A Journey of Respect with Lil Yachty


Words by Matthew Spence:

While most hero journeys would result in Lifetime films, comic book movies, and decades’ worth of trauma so strong that the three generations down in your bloodline would need therapy based on the stress you had. This hero journey is more of a less depressing episode of Behind the Music. Take away the capes and masks and replace them with VVS Diamonds and Joe Buddens Temper. Kids, gather around with your snacks, because I’m gonna tell you about the tale of Captain Boatington. If you’re good during this, we’ll watch 20 minutes of Monsters, Inc.



The underdog/triumph story isn’t new, and the redemption arc isn’t. It dates so far back that writing this page collected so much ancient dust that I had to blow off, that Weezy would pity me.

Still from Toy Story 2


Yet, it’s platinum to us for a reason: we love seeing people overcome the odds, even though, ironically, many of us are the ones who put them in that position (directly or indirectly, regarding creatives). People who are put in a box, doubted, and limited to only a few expectations. But with a big middle finger, they’d surpass the ceiling put above them. In the “I Told You So” Hall of Fame includes plenty of respected names: Radiohead, Beastie Boys, Tyler, the Creator, and a plethora of others. Now, Lil Yachty is battling for a spot for himself. From being one of the biggest breakout stars of the next-gen and a 2016 XXL Freshman (aka the year everyone loves more than their family because, holy shit, you’d think music was invented that year), with his happy trap sound. He had a pulse. We all remember where we were when we heard “One Night” for the first time.



Yet, on the other side, there was a dark cloud with Timbs hanging over him. He was one of the main punching bags of mumble rap. If not, the main punching bag and was an easy target for old heads and backpackers to say, “Hip-Hop is Dead.” The respect level was at an all-time low where “disrespect” would look at him and go, “Damn G, I feel for you.”



Sure, he remained consistent. Kept dropping projects and maintained a dedicated fanbase, let’s not get it twisted he was still fairly popular as fuck. However, there was this stagnation. A sense of “je ne sais quoi” missing. Everyone knew what to go to his music for and left it at that. Turn off your brain and turn the fuck up, in essence.

Enter the 2020s: New decade, new bullshit, new ways to adapt and dodge.

He’s been on a path of evolving in his own respective way. Experimenting and adapting. Me getting all Sherlock Homeboy, I tried to pinpoint where the journey began. On this imaginary chalkboard, I decided to set the catalyst…Right…Here. After the release, his album Lil Boat 3, he’d dial in with the Michigan Hip-Hop scene for 2021’s mixtape “Michigan Boat“. [The song linked isn’t on the Michigan Boat project, I just really like his feature on that song] Easily more overtly aggressive and blunt, than what we associate with Yachty. It’s a fun departure of Yachty embracing a sound he enjoys head first. However, in 2023, would be the pivotal year. Before we get there lets, dial it a few months back to October 2022. A moment of “Oh Fuck My Life” happened to Yachty, as a joke song he made a spur-of-the-moment, with no intention of releasing, leaked to the world. “Poland

Quiz Time: What did Lil Yachty take to Poland?

A. Issues of Complex Magazine

B. The Wock

C. the Takashi Murakami Pillow

D. A DVD Copy of How High

Despite being a big viral hit (and meme to some extent), this could’ve put a dent for his album rollout for his upcoming project. Now, because fans might get the wrong impression and have the wrong expectations for expecting the next project to be exactly like it. He did try his best to emphasize that, it didn’t sound like Poland, and he was right. Ladies and Gentleman: Let’s Start Here.

2023s “Let’s Start Here”


Him starting a new chapter in his career, switching musical elements by crafting a psychedelic pop, rock, and soul album. Chopping up the insp of the go-tos: Pink Floyd, Tame Impala, etc., with the help of other influences like Mac DeMarco, Magdalena Bay, and Alex G. You know the vibes. Graduation to 808s, OK Computer to Kid A, Flower Boy to IGOR: we’ve seen the tonal shift plenty of times, but we forget the pure risk factor artists face when they decide to go through with going off the wall. Sometimes it’s putting their livelihood on the line. “808s & Heartbreak” by Kanye West is a classic now, but, the future wasn’t looking bright from pure fans and his hip-hop peers as everyone fucking hated it at the time of it’s 2008 release. Kid A is revered now, but coming off of OK Computer was like, “Uhhhh, dude?” in 2000. So, Yachty, taking the leap without knowing what his kismet would be, earns poetry snaps and guitar feedback. Musically, it’s some of the most sonically intriguing and melodically hypnotizing music that some may experience. Marking the beginning of everyone turning their heads to say, “Wow, Yachty is actually talented.” Being feet first in this project and building his world to perfection.

Riding high early to mid-2023 off of “Let’s Start Here” praise, he could’ve gone anywhere. He could’ve gone left, but instead, he turned right.



Why? He’s dropping singles and rapping better than he’s ever been (IMO at least), gathering his avengers called the CONCRETE BOYS (I refer to them as the CONCRETE FAMILY). Why? Why the sudden shift in his drive?



Like any creative, building your creative identity and having fun while doing it is great. However, how far does your legacy go if you don’t treat your art as exactly that? Art. If your creation doesn’t match the passion you have, where does that leave you? Every artist (and creatives in general) has the moment when it clicks and they realize what they want and how they want it. The pivotal moment is where they wanna be.




Lil Yachty isn’t the 19-year-old we met in 2016 anymore. He’s finally made his decision.



Now, he’s the artist he’s been working to become. Growth isn’t rapid, it takes time, but when it does. It’s cool to see in real-time.



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