‘Let’s Start Here’ is a reset for Lil Yachty’s sound

Lil Yachty reinvents his sound in “Let’s Start Here,” but his lyrics show that old habits die hard.


Aaliya Luthra

Lil Yachty’s newest psychedelic-rock album features 14 tracks including “the BLACK seminole.” and “The Alchemist.”(Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

Sandy Battulga, Music Editor

Since the release of hit singles “One Night” and “Minnesota,” Lil Yachty has based his lucrative musical career on mumble rap, a genre often defined by its simple rhymes and prevalence on SoundCloud. Lil Yachty — whose real name is Miles Park McCollum — has maintained that being known as a SoundCloud rapper is not enough for him. 

“I’m not a rapper — I’m an artist,” he said to The New York Times in a 2016 interview. “And I’m more than an artist. I’m a brand.” 

In his new album “Let’s Start Here,” Lil Yachty breaks out of the constraints of SoundCloud mumble rap once and for all. Sound-wise, the album is rooted in psychedelic rock. The first track, “the BLACK seminole.,” has a reverberating bass line that sweeps across the entire song, providing a syrupy tone that coats the rest of the album. Lil Yachty has cited Pink Floyd as a major inspiration for this album. This influence is especially evident in “the BLACK seminole.,” which features a virtuosic guitar solo, fast-paced synthesizer melody and epic vocal aria. 

This album experiments with composition and ambient soundscapes in an intriguing way. The fifth track, “:(failure(:,” showcases cavernous drones and guitar chords, over which Lil Yachty speaks, ruminating on failure and what it’s like to be “rich and famous.” The song was written in part by Alex G and Mac DeMarco, so it has a psychedelic and almost spiritual sound. For every serene moment in “Let’s Start Here,” however, “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!” is a track filled with the chaos to match. The song touches on classical music, glitch music, hard rock and R&B — all within its runtime of just over five minutes. The song ends with an air of calm though, with a minute-long recording of a person walking outside, while a string section plays a meditative composition. “Let’s Start Here” leaves no stone unturned, exhibiting varying levels of intensity and pacing that make the album a feast for the ears.

Although the diversity of sound in the album is exciting and original, its lyrical content doesn’t break away from the mumble rap mold nearly as much as it could. Lil Yachty is known for his music’s refreshingly youthful and goofy perspective, but this lyric construction strategy seems out of place amid the more mature and developed sonic environment he established in “Let’s Start Here.” The album has the beginnings of a more introspective and thoughtful reflection on his life compared to his previous work, but Lil Yachty’s muscle memory of writing simple rhymes that revel in adolescence seems to overtake the full realization of a truly contemplative tone. 

“The Alchemist,” for example, is the second to last track, and it depicts two different characters: one cocky and one vulnerable. Lil Yachty returns to his background in mumble rap, energetically delivering lines like, “No need to brag, but I knew that I was built for this / I know now that most men would kill for this / Seamlessly, I walk around infamous” and “Papa made a young pimp, I’m outside / Southside, tote a shank, I’ma up rank / Lemonade pink seats in a fish tank.” These verses ooze the positivity that Lil Yachty is known for, providing a familiar tone to fans that were originally attracted to the artist because of his easy confidence. In between the rapper’s verses, though, R&B singer Fousheé provides a different attitude, softly singing, “It feels good / Don’t need no harm, this for shits and giggles / My taxes in on time” and “​​Up on my cloud / My feet don’t touch the ground / Don’t try to shoot me down / I’m only a human / It’s my first go ’round in this thing.” She articulates sentiments that Lil Yachty doesn’t usually associate himself with such as sensitivity and domesticity. This song offers listeners insight, if brief, into the Lil Yachty behind the curated brand he has built around himself. 

Most of the songs on the album revolve around a boyish infatuation with women, like in “WE SAW THE SUN!” Once again, the instrumentation is what keeps the listener’s attention. A hypnotic guitar introduces the track, and Lil Yachty’s voice is fragmented into a rhythmic accompaniment. The song ends with a snippet of Bob Ross speaking: “Just let your imagination run wild, let your heart be your guide / In the time you sit around worrying about it and trying to plan a painting, you could’ve completed a painting already.” But the lyrics of this track don’t measure up against the complexities of its composition. Lil Yachty’s verses are juvenile, still reflecting his past projects: “Few more drops up on your tongue / At night, too many that can’t be undone / Head spun, meanwhile, you’re done / Had a little too much fun / I cannot stop touching you / This just took my high to the moon.” 

Despite the lack of development in his lyricism, Lil Yachty has showcased incredible dexterity in shaping this album’s sonic landscape. The last track of “Let’s Start Here” indicates that more complex lyrics may be on the way. “REACH THE SUNSHINE” features Daniel Caesar, who starts the song off with an interpolation of Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song.” “Staring in the mirror and what do I see? / A three-eyed man staring back at me / Two for the flesh and one for the soul / But where did man go? I’m tryna fill that hole,” the song drones. The track ends on the fourth note of the scale instead of the tonic, so it leaves the track — and the album — unresolved. The listener walks away craving more, but thankfully — as the title of this album suggests — this new era of Lil Yachty is just getting started.

Contact Sandy Battulga at [email protected].