Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here. courageously ventures into uncharted waters

February 13, 2023

Courtesy of Lil Yachty/Motown Records

Until very recently, I did not have many strong feelings about Lil Yachty. So when a friend told me to check out his new album, I felt decidedly passionless—incredulous, even. The “wock to Poland” guy? Sure, I guess I’ll give him a listen. 

57 minutes and nine seconds later, I had boarded the Lil Boat. Let’s Start Here. (2023) is a groundbreaking and delightfully experimental soundscape that draws upon pop and psychedelic rock. This album is most definitely not a rap album; instead, Lil Yachty embraces a much more melodic approach compared to his previous work. Let’s Start Here.’s departure from Lil Yachty’s repertoire should not come as much of a surprise, as the artist has discussed wanting to sonically upgrade his work in the past, specifically mentioning that he wanted this album to reflect inspiration he drew from artists such as MGMT and Tame Impala. Lil Yachty has always credited artists that have influenced his work, such as Radiohead and Arcade Fire, and noted that they’ve been very formative in his music career. 

Immediately upon starting the album, I briefly wondered if I’d misclicked something on Spotify. The album’s opener, “the BLACK seminole.,” is full of dreamy and oscillating synths, screaming guitars, and melodic vocals. A very clear influence that looms large over the track is Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon; most strikingly, the female vocals in the second half of the song evoke those of “The Great Gig in the Sky.” This track also samples Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” from their 1971 album Meddle. “the BLACK seminole.” definitively sets the tone for the rest of the album as a foray into psychedelic rock-inspired that noticeably strays from Lil Yachty’s earlier work. 

In addition to the actual music, Let’s Start Here.’s album cover is also boundary-pushing, portraying an AI-generated squadron of stuffily dressed professionals with grotesquely contorted faces. Frankly, the album art is ugly from a purely aesthetic perspective. (It has also generated a lot of Twitter discourse about the ethics of AI art, but that is a whole other can of worms.) However, it sends an interesting message—after all, AI art draws on existing data sets to mash together the findings, and maybe Lil Yachty wants to draw parallels between AI art and the hodge-podge of styles he’s blended together; or perhaps he’s conducting some meta-analysis of the line between the natural and artificial, or he’s providing commentary on the suits and managerial class. It’s not exactly clear what message he’s going for, but whatever the reason, the album art only adds to Let’s Start Here.’s eccentricity and novelty. 

The rest of the album is full of similarly interesting and refreshing sonic adventures, stacked with plenty of collaborations from other big names. “running out of time” is a groovy and lighthearted number featuring Justine Skye that provides a nice palate cleanser from the maximalist introduction to the album. “pRETTy,” featuring Fousheé’s smooth vocals, has a similar vibe. The Tame Impala influence is strong in “THE zone,” as Lil Yachty sings over a pleasantly repeating pattern of drums and distorted and spacey synths. “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!” is a delightfully chaotic genre-bender: an opening that sounds like Frank Ocean’s “Pyramids” quickly turns more crunchy and abrasive, creating what is best described as a Pink Floyd meets Daniel Caesar mashup, all with some fantastic string instrumentation interwoven in the middle. Diana Gordon’s entrance in the second half of the song is phenomenal, and her soulful vocalizations undoubtedly round out the track. 

The album’s closer, “REACH THE SUNSHINE.,” mirrors the opening track in complexity and richness. Lil Yachty works alongside Daniel Caesar, interpolating the beginning of English rock band Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” in the opening lines. “Staring in the mirror and what do I see? / A three-eyed man staring back at me” strikes parallels to the Radiohead lyrics, “I jumped in the river and what did I see? / Black-eyed angels swam with me.” Instrumentation is sparse in the beginning, then steadily builds up to a mixture of syrupy synths, steady percussion, solemn piano, and bits of unsettling cackling. The mood is foreboding and most definitely Radiohead-esque. The last few minutes of the album are composed of eerie vocalizations and incantations that slowly fade into silence, giving the listener a sense of finality. 

While Let’s Start Here. is certainly full of bangers, the maximalism of certain tracks sometimes make others look drab in comparison. The abrupt ending of “THE zone”’ feels unsatisfying, and “sHouLd i B?” seemed similarly insubstantial compared to the rich and well-developed sonic atmosphere of the beginning and ending tracks. While the artistic range of the album–spanning from rock to R&B—is impressive, it also makes it difficult to enjoy in one listening experience. Psychedelic rock fans may find songs like “REACH THE SUNSHINE.” appealing, while R&B fans might be turned off by the experimental nature of the song and gravitate towards a more lowkey track like “the ride-.” As someone who identifies with the former, I found myself wanting more Pink Floyd and Radiohead energy throughout the album, and I’m sure it’s the opposite for R&B or rap fans. 

After experiencing Let’s Start Here., I’m personally very excited by the direction that Lil Yachty is taking his career and will be enthusiastically awaiting his next moves. He’s greatly developed the complexity and depth of his sound, as it’s hard to imagine that the Lil Yachty who made this album is the same one who was spitting bars like “she blow that dick like a cello” a few years prior. Take a step back from any preconceived notions you may have about Lil Yachty and you might find yourself in a similar position in an hour or so. 


Christine Ji
Christine is a senior in the MSB majoring in Finance and minoring in History. She harbors unhinged opinions on goldfish, Garfield, and The Strokes.

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