In the far corners of Tumblr and Soundcloud, memes and satire melt into Super Mario flips and Little Einsteins trap remixes. Underneath the suffocating self-indulgence and nostalgia, these internet enclaves are perfect examples of how modern teenagers share and create. And it’s through these threads that Lil Yachty thrives. From his cherry red hair to his silly–but dangerously infectious–adlibs, the self-endowed King of the Teengers has crafted a nimble ship that manages to ride all the trendy waves while staying self-assured, and weird enough, to stand out from the increasingly crowded new Atlanta artists.
But his music sounds anything but calculated. There are times when it’s hard to tell if Lil Yachty’s rise wasn’t born out of a dare to make a trap lullaby. His productions are often jovial, summery tunes that share more in common with “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” than anything by fellow ATL rappers like Lil Wayne or Young Thug.
Summer Songs 2 is a celebration and rebuttal for Yachty. Lil Boat, his last mixtape released earlier this year, proved a runaway success, and it came with the standard fare of skepticism–doubts on his lasting appeal and actual talent. Perhaps most bruising was a disastrous freestyle session with Hot 97 where Lil Yachty struggled to string together anything substantial. As is standard in the rap game of chess, Yachty responds with a not-too-subtle “For Hot 97”. It’s an appropriately aggressive track where Yachty names off a grocery list of vices and pleasures. He does it again in “Up Next 3”, taking on critics head-on with gems like, “Dick in her mouth like a motherfuckin’ churro / Nut so fat like a fuckin’ burrito.” Delicious.
Directness has its appeal. His most crass lines are honest and funny, his blunt attacks and constant pats on the back are endearing–parallelling with the child-like bouncy tunes he raps over. The mixtape starts with a proclamation that he’s the “King of the Youth”, and ends with a four minute celebration of his own accomplishments–complete with an interlude where fans gave shout outs. Summer Songs 2 is a victory lap before the race even started, but it’s so much fun hanging out with Yachty that no one really cares.
It’s a testament to how well Yachty understands his audience. His sound bounces all over the place, from the inspirational “Life Goes On” to project highlight “King of Teens”. Some tracks follow a more traditional hip-hop template, like the Offset-assisted “DipSet”, but Yachty is just as content to throw in a auto-tuned interlude straight out of a fairy tale with “Why?”, where he laments, “Why do they hate on me?”
And why exactly, would people dislike the rapper that sounds like he came straight from the land of Oz? Yachty may have tried to rebuke claims that he isn’t a proficient rapper, but while he can rap fast, he does little to prove that he can rap well. And that’s fine. Together with DRAM, Yachty created the most exciting anthem about vegetables in recent memory–even with lines like “touch my gang we gon’ turn this shit to Columbine.” Yachty’s rapping is crucial in its ability to traverse his digital mix of pianos, synths, and autotune. That’s the crux of his appeal. But while his proficiency plays second fiddle, Yachty’s inability to swim beyond two or three familiar topics–or to dive deep into any of his stories, may signal future troubles.
Summer Songs 2 proves Yachty can entertain across a wide range of productions. He offers a response to his haters, places himself on the throne, and throws himself a party. Yachty successfully asserts his ability to navigate the often fickle internet youth culture–much like Soulja Boy did a decade ago, but a lack of depth can cut the party short. After all, summer doesn’t last forever.