Lil Yachty, Teenage Emotions | Album Review
Idiosyncratic teen rapper Lil Yachty drops a wild debut album with ‘Teenage Emotions.’ Ultimately, it is a bizarre, messy, and polarizing effort, lacking in depth.
Cutting straight to the chase, it’s difficult to know what to make of 19-year old rapper, Lil Yachty. While he is characterized as a rapper, he’s by no means traditional. That’s both a blessing and a curse. Sure, his music entails the usual misogyny that many colleagues tout, but his debut album Teenage Emotions doesn’t fit a cliché script – it’s unpredictable.
Essentially, Lil Yachty is his own man. The problem with that is, he is his own man. In a nutshell, that means he’s not for everybody. Teens clearly respect the rapper more than most, understandably. Still, if Teenage Emotions is examined in the context of 2017 album releases, it’s bizarre and lacks depth and transcendence. No, 19-year-olds aren’t expected to be transcendent, but still…
“Peek a Boo”
So, where to start with Teenage Emotions. The beginning is as good a place as any. On “Like a Star,” Darnell Boat kicks things off as the uncle of Lil Yachty and his alternate persona, Boat. After the bizarre intro, Lil Yachty sings about his come-up. Like the title states, he’s going to “Live life like a star.” He follows with an off-beat performance on “DN Freestyle.” The production by Digital Nas is pro. The rapping, not so much. He isn’t shy about the explicit sex references, which are T.M.I.
Single “Peek a Boo” follows, in all its mediocrity. Going back to Yachty’s tasteless references to sex, here he sounds creepy, rapping the dumb, repetitive hook:
“Play with that pussy like peek-a-boo.”
As shameful as his endeavors are, it only gets worse with the biggest #epic fail of 2017:
“My new b*tch yellow / She blow that dick like a cello.”
While he’s acknowledged he now knows you can’t blow a cello and that Squidward plays the clarinet and not the flute, it definitely shows a lack of culture. “Peek a Boo” ultimately is mess of a banger, even with Migos as featured guests. Still, contextually, it’s memorable.
Indeed, the rapper has a dirty mouth on “Dirty Mouth,” where he continues to reference sex in over abundant fashion. Additionally, he is self-confident, and as he asserts, “I don’t really care about my enemies.” While his nonchalance doesn’t supplant his misogyny and excessive lustfulness, he does deserve credit for staying true to himself.
“Harley,” a pre-release single, follows, continuing the polarizing nature of Lil Yachty himself. To some extent, it sounds like “Minnesota” (Lil Boat). Some liked “Minnesota,” while others panned it. The same can be said of “Harley,” which contextually, is one of the better moments from Teenage Emotions. That said, “Harley” is no masterpiece, continuing the objectification of women and sexual metaphors galore:
“Harley, Harley, Harley, Harley, Harley / Ridin’ like a Harley, Harley, Harley, Harley / My new b*tch a bot / My new b*tch a Barbie / And I’m ballin’ hard / Can’t nobody guard me, no no.”
Like much of Teenage Emotions, it’s shallow throughout its course.
For some, follow-up “All Around Me” seems to bring Lil Yachty to planet earth. Essentially on “All Around Me,” he’s living the life, evidenced by the hook:
“I keep bad b*tches all around me / I got good drank, so my n*ggas and these bitches can be straight / They tryna down me / But I don’t give a f*ck ‘cause if my homies eatin’, I’ll always be straight…”
Depth is still M.I.A., but he gets respectable assists from Kamaiyah and YG. Interestingly, “All Around Me” plays better upon a second listen, making it among the better moments.
“Say My Name”
There’s little to say about “Say My Name.” It’s harmless, but not particularly stimulating, even if that’s the vibe Yachty desires. “All You Had to Say” falls into a similar situation. Literally, he doesn’t say much, period. He does get a few shots in asserting, “B*tch, I’m back on that bullshit” and “N*ggas be faker than facelifts.” The point? #No New Friends.
“Better” switches things up, pairing Yachty with Stefflon Don. The production and vibe is better than the song itself. Yachty delivers positive vibes on the hook, which is backed by reggae-tinged production work. Still, he doesn’t say anything profound. He’s joined by Diplo on “Forever Young,” another record where the vibe, premise, and overall sound of the song is more impressive than what the rapper is spitting. The chorus is catchy, but don’t call the vocals ‘the second coming.’
“Little miss lady in the yellow, wassup? / I just got a question, can I f*ck on you?” Cue the eye rolls now. “Lady in Yellow” may be simple, but arguably, Lil Yachty accomplishes his goals – hooking up with “Little miss lady in the yellow.” #GOALS. Fittingly (or not), another sex-driven joint follows in “Moments in Time.” Like “Lady in Yellow,” Yachty continues to sing – well – aided by the gift that keeps giving in autotune. It’ll appeal to some, and no so much to others at this point.
Following the charmingly-titled “Otha Shit (Interlude),” some familiarity returns to Teenage Emotions, at least for those who followed the promo campaign. “X Men” featuring Evander Griiim is backed by devilish production. Ultimately, the production work provides fuel for the rapper’s fire. Yachty doesn’t deliver a masterful set of rhymes, but his energy and intensity are appreciated.
The odd “Bring it Back” follows, continuing to confuse listeners. On the one hand, the production work is captivating. The problem is the other hands. As nonconformist and eccentric as Lil Yachty is artistically, the 80s-inspired backdrop against the singing of Yachty doesn’t perfectly mesh. Like the aforementioned “All Around Me,” it sounds better after a second or third listen. Don’t call it a gem though.
Generally, the rest of the album is blasé. That said, in some respects, its more normal. Grace (“You Don’t Own Me”) assists on “Running with a Ghost.” The final results are okay, but “Running with a Ghost” doesn’t particularly stand out. “FYI (Know How)” isn’t bad. Once more, the backdrop provides a lift. In regards to his rhymes, Yachty is okay, but doesn’t offer a tour de force caliber of performance. Give him props on “Priorities” where he admits what we were all thinking: “My priorities are fucked…” Yep, pretty much.
“No More” brings some of the experimental nature of Teenage Emotions back, for better or for worse. The final two songs, “Made of Glass” and “Momma (Outro),” infuse some substance into the album. Go figure. Neither is an outright hit, but give props where they’re deserved. If nothing else, Sonyae Elise shines vocally on “Momma.”
Ultimately, every listener will make their own decisions about Lil Yachty. Some critics praise his nonconformity in the context of Teenage Emotions. While being nonconformist is praise worthy, it’s tough to call Teenage Emotions itself brilliant. Too many times Yachty comes off as inept. Sure, everyone has done and said stupid things as a teenager, but Teenage Emotions comes over extremely flawed to be his major label debut. No, he isn’t expected to give high-flying social or political commentary, but shouldn’t he have a little bit more to offer? BTW, the gems from this effort are more contextual as opposed to being transcendent.
Gems: “Peek a Boo,” “Harley,” “All Around Me,” “Lady in Yellow,” “X Men” & “Bring it Back”