Poor Lil Yachty. When he showed up on the scene with his Lil Boat mixtape in spring of 2016, he had all the makings of a star. He was colorful, optimistic, distinctive, and instantly resonated with young fans of the burgeoning cloud rap scene with his self-proclaimed “bubblegum trap.” There was just one problem: Nearly every single one of those traits is a capital offense to a certain generation of rap fans. See: The Joe Budden response to the cheerfully monotone rapper with beaded braids and unconventional style that Budden berated as being woefully out of touch with not just the business aspects of his exploding rap career, but with the very essence of hip-hop. It didn’t help that his debut album under Capitol/Motown, Teenage Emotions, premiered with a flop, vastly underselling its projected first week numbers and receiving lukewarm reviews.
So, for the past several Yachty projects and collaborations, he’s traded in the cartoonish bop of his appearances on Dram’s “Broccoli” and Kyle’s “iSpy” for the more brittle menace of his Quality Control cohorts Migos and fellow ATL Soundcloud graduates like 21 Savage, first on Lil Boat 2 earlier this year and now with Nuthin’ 2 Prove, his second official studio album under QC’s joint venture with Capitol and Motown.
While the confident moniker suggests he’s moved past the disappointment of his early career woes, unfortunately, it feels more and more like Yachty is desperately trying to do its opposite. Even the moody-looking cover belies the title’s message, which Yachty doesn’t seem to believe himself. He wants so earnestly to win the approval of his staunchest critics (approval that was likely never coming in the first place) that the only thing he manages to prove in this 15-song set is that he should never have been listening to them in the first place.