Lil Yachty is 19 and unsurprisingly popular with other teens, whose feels the Tahitian Treat-haired rapper-who-says-he’s-not-a-rapper claims to invoke on the appropriately titled Teenage Emotions.
He’s got a compelling sound -- a lispy, vaguely Germanic Auto-Tune singsong with airy cotton-candy beats -- and maybe after his sales die down he’ll make more compelling music with it. He was a key component of D.R.A.M.’s goofalicious summer 2016 anthem “Broccoli” and his own hypnotically tuneless “Minnesota,” from last year’s debut mixtape Lil Boat.
Yachty knows how to draw the battle lines: This is ultra-lightweight, absotively posilutely Kid Rap designed to infuriate the elders he perceives as the Them to his Us. The brilliantly inclusive album art for Teenage Emotions, which is the first hip-hop record in history to feature a fat woman and an albino man on its cover, provocatively presents our hero as the way forward and his detractors as hopelessly backward.
And that strategy is working. But like most 2017 chart-crashers, Yachty’s charms are hazy. It’s hard to enjoy the infamously ignorant “blow that dick like a cello” line from “Peek a Boo” in a world where the joke appeal of ignorance is at an all-time low. The very teenage hook “My priorities are fucked” fares better, and the single “Harley,” one of the catchier tunes, operates on a musical bed that resembles Aphex Twin’s “To Cure a Weakling Child” sans seizure drums.
Yes, 21 songs in 69 minutes is one way to show off a lack of discipline, but that doesn’t mean people will still sit through half of them after Yachty turns 20. Beauteous beats (“FYI [Know Now],” “Momma [Outro]”) and smirk-worthy boasts (“wrist look like a frosted flake,” “turn your mother into a pedophile”) are strewn throughout, along with sweet, aerated tunes about his mom, sour ones about yours, one charmingly fake-tough freestyle, and one hook that outright plagiarizes -- of all folks -- Tegan and Sara.
If Teenage Emotions sounds like you can take it or leave it, that’s pretty much how it plays. Around track 17 or so you wish it’d either get better or get much, much, much worse, to justify the time you’ve sunk into it. But there are lots of rappers-who-say-they’re-not-rappers out there. The content-challenged Fetty Wap is weirder. The inconsistent Young Thug is more dynamic. And even the tantrum-prone Drake is more mature about women.