By Jon Fuchs, Music Director
Key Tracks: “All You Had to Say,” “Better,” “FYI (Know Now)”
Lil Yachty is one of the few names in mainstream rap who has the ability to say that he’s like no one else currently in the music industry. With his straightedge lifestyle and really strange bars, the self-proclaimed “King of Teens” has a following that’s borderline cultish, with his youthful, autotune-drenched soundscapes having as much confusion as it does adoration. For those who get it, the combination is mystifying; Unique production colliding with fun bars and a message about self-positivity to create music that’s interesting and hard to say no to. His debut record, Teenage Emotions, keeps all of this intact while experimenting with new production and keeping his message of loving yourself, just like its excellent album cover promises.
Teenage Emotions starts off the way both Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2 did; an introduction from his fictional uncle, Darnell Boat in the opener, “Like a Star.” The confusing plotline of splitting himself into two different personas (“Lil Yachty” and “Lil Boat”) that was present in Lil Boat is existent here but immediately becomes irrelevant, ridding any sort of story and making the listener question why Yachty chose to do this in the first place. The first half of the record is much like his past mixtapes, especially on songs like “Harley” and “All Around Me,” which has very familiar production and flows. Tracks like “All You Had to Say,” “Better” and “Forever Young” add elements of dancehall and pop to make the rapper’s already sweet sounding production even more so.
The production featured on Teenage Emotions is easily where Yachty is at his most ambitious. Mixing his typical beachy sound with standard trap production and other styles he’s never touched before, Yachty is able to constantly switch up tones and keep things interesting. This is prominent on the second half of the record, which has elements of aggressive trap (“X Men”), modern pop (“Running With a Ghost”) and dreamy synth ballads (“Made of Glass”) collide to make no two tracks feel similar.
Despite that, there are many, many problems with this record. Along with the lack of narrative that’s introduced in the beginning, as well as its exhausting 21 song tracklist, his lyrics constantly feel rushed, cringy and, when they’re talking about sex, really fucked up. Along with the running joke that the line “She blow that dick like a cello” from “Peek a Boo” makes absolutely no sense, the disgraceful incest joke in “Priorities” will make anyone feel like taking a really long shower. Lyrics like these will turn most rap fans off, but there’s still so much heart and personality that goes into the record, that these lines kind of become excusable (Except for that incest line. Jesus Christ).
Honestly, hating a project as strange and choppy as Teenage Emotions is completely reasonable. If it feels like more of a guilty pleasure listen to you, that’s also justifiable, as this record, like all of Yachty’s past material, has a ton of flaws. But as rap is constantly getting moodier and darker (not that there’s anything wrong with that), Lil Yachty has become the outlier, with a carefree, positive attitude that feels truly unique and is able to experiment in any way that it wants to.