Lil Yachty’s 2016 debut and New Atlanta classic Lil Boat gave rise to a cherubic pop gamine with Twizzler-colored hair beads and a candy-coated Auto-Tune voice. But on its lesser sequel, the kid whose otherworldly Eeyore-ish melodies sparked hit appearances with Billboard champs like Calvin Harris and D.R.A.M. is mostly absent. Instead, Lil Yachty wants to rap. “Got a white bitch but I call her Coco,” he boasts on “Talk to Me Nice.” “Canary yellow diamonds in my mouth like I bit a daisy,” he chants on “NBAYoungBoat.” There are wasted cameos from 2 Chainz, Tee Grizzley and Migos’ Quavo. It might all work better if Yachty could speak his lines as well as he croons them. But he can’t, at least not on Lil Boat 2.
Still, this is an admirable attempt at evolution for the 20-year-old Yachty. Most of his ATL contemporaries find a style and then mash it to death until it’s as pasteurized as American cheese. He aspires to be more than the face of so-called “mumble rap.” (On “Self Made,” he says, “Niggas hate on me ’cause I look the way I do/Hating on a nigga ain’t gonna make a better you.”) Yet Lil Boat 2‘s best moments are when he reverts to the familiar, like the wavy flourishes of “Self Made,” and the dewy piano-flecked romance of “Love Me Forever.” His chest-thumping rants “Boom” with Ugly God, and promises to “cap” haters on “Das Cap” can’t compare to the Yachty we already know. As an old-head might say, get your bars up.