Lil Yachty debuted onto the rap scene with a unique personality and appearance. Since the 2016 XXL Freshman Cypher, the rappers from this class have gone on to have interesting and varied careers. Lil Yachty's bright red beaded braids and affinity for luxury brands created a unique aesthetic, and it is one he maintains throughout his career.
His latest mixtape, “Michigan Boy Boat,” is a project that specifically spotlights artists from Michigan, and he uses his platform as an artist to elevate his collaborators. His nursery-rhyme-inspired flows combined with his interesting beat selection allows him to stand out from other rappers of his era, and his image is approaching a point where it transcends his career entirely.
“Dynamic Duo” (feat. Tee Grizzley) is a clear example of the different artistic styles of Lil Yachty and his collaborators. The frequent flow switches feel like Lil Yachty is at a new level of creativity, and Tee Grizzley’s energy is infectious on this song.
Verses like, “I talk good in the studio, it’s all facts/ The bros look like rappers but (they) all trap/ I’ll let that chopper scream like a text with all caps” add so much character to this track. This also has one of the best beats on the entire project, which allows both rappers to be creative with their spacing and wordplay.
“Never Did Coke” (feat, Swae Lee) is another highlight on the project, and Lil Yachty takes a page out of Playboi Carti’s playbook with the song’s ad-libbed introduction. Swae Lee is typically used for the hook of songs, and hearing him trade verses with Lil Yachty feels both satisfying and rhythmically pleasing.
Lil Yachty’s at his best when he’s not talking himself too seriously, and a small amount of humor, like with the line “I might turn the top of my crib into a skatin’ rink” goes a long way.
While the purpose of the mixtape is to highlight up-and-coming artists from Michigan, Lil Yachty does have some established features scattered throughout the project.
“SB5” (feat. Sada Baby) showcases nothing we haven’t heard before from either of them, and Sada Baby sounds like he has not changed at all since his viral single “Whole Lotta Choppas”. This collaboration sounds good on paper, but their energy ends up cancelling each other out, instead of meshing together to form one cohesive song.
Lil Yachty’s album output has progressed with the relative decline of his artistic personality. When he released “iSpy” with KYLE in 2016, the song’s feeling and image was new and inventive in an era when every critic was diagnosing “mumble rap” as the death of the rap community.
But the production and vocal delivery of the track felt free and childlike, and this greatly added to Lil Yachty’s appeal as an artist. In a field where everyone took themselves too seriously, Lil Yachty provided a youthful and flamboyant alternative to most rappers. As his career progressed, he focused on cleaning his image instead of cultivating his personality, which dulls his individuality as a rapper.
“Michigan Boy Boat” features an interesting mission statement and a couple of good features, but Lil Yachty does next to nothing to elevate his career with this new project. The production feels flat and dull most of the time, and the features become much more derivative as the album progresses.
As an artist, Lil Yachty’s career has felt almost disappointing up to this point. His lyrical content is no different from any other rapper in his age range or class, and his last couple projects fell flat with fan reception and critical acclaim. By consistently dulling what makes him unique, Lil Yachty is self-sabotaging his own career, and while “Michigan Boy Boat” is not a bad mixtape, it feels more like a period than an exclamation point.