Brian Eno, Scott Walker, David Bowie: These are all artists whose careers have not been bound by genre. With his newest album, “Let’s Start Here.,” Lil Yachty has joined the ranks of these visionaries. A complete change in artistic direction from the trap sound that has defined his career up to this point, “Let’s Start Here.” is an album infused with the sounds of psychedelic rock.
Despite this massive shift in style, Yachty’s transition wasn’t completely unforeseen. In 2021, he appeared on a remix of Tame Impala’s “Breathe Deeper.” Furthermore, in a January 2022 video with Icebox, he remarked, “My new album … it’s a non-rap album. It’s alternative.”
Even still, this genre change is a shock for many. What may be even more surprising, though, is that Yachty was able to pull it off so well on his first try.
The instrumental palette of seven-minute opening track “the BLACK seminole.” would sound right at home in a Pink Floyd album. The wordless vocal outro — courtesy of Diana Gordon — is even reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.” The track serves as an excellent introduction to Yachty’s new sound and sets the stage for the rest of the project.
The following song, “the ride-,” with its more standard structure, may be less grand and progressive than the opening track, but by no means does this lead to a drop in quality. Shimmering, crystalline guitar lines back one of the catchiest choruses on the album. Teezo Touchdown’s contributions, including multiple verses and backing vocals, are also welcome.
Speaking of guest features, Daniel Caesar contributes vocals to the final track, “REACH THE SUNSHINE.,” channeling his inner Thom Yorke while interpolating Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song.” Artists Gordon and Fousheé also appear on multiple tracks throughout the album, providing verses and backing vocals. Gordon’s stripped-back verse on “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST VISION!!!!” is especially powerful.
Throughout the entirety of “Let’s Start Here.,” Lil Yachty consistently sounds like he’s having fun with what he’s doing. His arsenal of vocal effects and autotune pair surprisingly well with the live instrumentation of this album, adding another layer to its psychedelic soundscapes.
However, Yachty’s first foray into psychedelic rock is not a complete success. Unfortunately, in addition to the instrumentation and sounds of the genre, he also borrowed some of its stereotypical tendencies that can come off as pretentious.
Even though I’m sure it’s all in good intention, the spoken word interlude, “:(failure(:,” feels more than a little preachy. The needlessly complicated song titles with randomly capitalized words and letters don’t help either. It feels almost as if Lil Yachty tripped acid for the first time while listening to “The Dark Side of the Moon,” and suddenly, “his whole worldview changed, man.” This sense is easy enough to ignore though and does not take too much away from the album overall.
I cannot think of a single rap-to-rock transition that has been pulled off to such success. With a great mix of progressive and straightforward songs that borrow from psychedelia, Lil Yachty’s album sports grand instrumentation and a strong sense of cohesion. Needless to say, I am very much looking forward to what Yachty decides to do next and how this may inspire other artists in the future.