Lil Yachty Interview: Five Years In & Still Persevering

“When I was like 18, I used to really care about what everybody thought about my music and it used to get to me. I just started to realize that when you do good, people will criticize you, and when you do bad, they still criticize you.”

-Lil Yachty

Photo Cred: Gunner Stahl

If there’s one thing that the roller coaster of a year that was 2020 has showed us, is that time is flying by. It seems like just a couple of years ago we were introduced to Apple Music and transitioning to an all-digital era of music. Some of the favorite songs, albums and mixtapes that existed over the last half of a decade are aging faster than we can count to 10, and  we are even nearing the anniversary of some projects turning 10 this year. It sounds crazy to even say this out loud, but 2021 will be the 5 year anniversary of the amazingly iconic XXL Freshmen class of 2016. Regardless of what good or bad may have happened in peoples lives that year, we can all agree that 2016 was a very important year for music. It sparked the brand new generation of rap–a much needed shift in the culture that would still continue to reign to this day. The artists that gained success during this time period were rappers like 21 Savage, Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, Denzel Curry, and none other than Lil Yachty.

At this point in 2016, everything was still so fresh and no one really knew what to classify this version of rap as. Some called it mumble rap (even though most rappers were vividly coherent), some called it bubblegum rap, some even called it pop trap. Regardless, it was a very iconic moment in rap history. With Lil Yachty leading the pack and being the first one out there taking all of the bunches from old heads who didn’t have a clue what this new generation of rap was all about, it came with it’s pros and cons. No one else would respond to all of the hate, besides Lil Yachty. Because of that, he became the “poster child of mumble rap”. Needless to say, he became raps bunching bag, and what Yacthy himself would call it as “Raps most hated figure in the game” at that point in time. Despite all being thrown at him, he continued to thrive in his career–not giving at damn what anyone who didn’t”t understand had to say about it.

The average rap career currently lasts for an average of 2-3 years max. If you are someone who made it to that 5 year mark, you were almost considered a legend at this point. For Lil Yachty to face everything that has been thrown his way, and still continue to flourish just as much as he is til this day, is a desirable feat and it deserves all the praise and respect. It can be difficult to throw in the towel when all odds are against you, but Lil Yachty continued to strive for greatness, persevere, and remain relevant in the process. Safe to say, he’s done just that and then some.

During a Zoom call, I had the pleasure of chopping it up with Lil Yachty as he reflects on the last five years of his career, speak on his current plans for music, current business ventures, and more. Read our conversation below!

LM: We’re already coming up on the 5-year anniversary of your first mixtape Lil Boat. How are you feeling about your career thus far?

YACHTY: It’s crazy to think that it’s been five years already. It’s a blessing. The average rap career usually lasts about 2 to 3 years or something like that. On some occasions, most rappers don’t even make it past year one. I started out as arguably one of rap’s most hated artists at the beginning of my career. To still be here, remain prominent, and still doing the things I want to do is a blessing. I’m thankful for my fans for sticking with me and being supporting the entire way.

Lil Yachty’s “One Night” was the first hit to elevate his career back in 2016

LM: When you came in the game, you were leading the charge. Called yourself King of the Teens for a reason. I feel like you were very reactive to every negative thing that was said about you, and not so much anymore. How do you manage what to respond to and what not to respond to now a days?

YACHTY: I was a kid back then. I was literally a child. Now I’m 23 years old, and I have a more developed mind than when I was 17 or 18. I was new at this, and I never really had so many people just talk shit at the once. I’ve been in the game for 5 years now. I’m so used to people talking shit to the point where it doesn’t even phase me anymore. I just continue to keep doing me, keep being me, and the rest will handle itself.

LM: Do you think you’re still misunderstood in the game?

YACHTY: Definitely very misunderstood still. I feel like I don’t get the credit that I deserve. In the rap game and just in general. Even with Lil Boat 3 of course it dropped during the Black Lives Matter movement, but it didn’t really get the love it deserved. With the movement going on, it didn’t get the promotion, which was okay, but I’m just gonna continue to keep rapping my ass off and keep doing my thing on the next one.

LM: You’ve been teasing this Michigan Boat Boy tape for a while now. What was the inspiration behind that tape and what made you want to tap into the Michigan crowd?

YACHTY: I just really wanted to shine light on my people up there in Michigan. The wave is super fire and I feel like they don’t get the shine that they deserve. That flow and that rap style and the vibe is just fire and I really wanted to help magnify that. I’m tapping in with my people up there and we gonna go crazy. Producer wise, I’m tapping in with people like Energy, Pablo, Helluva—a whole bunch of them. I’m tapped in with a bunch of artists from up there so we gonna go crazy.

Lil Yachty connects w/ Michigan artists RMC Mike, YN Jay & Louie Ray on “Flintana”

LM: While you’ve made huge moves in the game and you’re really tapped in, I feel like you haven’t had your moment yet. Would you agree with that?

YACHTY: Hell yeah. I definitely don’t think that I’ve had my moment yet where I really show the world what I can do. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not sitting here and expecting the world to give it to me, or act like people owe it to me. I just do what I do and go out there and prove myself time and time again until they really feel me.

LM: This is a generation moved by numbers more than talent it seems like. Do you think if we didn’t have access to numbers then the music would be appreciated more?

YACHTY: That’s a really good question. I really never thought about it. I could see it being an issue because some people like to pay attention to the wrong things. People like to look at internet clout and let it cloud their judgement on things. So yeah, I do think that looking at all these numbers and all of that can really mess with hoe people enjoy the music sometimes.

LM: What’s youre relationship like with Cole? You’ve done tons of shows for Lyrical Lemonade in the past and you did some voice over work for The Life of Lenny as well. How close are you guys?

YACHTY: Cole and I are super tight. I was literally just with Cole the other day out in L.A. I got a lot of love for Cole bro. He just sent me over hella Lyrical Lemonade too. He told me about the new watermelon joint coming out. I was doing shows for Lyrical Lemonade years ago—like way before it was even as big as it is now. Cole did one of my videos back in like 2016 before I was famous that a lot of people don’t even know about. Him and I were actually talking about doing the video for “T.D.” from Lil Boat 3. We just couldn’t get everybody’s schedules aligned. I got a song called “Cole Bennett” and I told him if he can do the video, I’ll drop it.

Lil Yachty provides voice over work for Cole Bennett’s “The Life of Lenny” ep. 2

LM: Last year you did a Drive-in concert in Chicago—What was it like preforming again after the world was kind of on pause due to the pandemic?

YACHTY: To be honest, I didn’t really vibe with it. I’m the type of performer that thrives off of energy and I like to get turnt and go crazy at my shows. Every car had to be six feet apart. Nobody could get close to the stage. Of course I understand the importance of social distancing, but I just love the mosh pits and the raging. Hopefully by the summertime we will be able to get to perform more traditional shows. At least that’s what they say.

LM: I see that you found a lot of joy on TikTok and It seems like out of all platforms, that’s where you’re at peace. What is it about TikTok that you love so much?

YACHTY: Man TikTok is just a judge-free zone for me. I just feel so free there. When you’re a rapper, people just expect you to be so hard all day every day. There’s so many stipulations when you do. Even things like painting your nails and putting art on them—that’s something that’s so frowned upon in Hip Hop. But on TikTok, I can do whatever I want and be who I want to be and not be judged for it. I can be myself.

LM: Your song “Coffin” really got a lot of traction on TikTok last year. What was your reaction to seeing it go crazy on there?

YACHTY: I just knew it would. From the beginning, I knew that it would. It sounds cocky, but it just had that vibe and that feeling to it and I knew it would fit in perfectly with what goes up on TikTok. It’s crazy cause my mans told me not to drop it at first. I recorded it, shot the video and had it all uploaded to YouTube within that same hour. “Coffin” ended up being one of my biggest hits and I made that song in less than an hour. Sometimes you really don’t know what will go and what wont. I just go in the studio and do what I do. You never want to go in the studio and say “I’m gonna make a hit today”. You just got to go in there with a free mind and do what it do. Not every song will be your best song. You just got to go in there and create.

Lil Yachty’s viral hit “Coffin” was recorded and shot within one hour

LM: Do you care or pay attention to people harshly criticizing your music?

YACHTY: Not as much as I used to. When I was like 18, I used to really care about what everybody thought about my music and it used to get to me. I just started to realize that when you do good, people will criticize you, and when you do bad, they still criticize you. Growing up in the industry made me mature a lot faster. You just can’t be sensitive with your work because everybody is going to have something to say about it—whether it’s good or bad. It took a few incidents fro me to really see that though. I was never the type of person that would flip out on the internet or go on Twitter and rant about it, but it was always a private learning process. Thankfully I have amazing people in my corner and OGs that’s gonna look out for me and lead me down the right path.

LM: Aside from the Michigan Boat Boy tape, what else are you working on musically?

YACHTY: Shit—ain’t no telling what I might do. I’m working on doing a tape with Working on Dying. You know, F1lthy and them. Me and Lil Tecca did 8 songs the other day, so who knows what that’s gonna turn into. I got so much music bro. I think that’s all I do is record. I make a lot of music. My love and the passion for music is still there even though I still have my hands on so many other projects. I found my happiness though music. Before I got famous, I found my happiness doing music. So that love is still there.

LM: I know the year is a bit uncertain and we don’t really know what to expect in the months to come, but what are some of the things we can expect from Yachty in the near future?

YACHTY: I got a lot of stuff in the works man. I don’t know too much of what I can and can’t speak on right now, but I have my hands on multiple projects right now. I been grinding & working on a lot of music. I got several projects coming this year. The TV show Public Figures of course. I’m definitely tapping into more of my acting bag too. Getting more involved into Cryptocurrency. I’m doing a lot and making a lot of plays. The music is first and foremost though. This shit is far from over.