Lil Yachty has emerged as one of hip-hop’s biggest stars of the moment: the 19-year-old’s first album, Teenage Emotions, debuted at Number Five, after his single “1 Night” racked up more than 107 million YouTube views. But Yachty is a polarizing figure: for his casual indifference to hip-hop’s traditions and history (he single-handedly exposed a genre-wide generation gap last year by calling Notorious B.I.G. “overrated” and saying he couldn’t name many Tupac songs) and for the deliberately juvenile irreverence of his music (he rapped over the Rugrats theme). At the same time, he’s won over Kanye West, Chance the Rapper and countless young fans. “You shouldn’t expect one lane, like a hip-hop album,” says Yachty, whose real name is Miles McCollum, of his new LP. “If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re definitely at the wrong place.”
How has the response to the album been?
Good, but a shit-ton of people hate it. That’s life. People hate me, bro.
What’s the difference between Miles McCollum and Lil Yachty?
Yachty is probably me when Miles is mad. Miles doesn’t get mad. I’m calm now. But right before a show, right before the cameras turn on, I just switch into a star. It’s an invisible switch.
What’s the first song you loved as a kid?
Coldplay’s “Speed of Sound.” I must have been eight. I didn’t know the difference between hip-hop and rock. I used to wake up before school when my mom was already at work. That’s where I first heard a lot of music, like All Time Low, Fall Out Boy, Miley Cyrus, Linkin Park. Listening to different shit opens my variety, which makes it harder for hip-hop fans to categorize my music.
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Do you like any classic rock?
I fuck with the Beatles. My favorite song of theirs is “I Am the Walrus.” It’s just a trippy-ass song. I don’t do drugs, but I can close my eyes and see that journey. My dad used to play that Paul McCartney song “Let ‘Em In.” That was dope.
On the new album, you sing that you’ve never had a sip of beer.
That’s true. I’ve never been drunk. I took a shot years ago. It burned my throat. I’ve never had beer. It smells so disgusting.
What about weed?
A bit back in high school. But I didn’t like the way it made my brain feel. I used to say that if I ever became a famous rapper, I’d start smoking. Once you get famous, you get people around you that can make you do stuff. But when you’re broke and you smoke, you just sit on a couch and do nothing. This is not a time to be smoking.
When were you at your most broke?
Shit. Probably in New York, when I was living out here. I got a food-stamps card. I used to do credit-card scamming.
So what did you learn from getting arrested?
I don’t ever wanna be arrested again. I was in jail in a holding cell with a whole bunch of people for a couple of days. It was fucking terrible. I was scared – I’m not gonna lie. That’s when I knew I needed to do something with my life.
You worked at McDonald’s a few years ago. How were your Big Macs?
Fucking terrible. They were real sloppy, but it was a ghetto McDonald’s. They didn’t give a fuck. But they fired me when I started showing up late.
On the song “No More,” you say you’re afraid of women who “just want money.”
That scares me. I don’t like spending money on women I don’t know. I did buy my mother a Range Rover and a new crib. It feels good to say that.
You’ve recently tried to defend yourself for the line “blow that dick like a cello” on your single “Peek a Boo.”
I just make a joke out of it now. Nobody called it out when it dropped, but then the lyrics came out a month or two later, and everyone was like, “Wait a minute …” That’s when I started backing into a dark corner. It seems like there is nothing more important in the world than me confusing a cello with a woodwind instrument. It’s like the world has nothing else in the world to talk about.
Miley Cyrus recently caught heat for categorizing most hip-hop as crude. How do you feel about that?
Who gives a fuck? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, bro. If you’re tired of hip-hop, just don’t listen to it. I just wish there was a way you could filter all the hate off the Internet or not allow any opinions. Then again, I was once a teenager on Twitter dissing J. Cole for no reason.
You turn 20 in August. Any plans?
Not really. I don’t want to be 20 yet. I dread my teenage years being over. Now, whenever I have an accomplishment, it’s, like, three times bigger because I’m 19. If I was 27 and got a Sprite deal, it’s like, “Yeah, OK, that’s good.” But when you’re 19, it’s totally different.
How do you picture your life at 27?
I can’t. I don’t want to.