Psychedelic Boat Lil Yachty – ‘Let’s Start Here’ Album Review

“I’m 100 percent sunshine.” – Lil Yachty

Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here is an exciting Psychedelic Rock album from one of this generation’s most colourful rappers. I’m not sure whether I’m more shocked by the album’s existence or level of quality, it’s one of the finest projects of the year so far and might be one of the more interesting left turns in Hip-Hop history. Let’s dig in.

Lil Yachty Lets start here album cover

Here we are again writing about Lil Yachty; probably the rapper we’ve spent the most time discussing on this little corner of the internet. Let’s recap:

Who is Lil Yachty?

Lil Yachty, also known as Lil Boat is Miles Parks McCollum, an Atlanta rapper and singer who’s a prominent survivor of the Soundcloud Rap era. I still find it funny that his first name is a unit of measurement.

ugly god water
The same can’t be said for Ugly God

When did his career kick off?

2015’s ‘One Night’, produced by erstwhile high school friend and producer TheGoodPerry (formerly known as Burberry Perry) launched Lil Yachty’s career. Yachty’s melodic half-rapped crooning style of rap was unique for the time; he was one of the first rappers to really pitch up his vocals to emphasise melody.

‘One Night’ surged in popularity after it featured in a viral sketch from the same year:

Yachty’s career took off in earnest in 2016 after his debut mixtape, Lil Boat; a highly influential project that had everything you could want from an innovative debut – including the obligatory 4.8/10 score from the perpetually out-of-touch Pitchfork.

Right, so who is Lil Boat?

The Lil Boat vs Lil Yachty gimmick is similar to Eminem and Slim Shady, and to a lesser extent T.I. vs T.I.P.; he described it to Genius:

“[Lil Boat] He’s a ruthless dude. He don’t care. Yachty is a nice dude.”

Essentially Lil Boat is the bad guy who you don’t want to meet late at night, the one who says what we’re all thinking but are afraid to say. That whole thing.

What’s the difference between Lil Yachty and Lil Boat

Simply, the divide is he’s Lil Boat when he raps and Lil Yachty when he sings. 

There have been three projects in the Lil Boat series, similarly, his 2021 mixtape, Michigan Boy Boat, which saw collaborations with the new generation of Flint and Detroit rappers was a Lil Boat mixtape.
The concept is best explained on ‘Intro’ from Lil Boat, where their fictional uncle Darnell Boat introduces both sides.

Why is Lil Yachty so controversial?

People don’t like anything new. When Yachty first came out, he generated headlines for a series of iconoclastic statements:

‘I Honestly Couldn’t Name Five Songs [by Tupac and Biggie]’ – Lil Yachty [2016]

Moreover, his melodic and fun-focused approach to rapping led to him being labelled as ‘Bubblegum Trap’ in those heady early days.

He came out in that era when Hip-Hop purists were still upset about Auto-Tune based rappers who were unable or unwilling to freestyle off the dome. It was seen as a rejection of the fundamentals of the genre. As the most prominent of his generation, Lil Yachty took the brunt of the criticism. 

“I never freestyle. I always give a written verse cause I just don’t wanna go out like that.” – Lil Yachty [2016]

What’s Lil Yachty been up to recently?

For the time the Lil Boat mixtape was highly innovative and showed the dual aspects of the Lil Yachty and Lil Boat gimmick. In the years that have passed none of his releases have had the innovation of immediacy of his debut. 

He also starred in the extremely unnecessary How High 2 alongside DC Young Fly.

In April 2021, Yachty collaborated with the luminaries of Michigan’s rap scene for the commercial mixtape, Michigan Boy Boat. It was full of guests from Detroit and Flint, Michigan, including Tee Grizzley, Baby Smoove, Swae Lee, Rio Da Yung OG, Babyface Ray, Sada Baby and BabyTron.

As you would expect from such a rogues’ gallery, this project contains scores of crime narratives and filthy one-liners. It has a loose feel to it and the best moments typically don’t involve Boat; he can’t really go bar-for-bar with many of his guests, but he’s got serious clout on the Michigan scene and helped to spotlight one of Rap’s more overlooked and original regions.

Yachty’s discography is quite spotty and he felt as though he was fading from relevance until 2022’s monster ‘Poland’. 1 minute and 23 seconds of Yachty’s distorted Auto-Tune warbles about taking the wok to Poland. A super-simple earworm that felt designed for the creators of TikTok.

poland google trends search interest

The track was so popular that Google Trends shows a new search interest peak in November 2022 from the song – for a country with 38 million citizens. Given its highest-ever search interest by a nautical rapper.

Let’s Start Here

Let’s properly dig into Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here, officially his fifth full-length studio album and his first foray outside the Rap genre. This is a trippy Psychedelic Rock journey that touches on Yachty’s favoured themes of overcoming failure, love and transformation. This is probably Lil Yachty’s most serious album, lacking the humour and irreverence that are standard for his raps.

Like with Michigan Boy Boat strategically collaborated with respected figures from the modern Psychedelic and Indie scene. Chairlift’s Patrick Wimberly and Justin Raisen have writing credits on the majority of songs, the album credits also include Magdalena Bay, Mac DeMarco, Alex G, MGMT’s Benjamin Goldwasser, Daniel Caesar and bafflingly Tory Lanez.

Working with such respected figures gives the album a sense of authenticity that might have otherwise been lacking. The live instruments all sound crisp, and the synths on “The Ride” sound majestic and complement the bass perfectly; Teezo Touchdown’s contributions are a fantastic counter-point too.

Yachty’s super pitched-up vocals float effortlessly throughout Let’s Start Here, he gives the instrumental plenty of space at times – fading out for the extended break at the end of “The Black Seminole” one of the highlights of the album. It’s surprising not to hear him Rap at all for the duration of the album.

lil wayne rebirth

It’s tempting to compare Let’s Start Here to Lil Wayne’s much-maligned Rebirth album; in 2010 Wayne was undisputedly the Best Rapper Alive and famously wanted to do a Rock album. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered at the time, but it was aggressively mediocre, it’s hard to craft an authentic Rap album with the likes of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Hit-Boy and Cool & Dre supplying the beats. The project was a draining slog filled with plastic-y guitars and synthetic drum loops.

Rebirth is seen as the go-to example of a rapper trying new things with disastrous results, it still shocks me that Lil Wayne created something so average during his prime. The emotional core of the album, “I’ll Die for You” was nowhere near as sentimental as “Prostitute Flange” – a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Lil Wayne - Prostitute Flange Lyrics

The strongest influences on Let’s Start Here come from Pink Floyd – see: the mournful guitars and haunting female vocals on “The Black Seminole”. Moreover, Tame Imapala’s Currents is a clear inspiration, not just from both albums being risky departures from both artist’s previous sounds. “Say Something” creeping bassline, understated synths and Hip-Hop inspired drum pattern feel positively Kevin Parker-esq.

After Yachty’s lean-inspired ‘Poland’ where he publicly renounced his previous sober lifestyle, there are several drug references throughout the album. “I’ve Officially Lost Vision!!!!” being the most overt with the chorus of ‘I did way too much drugs, I’ve been swirlin’ and spinnin’”. The opening is pure Hard Rock and contrasts what was heard before with it’s intense and unsettling guitars and feels like the end of a bad trip, before an abrupt transition into Diana Gordon’s soothing vocals.


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“The Zone” is another highlight with its Funk-inspired groove and Yachty simply opening up about his feelings of loneliness, the texture of his voice gives the track increased sensitivity.

“Drive Me Crazy!” is a duet with Diana Gordon, one of three times she appears on the project, a chilled Neo-Soul ballad. Both artists sing about the issues in their relationship and the causes of the friction between them. It transitions wonderfully into “I’ve Officially Lost Vision!!!!” where Gordon reappears to provide a contrast with Yachty’s emotions.

Let’s Start Here, is very well-sequenced with tracks fading into each other nicely, again showing the care Lil Yachty put into the album as an overall experience. It doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking within the modern Psychedelic Rock genre, but neither did the well-received Temples debut. Yachty should be commended for taking such a considerable risk with his career and pulling off such an enjoyable album. He approached it the right way and the gamble paid off.

Let’s Start Here is an authentic Psychedelic Rock album, Yachty’s insistence on live instrumentation and strict adherence to the tropes of the genre ensure the project’s quality. This doesn’t feel like a bored rapper looking to try something new, but a well-crafted Rock album performed by a rapper. It’s one of the best albums of 2023 already. 

7 Sunseeker Yachts out of 10

Host of Culture Hash, writer of music, TV and film opinions

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