Teenage Lil Yachty was already plotting an empire when his single “Minnesota” went viral in 2016. Today, at 23, he’s an exemplar of a modern celebrity: There’s the music, of course, which he releases at a consistent clip, but there are also collaborations with brands like Nautica and Target and appearances in movies like How High 2. He signed an endorsement deal with Sprite and collaborated with Reese’s Puffs cereal.
He’s working on a film inspired by the card game Uno. He has a new label imprint called Concrete Boyz. (A nod to the rap moguls of yesteryear, with new signees getting an iced-out chain.)
Yachty, whose real name is Miles Parks McCollum, earned himself the title of “King of the Teens” early on. As the music industry began looking toward younger stars to navigate changing modes of communication and consumption online, Yachty came to represent the digital-native music listener. The type of fan that engages with the musicians they admire via dozens of online touchpoints seamlessly. Fitting, then, that Yachty was among the first generation of rappers and musicians on Twitch, the live-streaming app popular with gamers, that is increasingly gaining traction in the music industry. He was also an early evangelist of Discord, the messaging platform that has become a central part of fan communities online. In April he collaborated with the company on “sound packs,” which allowed users to replace the app’s normal notifications with sounds he created.
“I’m so connected on the internet,” Yachty says. “People know I’m on there, and people know me for talking and being goofy. It helps on a lot of my deals, my character.”
There have been a lot of deals. Yachty reportedly made $13 million on endorsements in 2016 and 2017 — a figure he responds to by simply saying, “Work hard, play hard.” He says he spends more than $50,000 a month on various expenses: “I have many assets and insurance, plus an elaborate payroll.”
He was one of the first rappers to hop on the crypto craze, selling something called a “YachtyCoin” last December in an auction on the platform Nifty Gateway. According to a report from Coinbase, the token sold for $16,050.
Early in his career, Yachty met with Quality Control records co-founder Kevin “Coach K” Lee to map out a vision for his career. “One of the biggest things he talked about was being a brand. Being bigger than just an artist — being a mogul,” Yachty explains. “That was something we truly believed in. And that’s what we did.”
In the slow-down of the pandemic, he had his first chance to think about how quickly he had become famous: “It was a full year from walking across the stage in high school to then I’m in this penthouse in midtown Atlanta, I got this G-wagon, put my mother in a house. It’s a fast life. You not ever getting the chance to think about a lot of shit.”
For Yachty, all his projects are not simply hyper-ambitious money-making, but a worthwhile challenge as well. “I think that’s what’s fun. I enjoy branching out and just seeing what else I can do,” he says. “Me, personally, I wanted to have the endorsements and act and do all of these things. But you got to make yourself available. It all depends on what kind of career you want to have.”