Let’s Start Here.
Abstracting hip-hop or subverting its pulse to accommodate psychedelic vibes and prog-rock’s sounds and structures is not a new thing. Take that bank back to MF DOOM or Dr. Octagon, or in a softer manner to De La Soul, or in a rougher fashion to Wu-Tang Clan, or even in more recent moments to Childish Gambino and Kid Cudi. Even Kanye went so far as to sample King Crimson for the purpose of mind- and sonic-expansion so as to avoid the pitfalls of similar-sounding SoundCloud rappers.
Now Lil Yachty has taken up the mantle of prog-psychedelic, live-band hip-hop with producers such as SADPONY and Nick Hakim—with MGMT’s Ben Goldwasser playing keyboards and Mac DeMarco and Alex G sharing writing credits with Yachty—and the results are as outwardly wily and avant-garde as they are insular and introspective. While melodicism is still a calling card of Yachty’s (check the red-hot epiphany of “REACH THE SUNSHINE.” with Daniel Caesar for proof of songcraft), much of Let’s Start Here. is as spacey and vague as a tone poem—and all the better for that expanse.
Singing and smooth-talking rather than doing much rapping hasn’t altered Yachty’s feel for the good groove, as evidenced on the mesmerizing “WE SAW THE SUN!” and the free-jazzy “running out of time.” Pulling from his job of having remixed Tame Impala’s “Breathe Deeper,” Kevin Parkers’ simmering, melodic airiness has infected the lengthier Let’s Start Here. tracks, such as the menacingly slow opener “the BLACK seminole." and the nearly elegant “pRETTy” featuring vocalist Fousheé. And considering how much singing Yachty’s doing on this album, a track such as “drive ME crazy!” is downright soulful and blunt, rather than remaining an avant-garde outlier.
Like a great acid trip, not every moment on Let’s Start Here. grabs you by the ears and holds your attention—but you’ll never forget the experience in its weird entirety.