From “Minnesota” To “Poland,” Lil Yachty Is Still One Of The Coldest

From “Minnesota” To “Poland,” Lil Yachty Is Still One Of The Coldest

Every 10 years there is a boogeyman in rap – someone that the old heads can moan about in the hopes that the younger generation is discouraged enough to stop making music they deem to not be “hip-hop.” It’s a dirty trick. By deploying the kind of stratagem that leads people to ask ridiculous questions such as “Why haven’t you, an 18-year-old, listened to the Notorious B.I.G.?” radio hosts such as Old Man Ebro of Hot 97 turned young artists into pariahs for arbiters of a musical conservatism that was starting to fade out of its mainstream moment.

Mableton, Georgia rapper Lil Yachty, born Miles McCollum, was once one of those pariahs. Because of his gleeful and boyish hooks and his original trademark pink braids, Yachty was said to be everything that was wrong with current hip-hop. Never mind that one of his breakout hits, “Minnesota,” was soaring. The aforementioned Ebro said that Yachty had “high school bars.” In fairness to Ebro – and his strange and homophobic bedfellow Lord Jamar – Yachty contributed to a nonsense trope about him being an artist, not a rapper. Yachty was, and is, a rapper. A solid one, at that. But he was young – 19 to be exact – when he came out. What is a 19-year-old but a young man who thinks he can transcend genre?

“Minnesota” was one of the most inimitable songs of 2016, an internet staple, and the first classic song from a supernova whose music sounded like an angel ascending to heaven. Yachty worked because he was fueled by the most ageless agendas: getting women, looking cool, and rapping about avoiding criminal convictions. (Per Yachty on “Minnesota,” Pat the lawyer helped him escape credit card fraud charges). “Minnesota” is an excellent song – the type of track that opens up your mind to other styles because of how catchy and unsentimentally joyful it is. “Water On My Face” – my personal favorite – sounds like a score to a Christmas movie. In a droopy but fluid flow, Yachty’s hook of “I be dripping, too much water on my face” was a form of simple brilliance – a one-sentence outlook of what it is like to be young and feel yourself.

Yachty was always dope – adept at hooks and self-parody without his music becoming too much of a joke. He took the work seriously but not himself. He’s warm and relaxed, which is a recipe for a huge fanbase. His catalog also shows off his eclectic taste through releases like 2020’s Michigan Boy Boat. Not many, if any, mainstream artists would drop a mixtape influenced by the most dynamic region in the game around that time. Yachty’s project heavily featured Detroit rappers and put them on to a wider audience. He deserves real credit for that.

Thanks to all those factors, Yachty has remained present and fresh. He is less concerned with being a street rapper and more concerned with being a star with taste – not quite the auteur that Playboi Carti is but nevertheless a creative hub that works with Rio Da Yung OG and raps over a beat that wouldn’t be out of place on Whole Lotta Red. He’s avoided the controversies, stagnancy, and troubles that other Atlanta rappers such as Quavo have had. Yachty has always known what he was doing – it just took the old heads time to stop acting brand new.

It’s now been six years since “Minnesota.” After a while, people stopped talking about Yachty like he was the enemy of traditionalism and started accepting that he was here to stay – and that he is a mainstay for a genre of rap that has made real waves and dropped monumental music. “Poland,” his new hit produced by rage producer F1thy, was released on SoundCloud on Oct. 4, and boy, it is good. Meant to be played continuously, Yachty croons over droning keyboards: “I took the Wock to Poland” like he is an anime star surfing through the snow. While it is similar to the Yachty we knew when he first came up, “Poland” isn’t as long as “Minnesota” and he’s certainly not doing the Michigan rap style on Michigan Boy Boat. It’s something new altogether: a snippet-as-song, built to thrive on TikTok and other social media, meant to be an appetizer for what seems to be something bigger coming from Yachty soon.

“Poland” may have been intended as a mere introduction for Yachty’s next phase, but the song is catching on in a way that might overshadow whatever comes next. In the week since it hit SoundCloud, “Poland” has become fodder for countless memes — including one that Yachty repurposed as the song’s official cover art — and a new video by Lyrical Lemonade’s Cole Bennett has replaced the lo-fi footage that originally accompanied the track on YouTube. Yachty has shown off pop savvy in the past, rising as high as #2 on the Hot 100 with his D.R.A.M. collab “Broccoli.” With “Poland,” he may have the juice to achieve similar chart success without actually making a pop song.

For Yachty fans, this is what they always knew. Old heads are probably still seething about his success. Or maybe they have resigned themselves to the fact that they are no longer the tastemakers. Yachty was considered a troll early in his career, an unfair characterization he was saddled with because he didn’t want to play the political game of mentioning Biggie or Pac on his Top 5. He is not J. Cole. He is Yachty – memeable, yes, but ultimately dope, direct, and capable of a song that brings rap fans to a euphoric space. The resurrection to Poland has begun.

SILENCERS, INFRARED, AND OFFICIAL SHIT

NBA Youngboy - "Won't Step On Me"

Youngboy’s usual issues – unfocused albums and production that fades together – are nonexistent on his very good tape. “Won’t Step On Me” is my favorite song on 3800 Degrees. It’s unnerving because of Youngboy’s classic tonal shifts. He goes on a high to low space; you don’t know what is coming next. Then, sometimes he does something like he does on the last verse: just giving you hard sentence after hard sentence.

Rx Papi - "FaceTime"

The best of the string of songs Papi’s team has released to YouTube lately, this one has Pap talking about a beau: “Be on my mind all fucking day/ FaceTime me so I can see your face.” FREE PAP!

FCG Heem & Lil Poppa - "Grammy"

We’re used to hearing excellent songs from the South Florida region. But Central and North Florida have something to say as well. They might not have the aesthetics that Miami rappers have, but they’re just as emotionally charged with their songwriting, as heard on this song by Fort Lauderdale’s Heem and Jacksonville’s Poppa that brings both sides of the state together.

Cam'ron, A-Trak, & Mr. Vegas - "Dipset Acrylics"

Good to hear from Cam’ron, whose mixtape U Wasn’t There was strong. Cam is inimitable. Nobody can match his monotone but uptempo flow. He’s still so topical too. He packs so much in. Classic.

Prodigy - "Walk Out" (Feat. DJ Premier)

Best song on the posthumous Prodigy album. You can tell that his voice was starting to become affected by his ailments, but this is still some strong writing: “It’s a war going on, nigga, come outside/ You on that bitch too long, nigga, come outside/ That’s how you turn soft, you’s a fucking tick/ Stop breastfeeding, you’re missing all the action.”

Rome Streetz - "Ugly Balenciaga"

Griselda is back with Rome Streetz, who sounds subversive over Conductor Williams beats. Streetz is a brawler of a rapper. Only Conway and Boldy James are better in the Grisleda camp. (Mach-Hommy doesn’t count, I don’t think.) Westside Gunn is a good executive producer as usual. He has another one.

GloRilla & Cardi B - "Tomorrow 2"

Cardi B says, “I STAY ON HER MIND/ I GOT CONDOS IN THAT BITCH HOUSE.” I went to a bachelor party over the weekend and this ruckus of a song was our motto.

Bandmanrill & Sha Ek - "Jiggy In Jersey Pt2"

A sequel to the first “Jiggy In Jersey” track, this one finds Newark rapper Bandmanrill in tune with Sha Ek, the Bronx rapper that was removed from Rolling Loud at the request of the NYPD. Rolling Loud relented. This is what we may have missed.

Freddie Gibbs - "Blackest In The Room"

I reviewed this album for Stereogum – and this is the best song on it. Clarence Thomas, eat your fascist heart out.

Kyle Richh - "Notti Bop" (Feat. TaTa & Jenn Carter)

Perhaps this is a topic for a larger piece, but this song made me incredibly uncomfortable. It’s apparently a diss track of a kid who was murdered on a New York subway a few weeks ago. The subject matter is sad and visceral. It’s not rapped about mournfully but rather with a cold, sophomoric glee. That’s the point of it, but kids mocking another kid’s death is too much. There is a line. I’d ignore this, except the song is huge. Kids are doing the innovative “notti” dance all over social media. The production is hectic too. It’ll stick around. Expect this song to be controversial and continue to be all over the internet – we’re living in a time of fatalism and violence in the Instagram era.

HOOD PHENOMENON

more from Lots Of Commas: The Month In Rap

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