Lil Yachty Lil Boat

[Self-Released; 2016]

Styles: jouissance, “New Atlanta,” arena pop, flex music
Others: Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, Soulja Boy, Coldplay

When Lil Yachty was a kid, Coldplay was his favorite band. “Clocks,” “Yellow,” and who could forget “The Scientist”? Coldplay was a malleable, populist giant; a collision of cozy, Belle and Sebastian indie sensibilities with the panoptical liquid crystal of the arena, with songs readymade for jumbotron renditions. They were Thom Yorke on a faraway Northern England hillside meets Bono screaming “Yeah” 16 times in a row at the Super Bowl. They were the musical equivalent of the fair trade = movement. Coldplay sold fucktons of CDs and were generally eviscerated by critics, and they were the object of my utmost ire as a 16 year-old authenticity-obsessed aesthete.

When I was 16, Lil Yachty was 9. When you’re a kid, you just like what you like. There are no platonic ideals, no basic vs. next level, and pleasure is not guilty until someone tells you it is. Why do kids like Apple Jacks so much? We Eat What We Like! Childhood is not so much a state of innocence as one of extreme neuroplasticity. Pathways that will grow to be well-trod first materialize in a blaze of freestyle joy.

Sparkly, video game-lullaby productions from Burberry Perry, Ducko McFli, and a host of relative unknown Soundcloud producers carry Lil Boat through a yawning midafternoon daydream, feeling translucent on a barred-out tip, cheesing too hard to care about their own poor mastering, their total void of compositional rigor, just repeating themselves like someone learning to speak for the first time, bubbling over, spawning a cool equilibrium of eternal ad-lib: clothes, hoes, bros, racks, sacks, stacks, packs, gangs, things, and the occasional nautical reference bubble through the atmosphere with equanimous berth atop Yachty’s lazy, somnambulant delivery, by turns an aloof, lisping drawl or an emphatic Chris Martin falsetto, all filtered through warbling vacillations of sugary-ass autotune.

Songs drift in and out of the listener’s awareness, unaware of where they’re supposed to be headed, where they’re supposed to stop or start. “Interlude” lays threadbare its own hasty composition when, at the end, the beat drops out and Yachty suddenly swallows his words, cutting off his doodling, impressionistic freestyle just as the half-formed blossom of an image begins to form in his mouth. Despite the fact that Yachty can spit in the conventional sense, as his laconic, campy bars on “Intro” and “Up Next 2” suggest, Lil Boat is more about that spontaneous, ambiguous moment of sonic poetry that occurs when the mouth vocalizes beyond the scope of practical communication.

Welcome to a celebration of extra: the unnecessary, the over-the-top, the is you rolling?? Even the most basic particles of Lil Boat’s are extra: the Finding Nemo intro, the way many of the tracks shift into a “0 to 100”-style reprise at the halfway point, the way Yachty mouths out the broad and assonant tonality of “Roley” and “Brodies” over the stupid-simple gait of “Wanna Be Us,” the way Quavo incants “Big sack of Molly golf balls” twice and “I love my Motorola” four times on the New ATL flex-fest that is “Minnesota Remix,” just because it sounds so delightfully tacky and obscene the first time. Yachty himself best sums up Lil Boat’s irreverent attitude on “Not My Bro”: “Jimmy Chang lemon pepper wings for my black bitch/ New ring cost 30 thou/ I did it just cause I like to do shit.” Again, We Eat What We Like! Lil Boat is pure play, but it’s branded play. Like when Souja Boy hopped up out the bed, took a look in the mirror, and said “What’s up?” It is the sublimation of surplus, extra selfhood into cash flow. Making the soul do flips.

Like the works of its humble forebears Lil B and the venerable Soulja Boy, Lil Boat is the kind of music that does not need to make a case for its own value, only judged on the intangible, absurdist metrics of its self-contained universe. Listening to Lil Yachty is a lot like standing on a train platform in a Polo sweatsuit, one earbud in, interpreting the raps from your phone into personal theme music through exaggerated, off-the-cuff gesticulations, bobbing and weaving, articulating the rhythmic prose of the beats with rolling, fluid movements tempered by a forward-falling, emphatic swagger. It’s like you’re shooting a music video, except you’re not; it’s just you on the platform — that is, you and the nine other people who are doing exactly what you are doing, all attuned to the same frequency but atomized in your execution of it. Everyone is performing as if everyone is watching, but really everyone is watching themselves through the imaginary lens of everyone else.

Links: Lil Yachty

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