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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

‘Let’s Start Here’: a psychedelic time machine back to the ‘70s

“Let’s Start Here.” was released on Jan. 27.
Lil Yachty
“Let’s Start Here.” was released on Jan. 27.

Lil Yachty, a member of the XXL 2016 freshman class (the annual listing of up-and-coming rap artists by XXL magazine), is a major player in the trap scene. His signature mumble rapping style, in which less emphasis is placed on lyrical content in favor of an overall mood, has garnered both appreciation and derision.

However, his latest album “Let’s Start Here.” is a complete transformation of Yachty’s sound while still retaining his laid-back vocals. Contrasting with his previous works and hip-hop music as a whole, much of the album employs live instrumentation, as opposed to electronic or sample-based beats. Thus, the album is in a unique spot — while its genre is undeniably psychedelic rock, Yachty’s vocals are a reminder of the album’s rap background.

The album opening, “the BLACK seminole.,” heavily samples Pink Floyd — the outro of the song is just a distorted version of “The Great Gig in the Sky.” It masterfully sets the tone for the entire album, with its meaty bass line and crisp electric guitar, perfectly seasoned with simple yet effective drums. Autotune and other post-production effects give Yachty’s vocals an almost ethereal quality, while also assertively delivering a message of confidence. Following Yachty’s verse is a dramatic guitar solo and a transition to the aforementioned Pink Floyd outro.

Perhaps because the previous song set such a high standard, the second song on the album, “the ride-,” is noticeably weaker. Guest artist Teezo Touchdown’s crisp voice provides a nice contrast with Yachty’s and the gleaming instrumental. However, despite its 3-minute runtime, Yachty’s verses become repetitive quickly.

This slight interruption preludes seven straight tracks of pure greatness. “running out of time,” one of the best songs on the album, juxtaposes its bouncy bass line and bright brass section with lyrics about the end of a relationship. Justine Skye, her silky mezzo-soprano meshing smoothly with Yachty, provides guest vocals on the track, contributing to its warm atmosphere and sunset imagery. 

pRETTy” is another standout song. It exudes sensuousness and confidence, and guest artist Fousheé contributes the intro, the outro and a short but sweet verse. This song could have appeared in an Ariana Grande album and nobody would have thought twice.

The next track, “:(failure(:,” is an inspiring spoken-word interlude where Yachty explains his philosophy about failure and how it is an opportunity to try even harder, with soothing, reverberated guitar in the background. 

Quickly getting back into the action, “THE zone~” is a wistful track once again featuring Skye. Yachty’s lyrics about home and belonging slowly crescendo from a woozy intro to a passionate final verse. Skye’s laid-back vocals bring the song back to earth at the end. Although some of Yachty’s vocals sound dissonant and out of place, this song is still a good listen overall.

WE SAW THE SUN!” closely resembles the previous song’s laid-back vibe in its nearly minute-long intro, but quickly transforms into an otherworldly banger with an incredibly catchy chorus. With background vocals by Ant Clemons, a formless, almost angelic bridge leads to a distorted outro sampling Bob Ross.

An upbeat, soul-inspired instrumental immediately hooks the listener in “drive ME crazy!” An immaculate guest performance by Diana Gordon precedes a chorus by both Gordon and Yachty. Despite his mumble-rapping background, Yachty manages to match Gordon’s energy in his verse as they celebrate being driven crazy by romance. 

IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!” is another high point on the track. A creepy, vintage-sounding intro gives way to hard-hitting electric guitar with lyrics referencing an acid trip. Diana Gordon returns for a soulful, muted repose from the pandemonium before the anthem starts back up.

Almost like two parts of the same song, “sAy SOMETHINg” and “paint THE sky” are both woozy, ethereal ballads about uncertain love. “sAy sOMETHINg” even references the title of “paint THE sky” in its spoken-word outro. Despite this, the songs have clear distinctions with the latter taking on more of a vaporwave aesthetic.

Following this pair is another set of twins that seamlessly transition, “sHouLd i B?” and “The Alchemist.” In “sHouLd i B?,” Yachty questions why he continues to forgive a lover that mistreats him, over an instrumental that evokes driving on a highway during sunset. 

Completing the arc of the story that has happened over the past three tracks, “The Alchemist” is an braggadocious, aggressive proclamation of self-confidence. Heavily contrasting with Yachty’s verses, Fousheé contributes a mellower interlude and outro. Unfortunately, the incessant, off-beat drumming overpowers Yachty’s vocals and really detracts from the song. 

Despite that slight roadbump, the album ends strong with “REACH THE SUNSHINE.,” a 6-minute masterpiece with a prominent Radiohead interpolation sung by guest artist Daniel Caesar. The instrumental makes way for Caesar’s melancholy vocals while he is singing but swells to epic proportions between his verses, finally dying down into a barren synth leitmotif, the same one that plays at the start of “the BLACK seminole.,” suggesting the album is meant to be played on repeat.

Yachty has released something truly unique. The composition of each song indicates his deep understanding of the psychedelic rock genre that was his inspiration. Though unremarkable as always in the lyrics department, the album creates a phenomenal atmosphere, and despite the wide variety of songs, each track contributes coheres to all the rest.

However, despite its polished sonic profile, “Let’s Start Here.” is derivative of existing music and does not really do anything new. Yachty’s unique vocals are a good fit for the genre, and there aren’t any other artists in the rap industry who are making projects like this, but this kind of sound has already been fully explored decades ago. As a result, even though most of the songs on the album boast high quality, they end up blending together to the point where some songs lack distinction. 

However, this is not a big downside. Even if it’s been done before, Yachty’s distinctive voice and the album’s phenomenal production make the album a transcendent experience and a serious contender for album of the year. Even if you aren’t a fan of rap, you will likely find something for yourself on this album.

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