Lil Yachty is pressing restart. “Let’s Start Here” is his fifth studio album and as the name implies, it marks the beginning of a new era — one that came out of nowhere. Last autumn, Yachty released his hit single “Poland,” which he described as “just trolling.” “Poland” is addictively jarring and hypnotically catching — and it leaves the listener wanting more. But “Let’s Start Here” is a departure from “Poland,” infusing psychedelic rock with soul. The end result is an abrupt pivot away from “Poland” or “Lil Boat,” and, despite a few rough edges, was a genre-transcending mishmash that shows off Yachty’s versatility.
The album starts off with a bang with “the BLACK seminole.,” featuring lush guitars and Yachty’s autotuned singing. While Auto-Tune sometimes gets a bad rap, I found that it complimented the instrumentals of the song. Yachty uses his vocals to paint a picture of the Black Seminoles, an Afro-Indigenous group comprised of descendants of Seminole people and freed slaves. Yachty meticulously crafts this scene as a metaphor to discuss his coming-of-age, which is paralleled by the gradual evolution of his sound. It’s a soulful start to the album, setting itself apart from Yachty’s past work right away.
Yachty continues his metaphorical storytelling on “the ride-” where he likens his fame to a terrifying ride, singing on the chorus “Don't ask no questions on the ride/ Making eye contact is suicide/ When I'm alone with my thoughts, I'm terrified/ that's why I need you here, just by my side.” The guitars once again carry the song to enormous heights, and the chorus makes for a catchy earworm. The following song “running out of time” sees Yachty and Justine Skye opt for a more pop-oriented sound. Except for the anthemic chorus, Yachty’s vocals here don’t mesh particularly well with the guitars.
My favorite song on this album, hands down, is “pRETTy.” As soon as you press play, the most magical instrumentals leave your speakers, granting free real estate for one of the most euphoric songs to reside in your head for life. The chorus capitalizes on the trippy autotuned vocals that distinguished “Poland,” with Fousheé’s hypnotic vocals complementing it in the end.
It should be clear that this album’s greatest strong suit is its instrumentals. That’s not to say that the vocals or lyricism are bad, because nothing could be further from the truth. However, the tracks where the instrumentals take a backseat are the weaker tracks of the album. For example, “:(failure(:” operates more as a spoken word piece, despite being produced by as accomplished a musician as Mac DeMarco. What Yachty says on the track isn’t particularly groundbreaking; he speaks about the power of perspective in one’s own situations: “When someone broke into my house I felt like someone certainly needed more than I did, these things are replaceable,” he croons. I think poverty is a little more complicated than that.
He concludes the track by preaching that failure is not a negative thing, but rather something that should motivate you. That sounds like the type of thing you’d see on a poster at your grandma’s house. There are many factors of failure and setbacks that go beyond wealth and fame, so I’m not sure that this message is necessarily universal.
So I do think that the album grinds to a halt when Yachty lets the instrumentals take a backseat. Luckily, however, that rarely happens. “Let’s Start Here” allows itself to experiment, resulting in energizing songs like “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!” and psychedelic-soul bangers like “sAy sOMETHINg.” Daniel Caesar’s vocals fit perfectly on the final track, “REACH THE SUNSHINE,” allowing the album to end on a definite high note.
I love when artists go outside of their comfort zone because such projects allow artists to create their most impactful work. Being largely unfamiliar with the genre of psychedelic rock, “Let’s Start Here” provides me with the perfect starting point, and I’m sure the same can be said about many other listeners. Yachty truly created something special with this project, and if “Let’s Start Here” is just the beginning, then I am very excited to see where he ends up.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.