Review Zone: Lil Yachty’s risk pays off with new album ‘Let’s Start Here.’

A drawing based on the cover of Lil Yachty's new album “Let’s Start Here.” Seven people sit in two rows at a jury desk. They wear colorful suits, but their faces are distorted.
(Sasha Matthews • The Student Life)

Lil Yachty, the self-described “bubblegum trap” artist has dropped a new album. The difference? This time, the bubblegum was laced with enough psychedelics to fuel Club Claremont last weekend.

But who even is Lil Yachty? That’s a question that over the past year I’d have had four or five different answers to. A trap artist, the creator of “Lil Boat 1,” “Lil Boat 2, “Lil Boat 3.5” and a range of chart-topping singles, a successful producer — the list goes on and on. But this new album might have created his single greatest and most surprising pivot — his transition to a rockstar on his new album, “Let’s Start Here.”

If you want to get a sense of how revolutionary “Let’s Start Here.” is, listen to “Poland,” the viral hit that Yachty put out in October of 2022, before you listen to the album.

The rockstar aesthetic is not unknown in the hip-hop world — artists from Playboi Carti to Ye have attempted to make it part of their brand — but Yachty makes the musical commitment they never could through his new project, a complex and hit-packed psychedelic rock album.

“Let’s Start Here.” is at its core an inter-genre project. I’m getting hints of old and new hip-hop, jazz, R&B, Motown and, at its core, psychedelic rock. The diverse influences, combined with exceptional production and creative work from Yachty and his team, create an album that is colorful, flavorful, fun, powerful and digestible. The record occupies a special niche where it can be enjoyed by rockheads and modern hip-hop audiences alike, creating opportunities for new musical dialogue. Yachty’s distinct over-tuned voice and impressive range enable a project which showcases a wide range of vocal and instrumental styles. Let’s explore a few tracks, shall we?

“the BLACK seminole.” starts the album off on a strong note, opening with sexy power chords, whooshing synth lines, and of course, Yachty, who sings expressively in and around the instrumentals with his standard auto-tuned and distorted voice. Yachty’s lyrics are familiarly braggadocious at times, referencing himself as “a sex symbol, the Black Seminole,” and at other times shockingly honest: “a Black man with mouths to feed embracing equality throughout greed.” The entire second half of the song is devoted to an extensive instrumental monologue — giving Yachty space to show off his production ability, sneak in a few more power chords and switch up the genre influences in the first two minutes.

“the ride-” sees Yachty immediately switch his tone, adopting bouncy, fluffy synths and a catchy guitar riff over his ever more expressive voice, immediately drawing attention from the listener. This song sees Yachty push his voice to its limits, layering his singing in multiple octaves simultaneously, showing us the clear contrasts in his growly detuned bass and his crooning autotuned tenor. Lyrical contrasts emerge simultaneously — Yachty expresses insecurity absent in the previous track — “when I’m alone with my thoughts I’m terrified/that’s why I need you here by my side.” This track sees the first major feature of the album, from Teezo Touchdown. Teezo’s feature is characteristic of many on the album — he provides his own nuance to the song without overwhelming the vibe, adding just as much as is necessary and then bowing out.

“drive ME crazy!”’ is another totally different track. It has a smooth Motown-inspired groove with a catchy bass line, a jamming drums track, fun strings and some cheesy piano for kicks. The track features an exceptional feature from multi-platinum artist Diana Gordon, who delivers an impactful verse, smoothly romantic and desperate. Her brief duet with Yachty is reminiscent of some Jacob Collier songs, with cute ad-libs and a sing-song melody. Yachty’s lyrics are uniquely playful: “Imagine me/circling through life without a piece of you/seven out of seven days I’m needing you.” The track ends with another constant on this album — a dramatic beat shift to a moody laid-back drum-dominated beat that features the closest thing to rapping Yachty does on the album.

“sAy sOMETHINg” opens with a silky-smooth synth backing track with crystal-clear drums for contrast. Yachty is as over-tuned as ever, floating on top of the beat and drifting in and out of coherence. The bars are uncharacteristically romantic and cheesy: “got me feeling like a teen again / feeling like it’s teenage love / if you feel the same way then say something.” Another beat change drives the song to bright synth chords under a crooning Yachty. “I need your love,” he calls over and over.

“Let’s Start Here.” is a revolutionary project for Yachty. It should take the artist, who has long been regarded as something of a black sheep in the rap community, to a much more recognized place in musical canon. There is an inherent risk in blending so many genres together — there are many examples of these kinds of albums flopping. But “Let’s Start Here.” serves as a great example of why musical dialogue can be so powerful — the unique intersections Yachty explores create fascinating and impactful soundscapes that make for an enjoyable and educational listen for rockheads and hip-hop fans alike.

Rowan Gray CM ’26 is from Sharon, Massachusetts. He wants you to know that all Oxford commas in this piece were violently deleted by his copy editors.


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