Lil Yachty’s ‘Let’s Start Here’: A welcomed surprise


Lil Yachty released his newest album, “Let’s Start Here” on Jan. 27. (Nicolas Padovani/wikimedia commons)

Joe Baske, Contributing Writer

In Lil Yachty’s five-or-so years in the hip-hop spotlight, there’s nothing you can find in the mumble-rap aficionado’s discography that will quite prepare you for “Let’s Start Here,” his new 14-track alternative rock album released on Jan. 27.

From Lil Wayne’s disastrous “Rebirth” album, to Kid Cudi’s “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven,” to everything Machine Gun Kelly has ever done, the relationship between rappers and rock has historically resembled that of silverware and power outlets. It’s reasonable to approach this album with hesitation. In Yachty’s case, though, “Let’s Start Here” is built on a surprisingly stable foundation.

Yachty assembled an all-star cast of production veterans to guide his earliest experiment into the world of alternative sounds, between Grammy-winning songwriter Patrick Wimberly, veteran audio engineer Justin Raisen and a slew of others to assist on the songwriting and production fronts. Yachty’s team made their presence known on just about every track, constructing one of the single best-produced albums in recent memory.

To say that Yachty is overshadowed by the angelic, upbeat instrumentals he performs over isn’t so much an insult to the rapper as it is a compliment to the album’s production, which Yachty also played a part in creating (he has production credits on 12 of the 14 tracks, according to

The album’s production largely features slow, basic drum patterns overlapped against bright, golden synths and bass lines that embrace a vintage ‘70s sound, with the likes of “pRETTY” and “paint THE sky” being the most blatant examples of such an aesthetic being adopted.

Yachty’s feature selection on “Let’s Start Here” is tasteful, but far from overwhelming, although most outshine Yachty’s mediocre and mumbled vocal performances. In an impressive display of controlled chaos, Diana Gordon’s anguished vocals on the back half of “the BLACK seminole” sound as close to strained screaming as a voice can while still maintaining a level of melodic clarity.

One track later, Texas rapper Teezo Touchdown’s melodic emo sound is infused with Yachty’s laid-back cadence on the chorus of the ride — another one of the album’s highlights.

Most features are given minimal time to shine throughout the album, merely serving as garnishes to reinforce Yachty’s artistic vision. Although that’s not to say Yachty remains loyal to this rule all throughout. On “drive ME crazy!”, Gordon is gifted the entire first verse and with it delivers the single strongest vocal performance on the album. The verse only sounds all the more impressive once juxtaposed with Yachty’s dry performance that immediately follows, during which he sounds more like an amateur vocalist half-heartedly singing along to Gordon’s song in the shower than he does someone who’s supposed to do this professionally.

Yachty’s best individual moments come on the hooks, during which he reaffirms his well-established status as a professional hit-maker. The choruses of “pRETTY,” “the ride” and “drive ME crazy!” will be playing on repeat in the heads of listeners for days after first hearing them.

When he first introduced his album during a listening party on Jan. 26, Yachty expressed his desire “to be taken seriously as an artist,” as revealed by Pitchfork in its review of the album. For a man who spent the early half of his 20s as the poster boy for the skyrocketing mumble rap movement, this sentiment is impressively mature and introspective, and could indicate further ambitious developments being present in the artists’ future sound.

“Let’s Start Here” is far from a perfect record, but it’s also not supposed to be. Instead, as its title indicates, it’s an experimental beginning to an intriguing musical journey of a post-revelation Yachty. In an industry that almost incentivizes artists to regurgitate the same tired sound, the rappers’ willingness to reject such sentiments in the pursuit of a more uncertain path puts him well above the vast majority of the class of rowdy, antics-driven rappers he rose to prominence alongside.

In essence, although it has its highs, there’s not a whole lot that exists between the covers of “Let’s Start Here” that is particularly revolutionary or exciting. Instead, its best qualities come in everything it represents: the industry’s large-scale adoption of throwback ‘70s sounds, the mature development of Yachty’s art and the intriguing career trajectory this album puts him on.