LIL YACHTY

★☆☆☆☆

On “Lil Boat 2,” Lil Yachty attempts to cement his place among fellow Atlanta rap stars like Migos, Young Thug and 2 Chainz but falls short, as personality and energy are swapped for rinse-and-repeat beats and uninspired flows.

After the almost overnight success of his 2015 viral hit “One Night,” Lil Yachty began a career as one of the most colorful stars in rap. As the self-proclaimed “King of the Teens” began to build his brand and transcend his own music, he also polarized audiences –– radio personalities Joe Budden and Funkmaster Flex criticized his goofy demeanor and lack of lyricism, while rappers J. Cole and Kodak Black have dissed Yachty in lyrics and interviews.

Despite the criticism, Yachty has maintained a fanbase and a presence in the rap community, with his 2017 debut album “Teenage Emotions” reaching No. 5 on the U.S. Billboard 200, which tracks album sales.

“Self Made” sets the tone of his latest album. Yachty is serious, delivering braggadocio lines with his signature AutoTune-saturated voice. Fans familiar with his 2016 mixtape “Lil Boat” will immediately recognize that the goofy creativity that defined the first project has been replaced with mainstream rap cliches. The production features luscious bass layered with dreamy synths and pulsating hi hats, but ultimately is not unique enough to be creative.

In fact, the center point on many tracks is production from the likes of 30 Roc, Digital Nas and Pi’erre Bourne. “Count Me In” is incredibly similar to Pi’erre’s work on Playboi Carti’s “Magnolia,” but Yachty makes the song his own, taking aim at his haters as he says, “You don’t have to like me / Just don’t talk / Just don’t f—k with me.” Yachty and his team clearly have an ear for beats. Some other highpoints include “NBAYOUNGBOAT,” “Baby Daddy” and “66.” Each has its own take on the all-too-common trap sound, but the quality is still there.

Lyrically, Yachty lacks originality, and his verses are predictable. He is rich. He is tough. He did it on his own. These topics are not necessarily overly played out — they define rap for better or worse. However, Yachty has neither the voice nor the flow to completely disregard lyrical content. His words lack substance, which is made all the more obvious when he teams up with the A-list features that appear on the album.

Yachty is continuously outdone on his own songs. “Talk To Me Nice,” featuring Quavo of rap group Migos, could belong on a Migos project. Quavo is catchy and memorable, outshining Yachty’s two verses that begin and end the song. Yachty appears nonessential and out of place.

The same problem occurs on “Baby Daddy,” which features Lil Pump and Offset – and yes, Migos’ third member, Takeoff, was left off “Lil Boat 2.” On this track, Yachty sacrifices his own sound to accommodate the features. The result is just a Lil Pump track, awkwardly showcasing Yachty on the hook.

The one feature that actually complements Yachty is PnB Rock on “She Ready.” The beat is sunny, the hook is melodic and Yachty finally displays energy and charisma. The song is a nod to the Lil Yachty of old, leaving the listener nostalgic for what used to be.

Only two projects ago, Yachty was writing songs about happiness and positivity, singing and rapping from the perspective of two characters embodying the competing sides of his personality. That level of creativity defined him, as he made music that could not easily be defined. He was pushing boundaries and was an exciting, unpredictable act to follow. He wore a rainbow grill. He infamously said that the Notorious B.I.G was “overrated” in an interview with Pitchfork. At every instance, he rejected tradition and ushered in novelty.

But over the past two years, Yachty’s style and creativity have vanished.

Yachty signed to the Quality Control record label after the first “Lil Boat” brought him into the mainstream. Ever since, he has lost his artistic vision. Quality Control pushed him to collaborate with other acts on their roster like Migos and Rich the Kid. On his debut album “Teenage Emotions,” you can hear Yachty fighting to keep his personality alive. While most of the tracks made Yachty the typical trap rapper present on any Quality Control Project, songs like “Young Forever” featuring Diplo and “Bring it Back” are examples of Yachty keeping his creative sensibilities and blending pop and rap in a distinct and fresh way.

“Lil Boat 2” marks a further descent into the ecosystem of Quality Control music. Yachty is a shadow of the artist and personality that he used to be. He went from rejecting the rules of rap to reinforcing them and along the way lost what made his art exciting in the first place. Yachty’s music should be anything but predictable, but “Lil Boat 2” is some of the most formulaic rap released this year.

On the album’s closing track, “66” featuring Trippie Redd, Yachty paints the image of himself and Trippie Redd riding around in his Bentley. There was a time where Yachty and Trippie would have naturally been grouped together. Trippie is an exciting new voice in rap, born from Soundcloud. He bends genres in a way that is all his own. He is original in the way Yachty used to be. Trippie sings, “I’ma keep on runnin’ it up, ayy / I’ma keep on runnin’ it up.” Fans should hope he does, because it seems like Lil Yachty’s run might be over.

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