Review: Lil Yachty’s Trippy “Let’s Start Here” is a Polarizing, Engaging Listen

Guest writer Evan Schwartz shares his thoughts one of the hottest hip-hop releases of the last month.

One of the hottest topics in music recently has been Lil Yachty’s new album, Let’s Start Here. Anyone and everyone has been ready to share their opinion on the polarizing project. Some have already declared it the Blonde of the 2020s, whereas others are waiting to see how the EP ages.  Famed Roots drummer and music encyclopedia ?uestlove (Questlove) took to Instagram to praise Lil Boat and went as far to call Let’s Start Here, “the most surprising transition of any music career I’ve witnessed in a min, especially under the umbrella of hip hop. After the viral single “Poland,” nobody could have expected Yachty to drop a ‘psychedelic alternative project,’ as he put it. Let’s Start Here is a true name for the work. It feels as though Yachty said, let’s forget the “Lil Boat” trilogy, and focus on this as a starting point instead. On the second track of the album, “the ride-”, Yachty tells us “don’t ask no questions on the ride.” While he is likely referring to a psychedelic trip, I think this is the best way to go about listening to the album. Just soak it all up and do not ask questions. 

Let’s Start Here serves as a follow up to the 2021 mixtape Birthday Mix 6, however the two are dissimilar in every way. The direction of Yachty’s new album is so surprising and seemed to come out of nowhere. The project took Lil Boat six months to make. However, he sat on the finished product for about a year and half. It’s clear that Yachty was inspired working with the likes of Tame Impala on the Breathe Deeper Remix for The Slow Rush B-Sides and possibly even playing online Rock Band on his XBox 360 during the pandemic as the album features, as he put it, “all live instrumentation.” 

Now let’s talk about the music. From the first song, “the BLACK seminole.,” it is clear that this album is going to destroy any preconceived ideas about what a Lil Yachty album could be. The first half of the song sounds like it could be something Kevin Parker had written down for the previously mentioned The Slow Rush. The guitar that kicks in around the 2:30 mark of the opening track is excellent, especially following the trippy vocals from Yachty. It serves as a beautiful transition to the second half of the song, that features some vocals that are probably best understood on potent psychedelics, but are engaging nonetheless. 

The spoken word interlude “:(failure(:”  is a representation of how mature Lil Yachty is, especially for someone who has been famous since they were just coming out of high school. The fifth track gives the listener a peek into how Yachty minimizes his anxiety by being a glass-half-full human being. He even says, “say if I lose a finger I’d be like, ‘Well, I still have nine’.” I think that is a valuable takeaway from the album. Not necessarily to not panic if you chop off a finger, but to be appreciative of what’s there. This mentality can be applied to analyzing Let’s Start Here. Although at times it feels like perhaps Yachty’s vocals may be lessening the songs’ overall quality, we can just focus on the incredible instrumentals instead. As many have declared, this album is the “Dark Side Of The Moon for Gen-Z”, but others have said that this album is only being discussed because it came from a rapper. We have to ignore the extremes in both directions. 

Psychedelic drugs are a theme throughout the album. Yachty elaborated on the role they play in an interview with “The Midnight Gospel” visionary Duncan Trussell on the Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast. To ensure the album worked, Boat says he would record everything sober, and then take high amounts of LSD after recording sessions to double check that the songs hit how he wanted. He calls this “testing it”. The album feels as though Yachty is walking you through one of his many trips.

The album’s climax is in the ninth track (and my favorite) “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!”. This song feels like the moment Yachty’s trip has reached its peak and he is unsure if he will be able to escape the ‘mental prison’ the drugs have pushed him into. However, even with this, it does not feel like he regrets his choice to consume one of the hundreds of LSD strips from his trays, also referenced on the podcast. This creates a really interesting feeling around the song, one that can only be found by “tapping into the void,” as Yachty puts it. Something I had not considered until I went and listened to old Yachty interviews and heard him speak about his experiences is that there is an honesty in the production of the album. The sincerity of songs like “WE SAW THE SUN!” and “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!” from purely an energy aspect, appear to capture how Yachty feels in the most intense moments of a psychedelic trip, which should be greatly appreciated when considering Let’s Start Here

While Let’s Start Here may not be the generational album that many called it the day it dropped, or the poor take on a 21st century Pink Floyd album, it’s definitely somewhere in between. The categorization of the album is unimportant. What is important is that engaging new music has been given to us and has us believing that an artist can successfully tap into a new genre, breaking out of any box we put them into. Yachty has recently said that all he wanted was to be respected as an artist and with Let’s Start Here, he has certainly earned that acclaim.

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