For those expecting an album that completely revolutionises music, akin to Mozart, Bach, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc., please look elsewhere. For those expecting a fun, innovative rap album that provides a new style to an arguably often stale genre, look no further than the new Lil Yachty album, Teenage Emotions. The follow-up to impressive debut mixtape Lil Boat may not be as solid musically as the former, but Lil Yachty has proved his versatility, which maybe be what keeps him relevant in the rap scene for years to come.
Despite a myriad of senseless lyrics, (“She blow my d*** like a cello”, “You stinky and dirty like farts”, “I’m not gay but I love Ben Franklin”) the album is a great companion to Lil Boat, with the narrative of Darnelle Boat telling a story of Lil Yachty and Lil Boat, his two nephews of whom Lil Yachty takes the personality of on alternating tracks throughout the album. Lil Yachty is often the target of old school rap fans, claiming that Yachty’s style is ruining the genre completely, which is heavily uncalled for. What sets Lil Yachty apart from every other rapper today is the unique voice, unrivalled instrumentation and an upbeat, happy vibe provided in every song.
An attractive feature in an album is a solid opening and closing track. The opening track, “Like A Star”, is a warm song that sees the Lil Yachty persona take over. Yachty talks about his mother on the bouncy, spacey track. If Yachty wanted to, he could promote friendly, clean-cut, straight edge rap music, which would probably lose him so credibility from critics of the genre and rap veterans, but would play well for radio plays and with family matters. However, despite not talking about doing drugs or drinking alcohol, Yachty seems to be very vivid about his love for intercourse with many women, a trait that might not see him becoming the family friendly rapper as proposed. Following along with the theme of split personalities, the song “DN Freestyle” is much more abrasive and hard-hitting, signifying that the man performing the song is Lil Boat. Whether or not the song is actually a freestyle remains the be seen, but the song still flows hard and bounces off the backing track perfectly.
The third song on the tape and first released single from the album, “Peek a Boo”, garnered a lot of attention (and not in a good way) for its deservedly chastised line, “She blow my d*** like a cello”. Aside from the corny, simplistic and factually incorrect lyrics, the annoying chorus, the tedious flow, the drilling instrumentation and the fact that Lil Yachty’s drawl did not accompany this song well at all, the Migos’ verses were enjoyable. “Dirty Mouth” was a very similar song to “Peek a Boo”, two hard-hitting songs that fell moderately flat. “Harley”, another single from the album, returns to the Lil Yachty persona. While “Harley” is another upbeat, fun song with a pacey trap-infused beat, the lyrics again let Yachty down. In spite of this, lyricism shouldn’t really be expected when listening to a Lil Yachty album. One of the best songs on the album, “All Around Me” featuring YG and Kamaiyah, is the catchiest and most Lil Boat-esque song released since Lil Boat itself. Yachty finds one of his best flows on this song, but the terrible Kamaiyah verse brings the songs appeal down slightly. Fortunately, YG picks up the slack and regains this song to an above average track.
“Say My Name” and “All You Had To Say” are real median points of the album, not being good enough to be considered great, but not being terrible either. A truly heart-warming experience comes in the form of “Better”. A very relaxed song that reminds the listener of things that they hold close to them, like moments with friends, summer, roadtrips, etc. “Better” is closely followed by another great song, “Forever Young”. Surprisingly produced by Diplo, the electronic instrumentals sound great with the reverb on Lil Yachty’s voice. “Lady in Yellow” is almost a rock song with its grungey atmosphere, lo-fi instrumentation and slapping drums, again proving the versatility that Yachty brings to the table. However, it is again a case of lazy lyricism. Not only did he reuse a previous rhyme, (yellow/fellow, also used in “Peek a Boo”) but rest of the song is sort of waffling around various things that have no real correlation.
A pattern starts to form when another singing song, “Moments in Time” presents itself as a creative and enjoyable song. The pattern emerging seems to be that the less rap-orientated songs are the more enjoyable ones. The exception to this rule is the following song, “X Men”. The best of the released singles featuring a very Playboi Carti sounding Evander Griiim, while again lacking in substantial lyrics, is an aggressive trap song that enforces a sense of chaos, something not usually found in a Lil Yachty song.
A song that stirred a bit of controversy on the internet was the Eighties inspired ditty, “Bring It Back”. The controversy spurred through internet forums, causing a head to head war over the decency of the song. Objectively, the song is a fun dance song that gives a little bit of jive into the listener’s body. The song “Running With A Ghost” is a slight mismatch, seemingly more of a song likened to the Yachty persona was portrayed by the Lil Boat persona. Grace’s singing is on point on the song, however. “FYI (Know Now)” is a funny, potent song sending shots at Lil Yachty’s enemies. “Priorities” is an interesting song about Yachty’s high school priorities. Choosing to focus on cheating on his girlfriends and writing raps as opposed to doing tests or exams, Yachty realises that his priorities are not in order, but he doesn’t intend on conforming to social norms anytime soon.
The next two tracks of the album are kind of disappointing, sadly. “No More” and “Made Of Glass” respectively, are all more relaxed songs that don’t bring much to the table as far as innovation goes, which evaluates that the album was potentially a bit longer than what it should’ve been. The final track is adorable, but like many songs on the album, it sparked controversy from oldheaded rap fans and older rappers. On Joe Budden’s show, he criticized Lil Yachty’s style as “too happy”, saying that “loving your mom is not real hip-hop”. The song “Momma” is a cute tribute to every boy’s best friend, his birthgiver.
Ideally, an album of this genre and style should really be only twelve to fourteen tracks long, otherwise some songs gain a ‘filler song’ label, like “No More” or “Say My Name”. When Teenage Emotions hits, it hits hard, but it also flops hard too. The comment that Lil Yachty isn’t hip-hop is objectively untrue. While he may be hip-hop currently, if he really wanted to make a friendly album that played well to older or ‘purity driven’ rap fans, he’d focus more on the R&B and pop style trap songs that were so prominent on this album.
In the context of the narrative, Lil Yachty certainly has a distinct one up on his relative Lil Boat. Overall, the album lived up to the expectations of many, regardless of how high those expectations were set. The album is very polarising in the fact that one will either love it or hate it, but the highs outweigh the lows by a lot, meaning the album is a substantial debut for a name that will be around for a while, like it or not.
Review Score: 7.3/10
Teenage Emotions is out now.