Let’s talk about Lil Yachty. Since he came out in 2015, I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by his musical output. Yachty has always seemed like a brand rather than a rapper. He was known for sporting the red braids and the beads of a fourth-grader on picture day. Yachty has a magnetic personality and such a strong presence out of music. Unfortunately, that presence never translated well into his music. Last year, something changed in Yachty. His last album, Lil Boat 3 featured a Yachty who was putting effort into his rapping. Too bad he was completely eclipsed by fellow Atlanta native, Future on their Mike WiLL Made-It assisted track. During 2020, Lil Yachty spent a lot of time in Detroit. Detroit was experiencing a rap renaissance at the time where many promising acts were coming out of the city.
Detroit’s Rap Renaissance
Detroit has a rich history regarding hip-hop. Icons such as J Dilla and Eminem put the city on their back during the early 2000s. To this day, when people think of Detroit, these two come to mind. In the last decade, Detroit hasn’t had many stars. We had Big Sean and Danny Brown at the turn of the last decade. They introduced two different styles that were coming out of the city at the time. After them, it seemed like things were quiet for the city.
In the past few years, Detroit has witnessed a shift in the culture. Artists like Sada Baby and Tee Grizzley have seen commercial success with their unique flows and sound. But the Detroit rap scene has more than just their mainstream talent going for them. Rappers like 42 Dugg, Kash Doll, BabyTron, Bfb Da Packman have all carved their respective lanes in hip-hop. Detroit rap is like no other subgenre of rap out right now. When you listen to a Detroit artist, you can tell where they’re from before they ever mention it. They are some of the funniest lyricists in hip-hop. Sada Baby, BabyTron, and Bfb Da Packman have hilarious quotables throughout just about every one of their songs.
Yachty The Culture Vulture?
In Hip-Hop some people jump into an already flourishing movement and tries to take the shine from the originators. It usually happens with pop stars that want a hit, so they start hanging out with black artists. Every once in a while, a hip-hop artist is accused of being a culture vulture. Most notably, Drake has been accused of being a culture vulture. He has been accused of snatching just about every single style of rap he has introduced to mainstream media. In the last few years, he has gathered dancehall, grime, trap, and other genres like he’s Thanos trying to secure all the infinity gems. Some people feel like Yachty, an Atlanta-based rapper is using Michigan rap to stay relevant.
The issue with this theory is that it suggests that Yachty needs any of the attention he gets from this new mixtape. He doesn’t. This mixtape helps both the lesser-known Detroit artists and allows Yachty something new. The key to not being a culture vulture is to be a visitor of the culture. You have to respect it and understand that you aren’t as deeply a part of it as others. What Yachty is doing with this mixtape is uplifting artists that surely appreciate the exposure. So in other words, no, Yachty is not a culture vulture.
Michigan Boy Boat
When Yachty first started hanging out with Michigan rappers, I didn’t think we’d get such a cohesive and thoughtful project out of it. Michigan Boy Boat feels more like Detroit than the last six Eminem albums combined. Lil Yachty has never been known for his bars or lyrical ability, but with this album, he is witty, aware, and keeps the listener on their toes the entire time. Throughout fourteen tracks, Yachty gets every great upcoming Detroit rapper you could think of (and Swae Lee) on tracks over some hard-hitting production. Yachty has emulated the flow that originated in the city in such a way, that he is almost unrecognizable when compared to his older music. Some of the standout tracks of the mixtape include, “Concrete Goonies”, “G.I. Joe”, “SB 2021”, and “Hybrid”.
When Lil Yachty first came out, I wrote him off as a guy that had great connections in rap but can’t rap himself. He had all the right features and producers working on his projects but the only thing holding him back was himself. With Michigan Boat Boy, Yachty has reinvented his persona. Even if his next project doesn’t incorporate the Detroit sound, Yachty has become a better rapper for his experience in the city. He used his time there to not only learn about the Detroit rap scene but to boost the artists he spent time with while being there. The Atlanta rapper has described Detroit as a “second home” and I believe him. He is no longer the “king of teens” and he is now somebody that can rap. Time will tell whether or not, he can match this level of quality with his next studio album.