Lil Yachty Teenage Emotions

[Quality Control/Capitol/Motown; 2017]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: “oh boy, where do I start…”
Others: Carly Rae Jepsen, Sicko Mobb, iLoveMakonnen

Listen, I’m not saying that I would do any better if I were in Yachty’s situation. He’s all of 19 years old and has already finished the mixtape run-up game, passed go, and moseyed straight on up to a major label full-length debut, complete with Sprite sponsorship and a reputation as the most hated kid out there making it happen. Lil Yachty truly is the epitome of youth, and we here at TMT respect the kind of ambitious amateurism on full display throughout his tender, banging breakout mixtape Lil Boat (we even went so far as to put it a step above Young Thug on our year-end list last year, a fact that I’m still giggling about). No matter how many times we need to be reminded to listen to the kids, there is an ocean of potential in Lil Yachty, whether anyone over 25 can see it or not, and the kind of magic that courses through a young voice on the precipice of adulthood is truly a sacred thing, not to be fetishized, but to be cherished.

But we all make dumb mistakes when we’re young. Lil Yachty’s biggest goof on Teenage Emotions is forgetting to have fun, as he rides the rollercoaster of making it into the mainstream. Teenage Emotions is completely overstuffed, 70 minutes of barely-formed tracks that hint at the kind of summer-ready emotional release that Yachty is clearly capable of, but ultimately amount to a missed opportunity. There are callbacks to Yachty’s pop prowess throughout, brief moments like “Harley” and “FYI (Know Now)” that squeeze extra juice out of the bubbly trap M.O. Yachty built his name on, but by and large, the inordinate amount of samey, rushed takes like “Dirty Mouth,” “Say My Name,” and “X Men” are more tiresome to get through than they should be. Is it the added pressure of major label compromise that strangled these tracks? Or is it just to be expected that the debut album from a kid this young would be a total mess?

Like taking a tour through a high school college fair, Teenage Emotions leaves us with a variety of new channels that Lil Yachty could choose to steer his path toward, without really committing fully to any of them. “Bring It Back” filters Yachty’s trusty auto-tune through a straight-up 80s homage, while “Better” and “Forever Young” see him trying on island rap, the latter featuring a particularly confused Diplo beat that Yachty deals with as best as he can. The division between Yachty and his Lil Boat persona is becoming muddier and muddier, which is certainly a good thing, but as Yachty’s stance in rap and pop music begins to to come into full focus, it begs to be seen if he’ll be able to maintain the relentless and motivational energy that can come so easily when you’re young and on top of the world.

The only real “teenage emotion” that Yachty taps into throughout his debut is the feeling of not knowing exactly what you want to do. This cluelessness is precisely what lends Yachty his charged demeanor and what baffles so many old hip-hop heads who can’t understand the beauty in a line like “She blow that dick like a cello.” The mystery of not knowing something is exciting, and with any luck, Yachty’ll get back in touch with that sense of wonder the more he acclimates to his newfound notoriety. But as is, Teenage Emotions reads more like that freshman-year college paper you really wish you’d just deleted off your hard drive.

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