“I want people to hear this album and know what I was trying to do,” says Lil Yachty. “To understand that this is not just rap music, it’s all over the place and different—in a good way. It’s not sloppy, it’s smooth, but you can’t pin it on any one thing.”
Hot on the heels of two mixtapes that dazzled the world, the 19-year-old with the beaded braids and the fearless fashion sense is now completing his first album, Teenage Emotions. And as the title indicates, the set is a reflection of young lives right now, from social media-saturated heartbreak to the dance floor, caught in a sound that effortlessly, constantly bounces from rap to pop to something entirely its own.
But working on his official debut album hasn’t meant any change in Yachty’s approach. “It’s a reflection of my music, so I can’t treat it different than I did before,” he says. “I talk about different topics, but my sound is my sound.” Nor does the expectation around the record make him feel any stress. “I’m just making songs, like the way I do. I don’t feel pressure—I just do me, stay true to myself, and you can’t worry about what another person says.”
Following his own path has definitely paid off for Lil Yachty so far. In the course of just a few months, he went from recording songs on his home computer (he describes his initial attitude as “real nonchalant”) to appearing in a Sprite commercial alongside LeBron James, starring in a Target campaign for which he remade the Rob Base and DJ EZ-Rock classic “It Takes Two” with Carly Rae Jepsen, and becoming a Creative Designer at Nautica. He collaborated with D.R.A.M. on the Grammy-nominated smash single “Broccoli,” which reached Number Five on the pop charts, and was featured on Chance the Rapper’s Grammy-winning Coloring Book mixtape.
“It all happened so fast,” he says, “so with something like the Chance record or any of those things, you look at it like it could be any other session. Being around those kind of artists just makes me want to work harder. You want to hold your weight, want to be the best you can be.”
Lil Yachty beings his Teenage Tour to The Wilbur on Sat Aug 26. Showtimes 6:30 and 10 PM. Tickets $29.50