"Am I the only one who really care about cover art?" rapped the free-thinking, drug-free Lil Yachty in 2016 on the final verse of Chance the Rapper's "Mixtape." Yachty had arrived just two months prior with his commercial debut mixtape Lil Boat, appearing on the cover adrift at sea in a red lifeboat, the same color as his hair and overalls.
He was the first genre rules-rebuking alien in a rap game that's been increasingly populated by misfits since his arrival. Riding jovial production from TheGoodPerry that can be best described as Dragon Tales trap, the then-18-year-old Yachty created viral, high-pitched jams like "1Night" and "Minnesota" in which a youthful aura permeated throughout.
Two years and one rather unsuccessful studio album (Teenage Emotions) later, the now-20-year-old Atlanta native is searching for musical purpose on Lil Boat 2. At 17 tracks and almost 45 minutes in length, Lil Boat 2 is Yachty's most reigned-in and complete project to date. With sharpened 16's and a salt sprinkle of his once-overdone falsetto crooning, Lil Boat 2 extends Yachty's stay of relevancy in a world marked with his fingerprints.
Lil Boat 2 opens in celebration with the Charlie Shuffler-produced "SELF MADE." Yachty's hook includes a smile-inducing reference to "Chain Hang Low," the Jibbs track that was released when Yachty himself was just EIGHT FREAKING YEARS OLD.
"Bought myself a chain, kept it short 'cause I ain't Jibbs," says Yachty before bragging a little more. "She gon' let me fuck, she like that 'Lil Boat' adlib."
Yet Lil Boat 2 shows that Yachty wants to be known as something more than just an identifiable ad-libber (even if Curren$y didn't catch the message).
On the four tracks following "SELF MADE," Yachty holds his own alongside features from Tee Grizzley ("GET MONEY BROS."), 2 Chainz ("OOPS") and Quality Control label-mate Quavo ("TALK TO ME NICE").
"Had the same gang since the playpen," raps Yachty on "TALK TO ME NICE" before referencing a hockey-masked killer. "Neck crystal lake, no Jason."
Those who crave the aforementioned Dragon Tales trap that propelled Yachty to prominence are treated with the two-track stretch from the PnB Rock-featured "she ready" (which I admittedly enjoyed despite being wholeheartedly #TeamBasedGod) to "love me forever." On the latter, Yachty's lyrics seem aimed not at a lover, but at those consuming his music.
"Love me today, love me forever," sings Yachty over Buddah Bless production. "Ride with me, bae, ridin' forever."
Though his presence in pop culture has been constant since his arrival, the discussion and reaction to his music is perennially fickle. Depending on who's talking, Yachty is either a troll, a genius, a meme or a mainstay. The conversation is happening and at least for now, with Lil Boat 2 set to be devoured and debated, it will continue.