By James Oliden, April 11, 2023
On Jan. 27 Lil Yachty released his fifth studio album “Let’s Start Here” and received heavy praise for the Pink Floyd-inspired album. The record was one of my personal favorites of the year, with Yachty’s unique vocals bringing out the best of the 25-year-old rapper.
However, as Yachty received constant praise for the genre switching album, the artist began to criticize his previous work.
In an interview with Billboard, Yachty showed regret for his past work, claiming he was upset at being labeled as a “mumble rapper” and expressing how he wanted to end his career being respected as an artist.
I am all for an artist expanding and progressing their work. However, I have an issue with a rap artists feeling they have to leave the genre to be taken seriously.
The fact is a lot of my close friends would not take Yachty seriously as a rap artist because Yachty portrayed himself as a carefree artist who made songs with face value substance.
Yachty came into the game during the legendary SoundCloud era that took rap less seriously than previous generations, with colorful hair and a voice that was never heard before in the genre. His image brought success from hits “One Night,” “Broccoli” and “iSpy.”
Yachty also mentioned how he did not enjoy what he created musically because of his tracks not matching the sound of what he would listen to, possibly leading the artist to feel insecure about his spot in the industry.
Not to be harsh, but could Yachty have not just started making better and more meaningful rap records?
Although the record was fantastic in its own right and lived up to Yachty’s vision, there can be an argument that he was still the weakest part of the album as the atmosphere and production of the project carried the listeners through a psychedelic journey.
To be clear, there is no issue in attempting new styles of music, yet it’s the denouncing of his former work that rubs me the wrong way.
An example of a respected rap artist in the industry is Kendrick Lamar, as he has constantly progressed as an artist with every album, whether it’s him talking about the crack epidemic in “Section. 80,” a story of life in Compton with “Good Kid M.A.A.D City” materialism, race and social justice with “To Pimp a Butterfly,” morality and faith with “DAMN” and finally his personal soul-searching in his most recent project “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.”
Showing that being an “artist” and progressing your music is not limited to a finite amount of genres.
Yachty appears pompous with his disassociation from the genre, yet the biggest issue lies in why he feels this way.
In 2020, famous Hip-Hop artist Westside Gunn tweeted asking people to stop calling him a rapper and to refer to him as an artist instead, claiming he was “different,” despite him rapping in almost every song. This makes me feel as if the artist is being hypocritical and unfair to himself.
I fear the reasoning behind this goes into a giant rabbit hole of underlying meanings with the overall scolding of rap by the media.
In the Grammys there’s an album of the year, and then a rap album of the year. There have been two rappers total that have won the award, Lauryn Hill and Outkast, with almost two decades passing since.
You can make an argument that rap is the most intricate and meaningful genre of them all, stemming from struggle and poetry. Originally forming in the Bronx in 1973, rap was based off of four different elements allowing the youth, a majority being Black, to express themselves.
Yet the casual disrespect the genre gets is mind-boggling.
In 2015 Kendrick Lamar released his rap album “TPAB,” arguably one of the greatest albums of all time with its jazz influence and story on social injustice. The song “Alright” became the anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement in one of the most important moments in recent memory.
However, the album of the year award went to Taylor Swift’s “1989” which, while good, was not on the same level of cultural impact.
Artists are becoming scared of being labeled as a “rapper” because of the unfair disrespect they receive. And why should they want to be called a rapper? What advantage has society given them?
How many times have you heard someone describe a rap artist and say the word “rapper” like it was some kind of slur? Rap music must trailblaze and innovate in order to be considered a respectable art form by casual music listeners.
Rap is art, and it might be the purest form of it.
Feature image courtesy of Chase Fade.
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