3.0 / 5.0
There’s something about Lil Yachty that has always angered hip-hop purists. For one, his vocal delivery is distinctly monotonous which can give off the impression that Yachty is terminally bored on the microphone. His bright red dreads and effeminate dress sense have also made him an easy target with Yachty looking a lot softer than Atlanta counterparts such as, say, Migos and Future. But it’s the 21-year-old’s passionate commitment to making cheesy, soft-spoken, auto-tune-driven rap (a style Yachty himself describes as “bubblegum trap”) tunes while dismissing hardcore lyricists such as the Notorious B.I.G. in interviews that has most angered hip hop purists (Hello Joe Budden).
On his third studio album, Nuthin’ 2 Prove, Yachty appears to have taken this criticism to heart with the record sounding a lot darker than the lighter, sing-song-rap sound we’ve become accustomed to–a decision that could very well alienate Lil Yachty’s day one fans. On the opener “Gimme My Respect,” Yachty has a sharp, aggressive tone more reminiscent of 21 Savage than the fun pop star behind breakout hits such as “One Night,” “Shoot Out The Roof” and “Minnesota,” as he makes violent threats to enemies, boasts about sleeping in $12k-per-night hotel rooms and authoritatively claims: “I started this new wave rap shit / give me my respect!”
This aggressive style continues on the rousing “I’m The Mac” and over the minimalist drums of “We Outta Here,” where a tone deaf Yachty ignorantly raps: “Hey, your boyfriend is a maggot/ probably is a faggot.” There isn’t anything particularly bad about these songs, it’s just a shame they sound a million miles away from the goofy Lil Yachty raps some of us fell in love with. It’s as if Yachty is working overtime to erase the soft image he has cultivated. Yachty’s debut solo record Teenage Dreams featured two young men kissing on its front cover, a bold move that showed he was moving against the grain of the homophobic culture that exists within US rap, yet here he is only a few years later throwing out the ‘f’ word like it’s nothing—there’s a sense Yachty is trying so hard to fit in with the more sinister street trap sound of his Atlanta counterparts that he’s prepared to sacrifice the woke silliness that made him stand out in the first place.
One of the highlights here is “Who Want The Smoke” where Cardi B raps like it’s “Bodak Yellow” part two and Offset’s rapid-fire flow reminds us why he might just be the best thing about the Migos right now. The thumping Tay Keith beat-which is built around an atmospheric organ sample that sounds like it’s been lifted from a classic 1980s horror-is also made for late night car rides. But there’s something bizarre about hearing Lil Yachty asking “Who wants the smoke?” and rapping misogynistic bars such as: “Is you fuckin?/ Baby girl I need to know/ Who finna run get the rubbers from the store?” Yachty’s dorky, nasally vocals just don’t sound particularly convincing when he plays the part of the horny, gangster rapper. On “Want The Smoke,” in particular, he sounds like he an unwelcome guest on his own album.
Yachty sounds most comfortable when the record strays into the more laid back, pop-inflected territory of “Stoney,” “Fallin’ In Love” and the self-consciously cheesy “Everything Good, Everything Right”–three tracks that sound like the real Yachty. His best performance as a rapper comes on Yacht Club, where Yachty trades mischievous bars with Juice World (case in point: “I’m a young king/ I might fuck Alexis Texas/ but I ain’t on no Drake shit/ I won’t get her pregnant”). However, you sense Lil Yachty is an artist more comfortable playfully singing rather than spitting these kind of raps, and the record is a lot stronger when its creator does the former rather than the latter. It isn’t a coincidence, for example, that the Faith-Evans sampling “Forever World (with an on-form Trippie Redd) is one of the highlights of Nuthin’ 2 Prove; its soft, R&B-tinged goodness sounding a lot more authentic than Yachty rapping about killing people or stunting in a Maybach.
Nuthin’ 2 Prove isn’t a disaster, it’s got several songs that will make you reach for the replay button—it just isn’t a great reflection of its creator’s goofy personality. I’m sure Yachty set out to show evolution in his sound, but unfortunately he has ended up sounding like pretty much everybody else. In the future, Yachty needs to embrace his supposed annoyingness and understand that irritating hip-hop purists such as Joe Budden isn’t necessarily a negative but more proof he’s pushing the right buttons and taking hip-hop culture into a fresh direction. With his next project, Yachty should return to the bubblegum trap sound that made him turn heads in the first place because without it, he just sounds like he’s chasing shadows.