Album Review: Lil Yachty – Let’s Start Here.

[Quality Control Music; 2023]

Lil Yachty‘s 83-second “joke” single “Poland” was the song of 2022, sending waves through Eastern Europe, and the rest of the world, and helped everyone remember how the Wok finally made it to Warsaw. If anyone was expecting the enigmatic performer to follow up with a traditional trap record, they’ll be highly disappointed coming into his new album Let’s Start Here..

The album opens with “the BLACK seminole.” and instantly Lil Yachty captains the lil boat into a kaleidoscopic ocean of 60s nostalgia. Imagine Jefferson Airplane raised on a healthy diet of Naruto or Creedence Clearwater Revival, licked on lean. A six-minute track from a trap artist is unheard of, but Yachty commands the space like Hendrix did the Stratocaster. Weirdly, his voice fits perfectly with fuzzy riffs and lazy Pink Floyd-esque drums. The YouTube mashup artists must be kicking themselves over this one.

Following track “the ride-” continues very much in the same vein but is less epic and transformative, being more of a syrupy pop ballad much like Innervision-era Tame Impala. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Kevin Parker had a part to play in any of this. Next track “running out of time” is more phonk inspired but is still pop gloriousness. The synergy of male and female vocals with springy, oscillating 80s synths is very Daebull but at times it could also be akin to Irmin Schmidt improvising over an early J Dilla beat.

Mid-album highlight “drive ME crazy!” starts off like a classic Marvin Gaye hit before sultry female vocals lift us into an iridescent sea of grooving currents. This is all before a breakdown that even Grand Funk Railroad would be proud of, which is layered with Yachty’s soft raps informing us he’s never been a simp. 

This is followed up by another stand-out “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!!” – who knows what the title means, but the track is so eclectic. We begin with echoed screams that are reminiscent of a bad trip delivered over a scratched vinyl choral sample, all guiding us uncomfortably down a helter skelter. We reach the bottom and the rumbling guitars start crescendoing in a psych groove that helps you remember the first time you took too many shrooms. Yachty screams “I did way too much drugs I’ve been swirling and spinning” a couple of times and then riffs like John Lennon at his best and highest. It’s not over yet – there’s another crescendo before an Alicia Keys-esque breakdown that then seamlessly segues back into a Revolver jive where Yachty ups the ante and channels Henry Rollins – but yapping about peyote rather than politics.

While opinions will certainly be divided on Let’s Start Here., it’s undeniable that a rapper hasn’t committed so impressively and effortlessly to a rock genre since Kid Cudi’s Nirvana-inspired Speeding Bullet to Heaven. If anyone was going to do something this unexpected it was going to be Yachty. Expect a swathe of copy cats hereafter – not too unlike the aftermath of Yachty’s previous releases.