Written by: TC
If you’re a hip-hop head, you’re probably pretty aware of the quasi civil war between old-school boom-bap enthusiasts and new age trap artists (diminutively referred to as “mumble rap”). Hip-hop purists claim newer artists such as Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti and Lil Yachty have defaced and dumbed down rap music with their releases. The younger artists fire back that these complaints are just from, old haters whose time has passed. This argument has come to the forefront due to a somewhat recent episode of Complex’s Everyday Struggle program. On that episode, hip hop veteran Joe Budden took Lil Yachty to task for not knowing what a 360 deal is. He went on to castigate him about his seeming lack of knowledge of the music industry. That has become a common criticism of younger artists in the game. Rappers that have deals with multiple labels, multiple manager meaning multiple hands in their pockets. In response, these young cats just reply their critics are jealous haters who envy their success.
By far, the main complaint is the actual content and delivery of newer artists like Yachty. Let’s discuss this in regards to Lil Yachty’s debut album, Teenage Emotions. “Like A Star” is the first track off the album and with its poppy and polished sounds, it has much more in common with something Coldplay would release than any sort of traditional hip-hop. This may be another schism between older hip hop fans and new school artists. Many new artists aren’t influenced by the so-called exalted master of hip-hop (Big, Pac, Nas etc). Many of them take more influence from rock acts (Marilyn Manson, Slipknot) or emo than anything you would have on Rap City back in 1994. Hell, quite a few newer artists don’t even call themselves rappers or MCs, they call themselves rockstars. Quite a bit of the material on Teenage Emotions really couldn’t be classified as hip hop at all. Yachty makes a few attempts at 80’s synth pop. He fails on the over the top, super cheesy “Bring it Back” but he is able to competently create a song in that style on “Running With a Ghost”. Yachty even attempts an EDM crossover track with Diplo on “Forever Young”, that track falls short as well. In the midst of these genre mashups, Yachty seems to try to attempt straight forward rap on tracks like “DN Freestyle” and “Dirty Mouth. To be honest, he just doesn’t sound convincing when he tries to spit bars. His flow is all over the place like a rollercoaster, he comes up with some pretty embarrassing lines like this atrocity that shows up on Peekaboo, “my new bitch yellow/she blow that dick like a cello”….nah bruh, just nah. Also on some songs, he tries to get gangsta and there’s even some mention of gunplay which just isn’t credible, when rapped by a young kid that looks like Mase wearing a Raggedy Ann wig. No one believes that you have ever or will ever blamm toast at anyone so why even perpetrate? Yachty shines when he sticks his sing songy Autotuned melodies on songs like “Harley” and “All Around Me”. As elementary as they can be, these songs are catchy earworms that can even have the most rugged Timberland and fitted cap hearing cat humming along. These are the type of songs that got him attention and got him on numerous national TV commercials. That’s his lane and he needs to stick to it.
Teenage Emotions has a few highlights but overall it feels very confused and uneven. There are way too many songs for the listener to digest in one sitting and honestly this isn’t the type of record that you really would want to sit down with and break down like that. It just feels like he tried to prove something to the Joe Buddens of the game that he is a legitimate MC. When in reality, he isn’t and there’s honestly nothing wrong with that. He is the self proclaimed “King of the Teens” and the kids love his style of hip hop informed pop music. To be honest, I feel a lot of people wouldn’t be so angry at these newer artists if they just accepted these kids aren’t trying to continue the hip-hop tradition. They just want to make catchy songs for young kids to bop with, fall in love to and wild out with. Spitting a hot 16 over rugged drums isn’t something that’s appealing to most young listeners, music tastes and sensibilities change. In the 90’s, I remember stuff like Whodini or Kurtis Blow seeming corny as hell when I’m sure those cats have the club rockin back in 84.
Forever changes and so on and so forth. Let the kids play.