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With ‘Let’s Start Here,’ Lil Yachty Emerges as Music’s Boldest Creative Director

By Jeff Ihaza

Lil Yachty is rich. The 25-year-old musician posts TikToks featuring exotic Italian furniture, and goes vintage shopping with Drake. By the time he graduated high school, he’d already bought his mom a house. He caused a mild international incident with his viral hit “Poland,” a loosie released late last year in which he croons, with impossible sincerity, about bringing illegal pharmaceuticals into Poland. One couldn’t imagine a more charmed Gen Z existence. And yet, on “:(failure(:,” an early interlude from his left-turn of a new album, Let’s Start Here, he says that he’s “seen failure a few times/More recently than before, actually.”

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Cast in this new light, the quality that once made it hard for detractors to take him seriously has become Lil Yachty’s greatest strength. His playful vocal acrobatics, his freewheeling gestures into key ranges he might be less than suited for, create a listening experience rooted in feeling. So we open Let’s Start Here with “the BLACK seminole.,” in which Yachty sprinkles sparse musings from history. The title references Afro-Seminole people, free Africans who lived among Seminole groups in what is now Florida. Yachty’s idea fragments ooze together in the psychedelic groove, careful to keep the theoretical framework loose, allowing the words “Black” and “sex symbol” to float off into space carrying only as much weight as they need to. The statement retains potency in its aloofness. It isn’t unheard of to see rappers treading indie-rock terrain, though the efforts tend to have the sheen of corporate crossover. With instrumentation from Chairlift’s Patrick Wimberly, Yachty rolls in like a Black cowboy in a way that feels unforced. “A Black man with mouths to feed,” he whispers.

Oohs and ahhs stretch to the heavens with intention — like on standout “pRETTY,” which is already proving to be a hit on TikTok, and sounds like a slowed bedroom cut from the cult label Naked Music. Percussion rumbles gently over the staggering two-step, while a sensual, otherworldly warble breaks through the clouds like a ray of sunshine in spring. 

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You could call Let’s Start Here a rebuke of the notion that listeners have abandoned the full-length album. The record’s tight 57 minutes feel as cohesive a project as any artist has released in the streaming era. Yachty’s genuine adoration of his musical inspirations is like the Gen Z alchemy of Pinkpantheress, able to turn familiar source material into something entirely new. 

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Let’s Start Here.

Lil Yachty Lets Start Here

By Alphonse Pierre

Quality Control / Motown

February 1, 2023

At a surprise listening event last Thursday,  Lil Yachty   introduced his new album  Let’s Start Here. , an unexpected pivot, with a few words every rap fan will find familiar: “I really wanted to be taken seriously as an artist, not just some SoundCloud rapper or some mumble rapper.” This is the speech rappers are obligated to give when it comes time for the drum loop to take a backseat to guitars, for the rapping to be muted in favor of singing, for the ad-libs to give it up to the background singers, and for a brigade of white producers with plaque-lined walls to be invited into the fold. 

Rap fans, including myself, don’t want to hear it, but the reality is that in large slices of music and pop culture, “rapper” is thrown around with salt on the tongue. Pop culture is powerfully influenced by hip-hop, that is until the rappers get too close and the hands reach for the pearls. If anything, the 25-year-old Yachty—as one of the few rappers of his generation able to walk through the front door anyway because of his typically Gushers-sweet sound and innocently youthful beaded braid look—might be the wrong messenger. 

What’s sour about Yachty’s statement isn’t the idea that he wants to be taken seriously as an artist, but the question of  who  he wants to be taken seriously by. When Yachty first got on, a certain corner of rap fandom saw his marble-mouthed enunciation and unwillingness to drool over hip-hop history as symbols of what was ruining the genre they claimed to love. A few artists more beholden to tradition did some finger-wagging— Pete Rock and  Joe Budden ,  Vic Mensa and  Anderson .Paak , subliminals from  Kendrick and  Cole —but that was years ago, and by now they’ve found new targets. These days, Yachty is respected just fine within rap. If he weren’t, his year-long rebirth in the Michigan rap scene, which resulted in the good-not-great  Michigan Boy Boat , would have been viewed solely as a cynical attempt to boost his rap bona fides. His immersion there felt earnest, though, like he was proving to himself that he could hang. 

The respect Yachty is chasing on  Let’s Start Here. feels institutional. It’s for the voting committees, for the suits; for  Questlove to shout him out as  the future , for Ebro to invite him  back on his radio show and say  My bad, you’re dope.  Never mind if you thought Lil Yachty was dope to start with: The goal of this album is to go beyond all expectations and rules for rappers.

And the big pivot is… a highly manicured and expensive blend of  Tame Impala -style psych-rock, A24 synth-pop, loungey R&B, and  Silk Sonic -esque funk, a sound so immediately appealing that it doesn’t feel experimental at all. In 2020, Yachty’s generational peers,  Lil Uzi Vert and  Playboi Carti , released  Eternal Atake and  Whole Lotta Red : albums that pushed forward pre-existing sounds to the point of inimitability, showcases not only for the artists’ raps but their conceptual visions. Yachty, meanwhile, is working within a template that is already well-defined and commercially successful. This is what the monologue was for? 

To Yachty’s credit, he gives the standout performance on a crowded project. It’s the same gift for versatility that’s made him a singular rapper: He bounces from style to style without losing his individuality. A less interesting artist would have been made anonymous by the polished sounds of producers like  Chairlift ’s Patrick Wimberly,  Unknown Mortal Orchestra ’s Jacob Portrait, and pop songwriters Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, or had their voice warped by writing credits that bring together  Mac DeMarco ,  Alex G , and, uh,  Tory Lanez . The production always leans more indulgent than thrilling, more scattershot than conceptual. But Yachty himself hangs onto the ideas he’s been struggling to articulate since 2017’s  Teenage Emotions : loneliness, heartbreak, overcoming failure. He’s still not a strong enough writer to nail them, and none of the professionals collecting checks in the credits seem to have been much help, but his immensely expressive vocals make up for it. 

Actually, for all the commotion about the genre jump on this project, the real draw is the ways in which Yachty uses Auto-Tune and other vocal effects as tools to unlock not just sounds but emotion. Building off the vocal wrinkle introduced on last year’s viral moment “ Poland ,” where he sounds like he’s cooing through a ceiling fan, the highlights on  Let’s Start Here. stretch his voice in unusual directions. The vocals in the background of his wistful hook on “pRETTy” sound like he’s trying to harmonize while getting a deep-tissue massage. His shrill melodies on “paint THE sky” could have grooved with  the Weeknd on  Dawn FM . The opening warble of “running out of time” is like Yachty’s imitation of  Bruno Mars imitating  James Brown , and the way he can’t quite restrain his screechiness enough to flawlessly copy it is what makes it original.

Too bad everything surrounding his unpredictable and adventurous vocal detours is so conventional. Instrumental moments that feel like they’re supposed to be weird and psychedelic—the hard rock guitar riff that coasts to a blissful finale in “the BLACK seminole.” or the slow build of “REACH THE SUNSHINE.”—come off like half-measures.  Diana Gordon ’s falsetto-led funk on “drive ME crazy!” reaches for a superhuman register, but other guest appearances, like  Fousheé ’s clipped lilts on “pRETTy” and  Daniel Caesar ’s faded howls on the outro, are forgettable. None of it is ever  bad : The synths on “sAy sOMETHINg” shimmer; the drawn-out intro and outro of “WE SAW THE SUN!” set the lost, trippy mood they’re supposed to; “THE zone~” blooms over and over again, underlined by  Justine Skye ’s sweet and unhurried melodies. It’s all so easy to digest, so pitch-perfect, so safe.  Let’s Start Here. clearly and badly wants to be hanging up on those dorm room walls with  Currents and  Blonde and  IGOR . It might just work, too. 

Instead, consider this album a reminder of how limitless rap can be. We’re so eager for the future of the genre to arrive that current sounds are viewed as restricting and lesser. But rap is everything you can imagine. I’m thinking about “Poland,” a song stranger than anything here: straight-up 1:23 of chaos, as inventive as it is fun. I took that track as seriously as anything I heard last year because it latches onto a simple rap melody and pushes it to the brink. Soon enough, another rapper will hear that and take it in another direction, then another will do the same. That’s how you really get to the future. 

Michigan Boy Boat

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Lil Yachty’s Great Gig in the Sky

Portrait of Craig Jenkins

Since the release of his Lil Boat mixtape in 2016, Lil Yachty has cultivated a peculiar rap career that has benefited from versatile musical interests. The Atlanta rapper, singer, and producer’s early work juggled booming southern trap drums, gauzy synths, unclearable samples , and melodic sensibilities on loan from children’s television. Shifting listlessly between disaffected snark and sweet repose, the best songs answered the question of what Brian Wilson’s teenage symphonies might’ve sounded like if he’d grown up hanging around the Migos. On future projects, Yachty leaned into the gruff anthems of his labelmates on Atlanta’s Quality Control Music, toughening up on 2018’s Lil Boat 2 in some of the ways Drake did on Scorpion the same year, this after dividing critics and listeners with the synthpop and reggae excursions on Yachty’s 2017 debut studio album Teenage Emotions .

Restlessness saves his catalog from the pedestrian work of peers chasing the sound of a beloved early mixtape. Lil Yachty is always up to something , quietly penning an undisclosed piece of the City Girls smash “Act Up,” or producing a chunk of Drake and 21 Savage’s Her Loss , or logging an unlikely chart hit about sneaking promethazine through customs . He’s a lightning rod for guys who see a new wave of absurdists and crooners as a displacement of rap traditionalism (rather than a continuation of a detailed history within it); he knows what the fans are into and where they’re getting into it online, so accusations about his music ruining hip-hop are complicated by every unforeseen success. The work varies greatly in style as well as quality, but being difficult to pin down also buys him freedom to make unusual plays.

Let’s Start Here , his fifth album and first full-length excursion into psychedelic rock, didn’t spawn entirely from nowhere, and not just because it sprung a leak under the name Sonic Beach a few weeks back. His appearance on a remix for Tame Impala’s Slow Rush jam “Breathe Deeper” hits a few of the markers the new album visits: the taste for psychotropic drugs and the interaction between the shimmering sound achieved by an elaborate pedal board and raps that feel both lightly thought through and also spirited and spontaneous. The first song, “The Black Seminole,” outlines the project’s guiding ethos, from its burbling, delay-drenched analog-synthesizer sound to the trippy changes and show-stopping vocal performance by “Bad Habit” co-writer Diana Gordon — all of which amount to an attempt to jam every idea housed in Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon into a single seven-minute performance. Bolstered by memorable spots from Gordon (who gives the Clare Torry screams in “Failure” and “Seminole” her all), Fousheé (whose softCORE album served rockers like “Die” and “Bored” that share Yachty’s love of walls of noise), and Justine Skye, the new album makes more space for women in its love songs than most rappers percolating on the charts tend to care to now. (Note also the presence of one Daystar Peterson in the credits as a co-writer on “Paint the Sky.”)

Let’s Start Here journeys back in time and out to space and sometimes up its own ass. It’s a drug odyssey that delightfully defies expectations whenever it’s not overindulging, taking its adulation for its influences from pastiche to parody, pushing its sound from psych to cacophony. Much will be made of Kevin Parker’s impact here, because Tame is also a project about savvily jumbling ideas from other eras and getting synthesizers to feel as delicately enveloping as puffs of smoke. It’s also an oversimplification of the scope of Let’s Start Here to call it Lil Yachty’s Tame album. Patrick Wimberly co-produced every song, and the snap of the drum sound and the flair for gooey horn accompaniment are assets Chairlift — Wimberly’s former group with Caroline Polachek and Aaron Pfenning — used to employ. U.K. producer Jam City and Yves Tumor collaborator Justin Raisen sat in on a lot of these, too; the maximalist sonics and the mix of love songs and acid-addled horror here are both a result of its pick of personnel and an authentic re-creation of the wild fluctuations of a lurid trip.

Its intriguing bio- and band chemistry are Let’s Start Here ’s gift and curse. “Running Out of Time” kicks off with drums that feel like Thundercat’s “Them Changes” (which, in turn, feels like Paul McCartney’s “Arrow Through Me”) and a bubbly bass line evoking “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. Pushing through to a gorgeous bridge, matching vocals with Skye, Yachty pokes out from under the shadow of his forebears and delivers one of the finest bits of music he’s ever made. The blissed out “The Ride” plants the Texas rapper Teezo Touchdown into a wobbly groove that could’ve fit into last year’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs album. It feels like both songs could collapse at any moment, hanging a sharp turn into an unflattering section wrecking the momentum they built. Equally prone to swift tense shifts and long detours, Let’s Start Here meanders a great deal between highlights, raining sheets of sound that soak and weigh down the delicate grooves it’s trying to build. “Paint the Sky” sounds like a radio hit dropped into a flooded pit cave. These songs sink or swim on Lil Yachty’s ability to steady himself amid a maelstrom of phase-shifted guitars, delay-kissed drums, and synths shrouded in reverb. He’s a good study and a great hook man, but the novelty of some of his experiments wear off as ideas repeat and choruses get smothered. The less they tinker, the better.

Restraint guides Let’s Start Here to a few of its most sublime moments. “Pretty” will draw comparisons to Childish Gambino’s Awaken My Love! and the hit slow jam “Redbone,” but the drum programming recalls the stuff Prince did with the LinnDrum and the vocal performances feel inspired by cloud rap, a sensibility teased out in a cocky, carefree verse by Fousheé . “Say Something” strikes gold coolly poking around the pillowy synth pads and echoing drums of ’80s pop in the same way recent albums from the Weeknd picked up where Daft Punk left off in marrying dueling interests in 20th- and 21st-century popular music. “Pretty” and “Say Something” keep things relatively simple, stacking a few complementary ideas on top of each other and allowing space to breathe. (Other producers might abuse the clav hits in the latter for the old-school feel they bring, but this group lets them drift in and out of frame, recalling the minimalist trap lullabies on the back end of Lil Boat .) The noisier and less structurally sturdy cuts that surround them feel like the jams a band works through on the way to more refined compositions, before taking them on the road where they grow new layers of sound and significance. Let’s Start Here begs to be untangled in a live setting the way artists drawn to the tactile and communal experience of music tend to, allowed to drift over warm air, playing during the sunny days and reckless nights it describes.

Maybe this album is the new beginning its title implies, a first step toward tighter songcraft on the horizon, and maybe Yachty will pop back up in six to 18 months’ time on some different shit entirely, as is often his tendency. The new record finds him sniffing around the same intersections of pop, rock, psych, and soul as “Bad Habit” or Frank Ocean’s “Pretty Sweet,” sacrificing the brevity of his hits for a purposeful sensory overload, which sometimes works in his favor but sometimes encumbers tracks that ought to seem weightless. It is important for young artists to get the space to grow and change and eat mushrooms and make weird but enthusiastic indie-rock music.

Let’s Start Here fits into a long tradition of pleasant curveballs from rappers, unheralded classics like Q-Tip’s Kamaal the Abstract, side projects like the Beastie Boys and Suicidal Tendencies offshoot BS2000 , imperfect genre excursions like Kid Cudi’s WZRD , and effortless R&B pivots like Tyler, the Creator’s Igor . Yachty is stumbling down well-trod pathways, learning lessons imparted on generation after generation of listeners ever since Pink Floyd’s international breakthrough 50 years ago and taking metaphysical journeys endeavored since humans first discovered fungi and plants that made them see sounds and smell colors. The sharpest songs here could go toe-to-toe with the best in the artist’s back catalog, and the worst ones sound like excitable demos for various guitar pedals. Let’s Start Here isn’t Lil Yachty’s greatest work, but it goes over better than the pitch — “Poland” guy does shrooms and jams on instruments — implied it might. And if shoegaze-adjacent rockers like “I’ve Officially Lost Vision” and sound experiments like the one at the end of “We Saw the Sun” drone-pill even a fraction of the audience, it was all worth it.

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How Lil Yachty Ended Up at His Excellent New Psychedelic Album Let's Start Here

By Brady Brickner-Wood

Lil Yachty attends Wicked Featuring 21 Savage at Forbes Arena at Morehouse College on October 19 2022 in Atlanta Georgia.

The evening before Lil Yachty released his fifth studio album,  Let’s Start Here,  he  gathered an IMAX theater’s worth of his fans and famous friends at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City and made something clear: He wanted to be taken seriously. Not just as a “Soundcloud rapper, not some mumble rapper, not some guy that just made one hit,” he told the crowd before pressing play on his album. “I wanted to be taken serious because music is everything to me.” 

There’s a spotty history of rappers making dramatic stylistic pivots, a history Yachty now joins with  Let’s Start Here,  a funk-flecked psychedelic rock album. But unlike other notable rap-to-rock faceplants—Kid Cudi’s  Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven  comes to mind, as does Lil Wayne’s  Rebirth —the record avoids hackneyed pastiche and gratuitous playacting and cash-grabbing crossover singles; instead, Yachty sounds unbridled and free, a rapper creatively liberated from the strictures of mainstream hip-hop. Long an oddball who’s delighted in defying traditional rap ethos and expectations,  Let’s Start Here  is a maximalist and multi-genre undertaking that rewrites the narrative of Yachty’s curious career trajectory. 

Admittedly, it’d be easy to write off the album as Tame Impala karaoke, a gimmicky record from a guy who heard Yves Tumor once and thought: Let’s do  that . But set aside your Yachty skepticism and probe the album’s surface a touch deeper. While the arrangements tend toward the obvious, the record remains an intricate, unraveling swell of sumptuous live instruments and reverb-drenched textures made more impressive by the fact that Yachty co-produced every song. Fielding support from an all-star cast of characters, including production work from former Chairlift member Patrick Wimberly, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait, Justin Raisen, Nick Hakim, and Magdalena Bay, and vocals from Daniel Caesar, Diana Gordon,  Foushée , Justine Skye, and Teezo Touchdown, Yachty surrounds himself with a group of disparately talented collaborators. You can hear the acute attention to detail and wide-scale ambition in the spaced-out denouement on “We Saw the Sun!” or on the blistering terror of “I’ve Officially Lost Vision!!!!” or during the cool romanticism of “Say Something.” Though occasionally overindulgent,  Let’s Start Here  is a spectacular statement from hip-hop’s prevailing weirdo. It’s not shocking that Yachty took another hard left—but how exactly did he end up  here ?

In 2016, as the forefather of “bubblegum trap” ascended into mainstream consciousness, an achievement like  Let’s Start Here  would’ve seemed inconceivable. The then 18-year-old Yachty gained national attention when a pair of his songs, “One Night” and “Minnesota,” went viral. Though clearly indebted to hip-hop trailblazers Lil B, Chief Keef, and Young Thug, his work instantly stood apart from the gritted-teeth toughness of his Atlanta trap contemporaries. Yachty flaunted a childlike awe and cartoonish demeanor that communicated a swaggering, unbothered cool. His singsong flows and campy melodies contained a winking humor to them, a subversive playfulness that endeared him to a generation of very online kids who saw themselves in Yachty’s goofy, eccentric persona. He starred in Sprite  commercials alongside LeBron James, performed live shows at the  Museum of Modern Art , and modeled in Kanye West’s  Life of Pablo  listening event at Madison Square Garden. Relishing in his cultural influence, he declared to the  New York Times  that he was not a rapper but an  artist. “And I’m more than an artist,” he added. “I’m a brand.”

 As Sheldon Pearce pointed out in his Pitchfork  review of Yachty’s 2016 mixtape,  Lil Boat , “There isn’t a single thing Lil Yachty’s doing that someone else isn’t doing better, and in richer details.” He wasn’t wrong. While Yachty’s songs were charming and catchy (and, sometimes, convincing), his music was often tangential to his brand. What was the point of rapping as sharply as the Migos or singing as intensely as Trippie Redd when you’d inked deals with Nautica and Target, possessed a sixth-sense for going viral, and had incoming collaborations with Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepsen? What mattered more was his presentation: the candy-red hair and beaded braids, the spectacular smile that showed rows of rainbow-bedazzled grills, the wobbly, weak falsetto that defaulted to a chintzy nursery rhyme cadence. He didn’t need technical ability or historical reverence to become a celebrity; he was a meme brought to life, the personification of hip-hop’s growing generational divide, a sudden star who, like so many other Soundcloud acts, seemed destined to crash and burn after a fleeting moment in the sun.

 One problem: the music wasn’t very good. Yachty’s debut album, 2017’s  Teenage Emotions, was a glitter-bomb of pop-rap explorations that floundered with shaky hooks and schmaltzy swings at crossover hits. Worse, his novelty began to fade, those sparkly, cheerful, and puerile bubblegum trap songs aging like day-old french fries. Even when he hued closer to hard-nosed rap on 2018’s  Lil Boat 2  and  Nuthin’ 2 Prove,  you could feel Yachty desperate to recapture the magic that once came so easily to him. But rap years are like dog years, and by 2020, Yachty no longer seemed so radically weird. He was an established rapper making mid mainstream rap. The only question now was whether we’d already seen the best of him.

If his next moves were any indication—writing the  theme song to the  Saved by the Bell  sitcom revival and announcing his involvement in an upcoming  movie based on the card game Uno—then the answer was yes. But in April 2021, Yachty dropped  Michigan Boat Boy,  a mixtape that saw him swapping conventional trap for Detroit and Flint’s fast-paced beats and plain-spoken flows. Never fully of a piece with his Atlanta colleagues, Yachty found a cohort of kindred spirits in Michigan, a troop of rappers whose humor, imagination, and debauchery matched his own. From the  looks of it, leaders in the scene like Babyface Ray, Rio Da Yung OG, and YN Jay embraced Yachty with open arms, and  Michigan Boat Boy  thrives off that communion. 

 Then “ Poland ” happened. When Yachty uploaded the minute-and-a-half long track to Soundcloud a few months back, he received an unlikely and much needed jolt. Building off the rage rap production he played with on the  Birthday Mix 6  EP, “Poland” finds Yachty’s warbling about carrying pharmaceutical-grade cough syrup across international borders, a conceit that captured the imagination of TikTok and beyond. Recorded as a joke and released only after a leaked version went viral, the song has since amassed over a hundred-millions streams across all platforms. With his co-production flourishes (and adlibs) splattered across Drake and 21 Savage’s  Her Loss,  fans had reason to believe that Yachty’s creative potential had finally clicked into focus.

 But  Let’s Start Here  sounds nothing like “Poland”—in fact, the song doesn’t even appear on the project. Instead, amid a tapestry of scabrous guitars, searing bass, and vibrant drums, Yachty sounds right at home on this psych-rock spectacle of an album. He rarely raps, but his singing often relies on the virtues of his rapping: those greased-vowel deliveries and unrushed cadences, the autotune-sheathed vibrato. “Pretty,” for instance, is decidedly  not  a rap song—but what is it, then? It’s indebted to trap as much as it is ’90s R&B and MGMT, its drugged-out drums and warm keys able to house an indeterminate amount of ideas.

Yachty didn’t need to abandon hip-hop to find himself as an artist, but his experimental impulses helped him craft his first great album. Perhaps this is his lone dalliance in psych rock—maybe a return to trap is imminent. Or, maybe, he’ll make another 180, or venture deeper into the dystopia of corporate sponsorships. Who’s to say? For now, it’s invigorating to see Yachty shake loose the baggage of his teenage virality and emerge more fully into his adult artistic identity. His guise as a boundary-pushing rockstar isn’t a new archetype, but it’s an archetype he’s infused with his glittery idiosyncrasies. And look what he’s done: he’s once again morphed into a star the world didn’t see coming.

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Lil Yachty on His Rock Album ‘Let’s Start Here,’ Rapping With J. Cole, and What’s Next

By Jem Aswad

Executive Editor, Music

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Lil Yachty

Nowhere in the rap star manual does it say that a guaranteed formula for success is to “make psychedelic rock album with almost no rapping.” Yet that is exactly what Lil Yachty did with “Let’s Start Here,” his fifth full album but first rock project, after years as a top rapper with hits like “One Night,” “Minnesota,” “Oprah’s Bank Account” and guest spots on Kyle’s smash “iSpy,” Dram’s “Broccoli,” Calvin Harris’ “Faking It” and others.

On a rainy Saturday afternoon, the day after the Central Park show, Yachty, 26 — clad in an orange button-down, camo shorts and fuzzy pink slides, with elaborately painted nails — sat down with Variety to talk about the album, the tour, his new song with J. Cole, plans for the hip-hop album he’s already recorded, and what’s coming next.

Are these the first dates you’re playing behind this new album?

At the album listening session, people did not seem to know what to think.

No! I didn’t know what people would expect, but I knew they wouldn’t expect that. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never been more confident with a body of work, so my chest was out. I didn’t think anyone would be like, “Oh, this sucks.” I genuinely felt like even if you didn’t like it, if you’re a music head, you’d have some kind of respect for the body of work itself, and for an artist to pivot and make something in such a complete, utter, opposite direction from what came before.

You said the people you played the album for included Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, the Creator — all of whom have made moves something like that in the past.

I’ll tell you, Tyler was a big reason for this album. He’ll call me at like eight o’clock in the morning — for no reason — and we’ll talk for hours. I was such a fan of [Tyler’s Grammy-winning 2019 album] “Igor,” his character and his way of creating a world — the color palettes, the videos, the billboards, the fonts. It’s all together. And I was like “How do you do that?” Because I was trying to figure out how to make a pop-funk-psychedelic-rock album cohesive, without it sounding like someone’s playlist. Then I started working on the visuals, and what I wanted to do was extremely expensive. To be quite honest, I don’t think my label believed in it enough to give me the budget that I truly needed for the visuals to bring this album to life, so I just made two videos.

Tyler and Drake both called me before my first show — I didn’t even tell them the show was happening but they both called me. That means something to me, because those people are my idols. I remember the day Kanye tweeted [Tyler’s 2011 single] “Yonkers,” I was in eighth grade. So them checking on me means a lot.

Is it a lonely feeling, sticking your neck out creatively like that?

Yeah, at first it was, but another thing Tyler taught me was not to be afraid of that. I was so scared before those first shows, like, “What if they don’t wanna hear it?” Tyler would always say, “Fuck it, make them feel you.”

Like, on the first show of this tour, I told the [sound crew], “Play psychedelic music before I go on, don’t play hip-hop” — but right before I went on they played a Playboi Carti song and I heard the crowd turning up and I was like, “Oh no, they’re gonna hate me!” And when I came out, I have in-ears [onstage monitors] and I have them set so you can’t really hear the crowd, it’s like dead silence. But I just kept going, and then my rap set comes and they go fucking crazy and that gives me confidence, and when I did the big rock outro on “Black Seminole,” they all started clapping. And for me it was the biggest “Oh, thank God,” because I couldn’t tell if they were fucking with it.

Is it exciting being in such a risky place creatively?

You were a teenager.

Exactly, But I still wanted respect, you know? I cared! My career was never solidified, I felt like folks were writing me off, so when I was making “Let’s Start Here,” I was at a point in my career where I did not have a hit rap record — it was like, “Man, this could really go left!” But I didn’t start thinking about that till I got deep into it. When I started, I was just like, “Man, I really love this stuff. Why don’t I hear anything like this now? No one makes psychedelic songs anymore.” I do psychedelics and I knew I wanted to make a psychedelic album. I love long songs, I love to just get deep into them — that’s why I love [Pink Floyd’s 1973 classic] “Dark Side of the Moon.”

I was on psychedelics when I first heard it and I would listen and just be like maaan. Like, bro, how can music make me feel like this? How can music make my brain just go to a new dimension? And how did you do that in 1973? I was like, can I do this? And obviously my answer was no. I mean, no offense, but how many rappers successfully made a rock album?

Almost none.

That’s what I’m saying. I think one of them was Kid Cudi’s rock album — I love it but a lot of people hated it. It’s not a full rock album, but it has a strong rock element to it.

Where did the rock influences come from, your parents?

My dad played a lot of Coldplay, a lot of Radiohead, John Mayer, Lenny Kravitz, a lot of John Coltrane, and I’m named after Miles Davis. My family loved James Brown, my dad loved Pharrell. He actually didn’t play Pink Floyd to me, but I’m glad I heard it as an adult.

I tried to make “Let’s Start Here” five years ago — “Lil Boat 2” was supposed to be “Let’s Start Here” with teenage emotions, but I was too young. I got too nervous to experiment on my rap record, and I didn’t have much experience or knowledge in alternative music. I met [“Let’s Start Again” collaborator] Jeremiah Raisan and tried again with the next album, but I chickened out and made another rap album. But when I had that conversation with Tyler, I was like “I’ve gotta do this, let me get that guy back.”

You had a hit with “Poland” — why isn’t it on the album?

That’s what I battled with, but at some point, you have to trust yourself. In the middle of making the album, “Poland” was a huge Internet hit and people were like, “You gotta put it on the album.” But I was like, it doesn’t fit! Just because it’s a hit record doesn’t mean it makes sense anywhere on this record. I was so focused on making my Black “Dark Side of the Moon.” And there is a small rap verse on the album, at the end of “Drive Me Crazy.”

You’ve said you recorded a hip-hop album after you finished “Let’s Start Here,” what’s it like?

What do you want to do next?

I get off tour around Christmas, and in January I’m starting a new album. I don’t know what it is yet, I don’t want to say “alternative.” I have rap album, but I just decided I’m gonna keep dropping songs [from it] until my next [non-rap] album is done.

Do you know who you want to work with on the next album?

So many people, obviously I want to do it on mostly with the band I made the record with, [writers/producers] Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, Jake Portrait and Patrick Wimberly. But I want to work with Donald Glover, I really want to work with Florence from Florence and the Machine. Sampha, Frank [Ocean], Buddy Ross, who worked with Frank. Chris Martin, Bon Iver, Solange, Mike Dean.

I’ve just been exploring, doing things that people wouldn’t expect. Even if I’m not the best at something, let’s just try, let’s explore, let’s create new things.

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Lil Yachty Shares New Album ‘Let’s Start Here’

Yachty's latest marks his fifth studio album and arrives following the release of his 2021 project ‘Birthday Mix 6.’ Last year, he bagged a hit with "Poland."

Image via Publicist

Lil Yachty cover art is pictured

Lil Yachty ’s first new studio album in three years has arrived .

The release of Let’s Start Here  was preceded by the rollout of a suspenseful skit in which the artist was depicted strolling into a facility deemed “the Department of Mental Tranquility.”

View this photo on Instagram

Stream Let’s Start Here below via Spotify . When unveiling the cover art this week, Yachty thanked fans for their patience when pointing to what he’s billing as a “second chapter.”

Yachty also shared visuals for “Say Something,” which you can watch below.

lil yachty let's start here album

View this video on YouTube

Last October, Yachty scored a massively ubiquitous hit in the form of the decidedly brief “ Poland ,” which saw him warping his voice in a unique fashion that kept the song on constant rotation for millions of listeners. During a subsequent appearance on the ZIAS! YouTube channel, Yachty provided some insight on the track’s hook, namely its reference to Poland. According to Yachty, that portion of the track was actually inspired by seeing someone who was “just drinking a Poland Spring water bottle” in the studio.

“Poland” appropriately wound up being ranked by Complex among the best songs of 2022 . 

Later this year, fans can expect to see Yachty make a guest appearance on the sixth season (a.k.a. “Season 666”) of The Eric Andre Show. Yachty was confirmed in an Adult Swim announcement last May and will be joined by Tinashe, Jon Hamm, Diplo, Natasha Lyonne, Raven-Symoné, Rico Nasty, Meagan Good, Cypress Hill, and more.  


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Let's Start Here - Digital Album

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Let's Start Here. - Digital Album

Your digital album will be delivered via email on upon purchase. Digital downloads are delivered as mp3 44.1khz/24-bit audio files. Please note: digital downloads are only available to us customers. Limited to 1 per customer.

Let’s Start Here.

The first song on Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here. is nearly seven minutes long and features breathy singing from Yachty, a freewheeling guitar solo and a mostly instrumental second half that calls to mind TV depictions of astral projecting. “the BLACK seminole.” is an extremely fulfilling listen, but is this the same guy who just a few months earlier delivered the beautifully off-kilter and instantly viral “Poland”? Better yet, is this the guy who not long before that embedded himself with Detroit hip-hop culture to the point of a soft rebrand as Michigan Boy Boat? Sure is. It’s just that, as he puts it on “the BLACK seminole.”, he’s got “No time to joke around/The kid is now a man/And the silence is filled with remarkable sounds.” We could call the silence he’s referring to the years since his last studio album, 2020’s Lil Boat 3, but he’s only been slightly less visible than we’re used to, having released the aforementioned Michigan Boy Boat mixtape while also lending his discerning production ear to Drake and 21 Savage’s ground-shaking album Her Loss. Collaboration, though, is the name of the game across Let’s Start Here., an album deeply indebted to some as yet undisclosed psych-rock influences, with repeated production contributions from one-time blog-rock darlings Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and Patrick Wimberly, as well as multiple appearances from Diana Gordon, a Queens, New York-hailing singer who made a noise during the earliest parts of her career as Wynter Gordon. Also present are R&B singer Fousheé and Beaumont, Texas, rap weirdo Teezo Touchdown, though rapping is infrequent. In fact, none of what Yachty presents here—which includes dalliances with Parliament-indebted acid funk (“running out of time”), ’80s synthwave (“sAy sOMETHINg,” “paint THE sky”), disco (“drive ME crazy!”), symphonic prog rock (“REACH THE SUNSHINE.”) and a heady monologue called “:(failure(:”—is in any way reflective of any of Yachty’s previous output. Which begs the question, where did all of this come from? You needn’t worry about that, says Yachty on the “the ride-”, singing sternly: “Don’t ask no questions on the ride.”

27 January 2023 14 Songs, 57 minutes Quality Control Music/Motown Records; ℗ 2023 Quality Control Music, LLC, under exclusive license to UMG Recordings, Inc.

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  1. Let's Start Here

    Let's Start Here is the fifth studio album by American rapper Lil Yachty, released on January 27, 2023, through Motown Records and Quality Control Music.It is his first studio album since Lil Boat 3 (2020) and follows his 2021 mixtape Michigan Boy Boat.The album marks a departure from Lil Yachty's signature trap sound, being heavily influenced by psychedelic rock.

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  17. Let's Start Here

    Though not completely void of rapping, Let's Start Here. is way more of a psychedelic soul album than a rap album, with live instrumentation heavy on slick jazzy guitars, big drums, and fantastical synths. The album begins with one of its more over-the-top dives into psychedelia, the nearly seven minute long "the BLACK seminole."

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  25. Lil Yachty brings his 'Let's Start Here.' vibes to "Saturday ...

    REVOLT. Lil Yachty brings his 'Let's Start Here.' vibes to "Saturday Night Live". Story by Jon Powell. • 1y. O n Saturday, " SNL " premiered the 16th episode of its 48th season with Quinta ...

  26. ‎Let's Start Here.

    The first song on Lil Yachty's Let's Start Here. is nearly seven minutes long and features breathy singing from Yachty, a freewheeling guitar solo and a mostly instrumental second half that calls to mind TV depictions of astral projecting. "the BLACK seminole." is an extremely fulfilling listen, but is this the same guy who just a few months earlier delivered the beautifully off-kilter ...

  27. Ronnie Spector Estate, Lil Yachty Record Label & More Music Deals

    Lil Yachty launched Concrete Rekordz, a new record label joint venture with Quality Control Music/HYBE.The announcement was accompanied by "Family Business," a new track and music video from ...