Lil Yachty - Teenage Emotions
June 3rd marked the 20th anniversary of Wu-Tang Forever, the seminal 2nd album from the legendary NYC hip-hop collective. On it, masterful MC GZA described the rap landscape thusly: “Yo, too many songs, weak rhymes that’s mad long. Make it brief, son, half short and twice long”. Clearly, Lil Yachty learned nothing from this. Then again, the album is also older than him. On the Georgia rapper’s studio debut, Teenage Emotions, the self-proclaimed “king of teens” squanders much of the positive will and eclectic style from his previous projects, ultimately churning out a 69 minute epic of forgettable trap beats, pussy references, and bland features that do little to buoy Yachty’s hedonistic appeal.
Like most high school chums, Yachty and I bonded over a shared love of weird shit. In this case, on “Dipset” from Summer Songs 2, it was a bizarre and inspired Cowboy Bebop sample dropped like Alka-Seltzer over Yachty’s fizzy vocals. Left-field choices such as this, or Yachty’s absurdist alter ego Uncle Darnell Boat, kept things fun even when the ideas were less inspired. Shades of that same lackadaisical spirit appear on Teenage Emotions, but like its telling title the project obsesses over the same ideas ad-nauseam. Album opener “Like a Star” is destined for many a graduation video, channeling the #blessed ambitions of mid-2000s Kanye before nose-diving into the childish ilk of “Peek a Boo”. Designed for giddy, repetitive radio play and boasting one of the few undeniable hooks across the marathon track list, it represents the best and worse of Teenage Emotion’s adverse course. Tellingly, the meme-ified chorus is a banger and the weirdly percussive phrasing makes it an omnivorous ear-worm. But take ten seconds to put your high school English teacher cap on and you’ll realize how bluntly repetitive the thing is, and that’s before you even consider how it winsomely throws down misogynistic rap tropes with the speed and ease of an octogenarian bingo player. We could do this again, but I’ll just name “Harley”, “Say My Name”, “Otha Shit”, and “X Men” and take that jackpot. Did I mention this thing is 21 songs? We’ll be here all night.
In the midst of a trap renaissance (or was that a trap dark age?) Yachty has shone bright with an unusually upbeat outlook and a clear voice, full auto-tune, can’t sing attitude. That take felt fresh on slices of sunshine like 2016’s “iSpy”, but Yachty (or was it his lil boat?) seems to have stalled in the water on this one. Obligatory positive cuts such as “Better”, or the Diplo produced snoozer “Forever Young”, will certainly brighten up a few summer excursions. However, they’re also re-treads of Yachty’s better moments on earlier projects, offering little beyond the namesake of the album in terms of depth or texture to encourage repeat listens. By the time Yachty finally reaches “Made of Glass”, a peculiar, creeping ambient experiment in emo-rap, it’s been an hour-long onslaught of the same febrile emotions. That push-pull reaches its apex in album closer “Momma”, a sweet ode to Yachty’s parent that most listeners will never reach due to the absolute gauntlet of restated feelings. Yachty’s title for the album, Teenage Emotions, captures the paradox perfectly. We look to youth for its unfiltered passion and honesty, not its economy of feeling. Ask any parent and they’ll tell you - when it comes to teenage emotions there’s a time when even the most devoted just have to tune out.