Lil Yachty was perhaps fed up when he called Biggie Smalls “overrated” earlier this month. He was within reason, considering how he’s spent the bulk of the 2016 being loved by the younger sect of rap fans and hated by an older guard who have critiqued him at every turn.
One of his biggest critics would be Hot 97’s Ebro Darden, dating back to Yachty’s June appearance on the radio station in which he made it known that he wasn’t a freestyling MC and didn’t even consider himself a rapper for that matter. It ended up carrying over into Lil Boat including the track “For Hot 97” on Summer Songs 2 to prove to the radio host he had skills. Ebro was not and had a piece of advice for Yachty: “Get your bars up. I ain’t here to be your friend.”
Things would be different this time around as the two managed to keep it 100% cordial and concessions were made during their new interview for Beats 1. Ebro addressed the elephant in the room early, saying “I think your fan base thinks I hate you.”
Yachty responded, “I think my fan base thinks you hate every young star coming up,” which has merit considering the continuous back and forth between Ebro and Rae Sremmurd over the past few months. But, he was ready to make certain concessions, telling the young Atlanta rapper he “has great hooks and melodies.”
With Ebro setting the tone, the 19-year-old MC decided to make atonement for another remark that created a generous amount of pushback: he called The Notorious B.I.G. “overrated.”
“To this day, I feel like I was wrong for speaking about something like that without taking a second to listen,” Yachty explained. “Before I said that I was in the blind. I feel like I owe an apology.”
He continued, “I didn’t think before I spoke on that topic. I know now how important and just how serious it is to some people. I didn’t want people thinking that I was disrespecting him because it wasn’t a disrespect thing. That’s just my personal opinion.”
As he explained, it goes deeper than a general distaste for the late Bad Boy great’s music. He explained how he wasn’t exposed to some rappers from the late ’90s. “My dad did not play Biggie or Tupac so I had never heard it,” which was something his dad also noted in an interview months back. In fact, Yachty, born August 23, 1997, wasn’t even born when Biggie died.
“Until about three weeks ago, I had never listened to a Biggie song,” He said in regards to now going back and getting versed in Frank White’s catalog. “I’m not going to sit here and lie and say I just bump him. But I know for a fact he was spittin…I was listening to it and I liked how he do the role play, like he’d do a story rapping back and forth with himself and then there’d be a skit. It was dope.” Yachty still hasn’t had the time to do a deep dive into Tupac’s catalog — he did admit “Changes” made him cry as a kid — but at least he’s making an attempt to become better versed in the music of previous eras.
And now, it’s time for older generations to consider rescinding at least some of their hate for Lil Boat and understanding that he’s just one artist who’s leading a change in sound. But, it’s only one style of rap in a genre that is expanding with subgenres each year. Today, melody-driven tunes are the flavor of the month before they’ll be replaced by a new trend in sound next year. Rap music is pop music and pop is driven by trends. When artists and labels see something catching on, they will always be looking to hop aboard the wave in hopes of cashing in. It’s the nature of the beast and has been since after Biggie died actually, once Puffy introduced the Shiny Suit Era and the art of repurposing old songs as new, as he did with The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” for the tribute track “I’ll Be Missing You.” Mainstream listeners will always gravitate to familiar, low-hanging fruit, just like teen fans currently are driven to harmonies and party-orientated tunes.
For every fan of traditional sounds, guys like Dave East, Nipsey Hussle, Nick Grant and dozens more exist and have been delivering grittier material that pays homage to styles of eras gone by. And they’re doing it in the same space as Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert and every other Lil rapper who’s been blamed with the downfall of rap this year. Because, of course, a different crop of MCs were to blame last year. And the year before that. And…well, you know.
It all kind of reminds me of how PM Dawn was once deemed as not hip-hop enough during the ’90s. The group was called too hippie, not gruff enough, their sound to trippy and just about everything imaginable to imply how they weren’t rap enough to be down. KRS-One stamped their rejection letter when he beat down Prince Be over a perceived diss. All of that was in contrast when group member Be died in June of this year. There was suddenly an outpouring of acclaim and recognition for the group with many writers finding ways to unpack their impact not just on rap, but on music as a whole. While most of us only remember the chart-topping single “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss,” there was much more there besides their quirky dress, the mirrored glasses and Bohemian style of dress.
A lot of which reflects where the current King of Teens finds himself at today: not rap enough for some, but having a moment too big to just ignore. Hate him as you will, it won’t change how dope “Broccoli” is or the success its had. He and his young counterparts have their own thing going that’s connecting with listeners in the youth-driven culture that is hip-hop. It’s not just mumblecore or emo rap. The style is still taking shape honestly. “It’s a new sound. It doesn’t have a title yet,” Yachty said of his style. “I hate that mumble rap title…I just feel like I’m not a part of it. I don’t mumble.”
And as much as their sound is growing, so are they as not only artists but also people. “This year has been so fast for me,” Yachty told Ebro of his sudden rise. “I’m just trying to find some time to really become a hip-hop artist. I feel like I jumped in this game so fast and elevated past everybody, I didn’t have time to do anything. I went from sitting in high school, laying on the couch, sitting in the college dorm for a couple days, and then penthouse, flashing lights, red carpet, big Benzes, fans…”
Give these kids a chance to make mistakes and own up to them. But, above all, give them a chance to write their own stories and their own legacies.