor and Justin Raisen, the clear Floyd worship especially on the first track, a clear nod to Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” on the last track, the album isn’t consistently original enough to fully stand on its own. Other than this slight feeling of derivativeness, Lil Yachty seems to have really landed on something special here, and a whole new era of Yachty might be just beginning — as long as fans also get some great trap bangers every now and then as well.