Lil Yachty: Lil Boat 2 review – hip-hop’s misunderstood upstart gets prickly

Lil Yachty recently pronounced himself “devastated” by the lukewarm critical and commercial reaction to his 2017 debut album Teenage Emotions. You could see why its sales figures came as a disappointment. His was a very modern rise to fame – instead of hustling demos or carving out a name in rap battles and open mic nights, he came to prominence appearing in fashion influencers’s Instagram posts, while his music attracted notice on the soundtrack to a viral comedy video. It’s the kind of success that might struggle to translate into something more tangible, like lasting record sales – but, still, if you’ve got 4.9 million Instagram followers, you might expect more than 44,000 of them to buy your album in its week of release.

Equally, you could see why Teenage Emotions failed to get fans into shops. You didn’t have to be the kind of rap aficionado horrified by the self-styled King of Teens’s punkish refusal to pay due reverence to his forebears (he claimed he knew fewer than five songs by Biggie Smalls and Tupac combined) to think that, over 70 minutes, the album spread his oft-questioned talents quite thin. More interest was aroused by its cover – featuring a gay couple kissing – than its contents, which his detractors would say is Lil Yachty all over.

The rapper himself seems to have other ideas about its failure, variously claiming it was because people “don’t understand” him and because the music on Teenage Emotions was “ahead of my time”: Lil Boat 2’s title accordingly sets the album up as a sequel to his debut 2016 mixtape. But the sunlit, wilfully simplistic melodies and daffy sense of humour that gave the original its appeal are noticeable by their absence. Something of the rapper’s former self hangs around the tune of closer 66 and She Ready’s perky backing – daringly performed on that most abused of instruments, synthesised pan pipes – but there’s nothing here as charming as Minnesota’s off-key falsetto chorus, no hook as engaging as the warped take on Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Forbidden Colours that drove Lil Boat’s Good Day. In fact, there’s not much in the way of hooks at all. Lil Boat 2’s main musical currency is a kind of frugal gloom, in which icy electronic drones waft over sparse beats.

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