Let’s Start Here. by Lil Yachty: Atlanta Rapper Makes a Genre Switch to “Pysch Wock”

Media provided by Brando Babini ’23

Editor’s Note: the capitalization on song titles is intentional. The author included capitalization as the artist intended.

As music critic Anthony Fantano coined it, Lil Yachty’s first 2023 release, Let’s Start Here., embodies a new musical style that is a combination of psychedelic indie-rock and autotuned falsetto vocals, known as “Psych Wock,” which I think is both hilarious and accurate.  The moniker of the genre  arises from the hit 2022 track, “Poland,” by the Atlanta artist that instantly became an internet sensation with the chorus “I took the Wock […] to Poland.” And yet, this new project is a creative leap forward that the general populace would never have thought possible from Yachty. He is putting his spin on a genre that today’s rap artists usually avoid.  He did it spectacularly.

Lil Yachty’s debut mixtape, Lil Boat, was released in 2016, which captivated listeners with oddly rapped singles like “Minnesota” and “One Night.”  These songs possessed a carefree quality to them and became hits amongst younger rap fans. Old-school members of the genre hated this new style in rap, demeaning it as “Mumble Rap.” Yet, Yachty persisted, maintaining his flow and style and never changing throughout a string of successful LPs up until 2021. However, after this, he went silent until late 2022, with “Poland.” Then, to everyone’s surprise, he released Let’s Start Here. on January 27th, 2023.

Let’s Start Here. embodies its name to the fullest. A genre departure for Yachty, it is bold, experimental, and fresh in its ideas, erasing everything he has done to this point from past consideration. Opening the LP is the track, “the BLACK seminole.” which is a seven-minute prog-rock journey that puts a modern twist on the psychedelic stylings of Pink Floyd’s prime. Yachty establishes the metaphor of him being a modern-day Black Seminole, a group of enslaved peoples in Florida that escaped their bondage to form a new culture. In essence, this is what is happening to Yachty; his “enslavement” to the music industry has ended, and he is venturing onto a new artistic path. 

Flowing into the next track — another part of the album I appreciate: smooth transitions — “the ride-” continues Lil Yachty’s musings on fame, alongside a verse/chorus from Texas rapper Teezo Touchdown. The main technique used in this song is word painting, which is when the music and instrumental mirror the theme of the lyrics. While comparing fame to a constant “ride”, the music is looped and feels like it’s constantly fading, as if one were floating in a hover car. It is truly an excellent track, bright and springy in its creation. The third track is “running out of time,” a sweet pop duet that captures the beautiful timbre of singer Justine Skye on the chorus. Over a bass-slapped trembling synthesizer instrumental, Yachty hides a dark meaning in his lyrics – manipulating a lover of his to stay with him through tactics of gaslighting. “Running out of time” is his way of convincing her to stay with him. “pRETTY,” the following track, is a similar R&B/Pop love song.

The next succession of tracks all contribute to the larger, more meta-theme of the mental state Yachty is in while making this album. His boldness and honesty in the interlude, “:(failure(:” is powerful and vulnerable when he speaks about his success and the failure that comes with it. And in songs like, “THE zone~” and “WE SAW THE SUN!” Yachty undergoes a depressive episode, captivating the listener with imagery of drug-taking and descending into existential thinking.

The crown jewel of this album is when Yachty manages to bring disco back on the beautiful instrumental “drive ME crazy!” The drums are punchy and hit hard. The Synthesizers and violins complimenting the bass and drums are done to perfection, and the simple chords allow Yachty’s raw emotion of love to cut through with lyrics such as, “Good love feels like butterflies suffocating your insides,” as well as, “And still I feel so surprised / You’re always gon’ be mine.” 

Track nine on Let’s Start Here. is the psychedelic-filled epic “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!” There are certain moments on this album, such as this song, that are truly musical soundscapes. Each moment’s mastery may be understated and looked over by critics because of the artist’s identity. In this way, I appreciate Lil Yachty’s musical direction, especially on this track. Each verse in the song builds tension, then releases into an instrumental break, rises and falls, and the final verse captivates the listener with the instrumental at its full height. Yachty shouts he is “in a mental prison,” harkening back to those depressive episodes he was undergoing on previous tracks – a true standout record.

After this song, the LP loses its momentum. Tracks on the backend such as “paint THE sky,” “sHouLd i B?” and “The Alchemist.” While Yachty continues his genre-bending vocals, the backing instrumentals are dull and unstructured. These filler tracks are unnecessary and detract from the vibe of the album.

But the album is not finished yet, as we have finally reached the closer, “REACH THE SUNSHINE.” The all-caps in the name do not do the track the justice it deserves. Remember when “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!” was grandiose? That does not even come close to the heights of this climax of all climaxes. Daniel Caesar, a wonderful R&B singer/songwriter, opens the track with a perfectly sung intro-verse that matches the instrumental palate of guitars and vocalizations so well. It is western –it is piercing – yet so hauntingly beautiful. He sings, “Staring in the mirror what do I see? / A three-eyed man staring back at me!” After this, new instruments and synths are added to enhance the track after the first verse. A woman is heard laughing in the background and then it resets for Daniel’s second verse, delivered in a similarly haunting manner. The drums pick back up, along with the synth, as the voices fade out of the track and the menacing chord progression picks back up again. This idea of building tension, already employed on previous tracks, reminds me of the song from Radiohead, “Exit Music (For a Film)” which similarly starts slow and grows and grows with more drastic vocalizations.

And then, it dissipates, as the back half of the track fades out into an exquisite sonic progression with vocal ballads over piano and violin. There is perfection – a cyclical quality to it. An arpeggiator comes in that is reminiscent of the first notes on “the BLACK seminole.” What an ending to this beautiful album.

Let’s Start Here. is an incredible listening experience, raw in its expression of human emotion and intricately assembled instrumentals, and keeps pushing to new creative heights with every track. Yachty’s boldness to go out there and produce a piece of work that is a complete spin in creative direction has left me, as well as many other music critics, dumbfounded. It is not unlike artists to change from album to album, but seriously, who knew? I recommend this album to anyone who seeks to have their mind blown over and over again.

I am excited to see where Lil Yachty’s journey takes him. 

But first, Let’s Start Here.