By Josh Weiner
Anyone’s 21st birthday is cause for celebration. But why guzzle down 21 shots when (among other reasons to pursue alternate options) you can release a catchy, vibrant 16-minute single-track EP, Birthday Mix 3? This latest release is just one of many examples of Lil Yachty’s tremendous output in the few years since he decided to pursue a career in hip-hop.
A native of Atlanta, Miles Park McCollum quickly made an image of himself with “his grenadine-red skinny braids adorned with clear plastic beads.” This trademark persona earned him a trip to Madison Square Garden in 2016, where he was featured in fellow Georgia-born rapper Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 fashion line. He has continued to don that look ever since, as can be spotted in his Sprite ad with LeBron James, his Target ad with Carly Rae Jepsen, and numerous other publicity appearances.
Beyond fashion statements, Lil Yachty has also done plenty to propel his career forward through his work in the studio. His first major gesture was with his late 2015 SoundCloud track “1 Night,” which later served as the basis of a viral YouTube comedy video. The Guardian praised the lightheartedness of the song, describing this release as “fun, hook-first pop rap oblivious to songcraft and structure that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with very little interest in legacy and even less in rap canon.”
Since then, Lil Yachty has achieved a number of more substantial releases, including two LPs (Teenage Emotions and Lil Boat 2), as well as two mixtapes (Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2) and a wave of self-released EPs, the most recent of which is Birthday Mix 3. “I’m not a rapper, I’m an artist,” Lil Yachty insists (“bubblegum trap” is how he labels his prominent style,) “And I’m more than an artist. I’m a brand.”
Lil Yachty’s divisive image and musicality has evidently earned him both admirers and detractors— he’s been described as “a heroic figure to many of his teenage peers and a thorn in the side of many of his rap elders.” But enough have fallen into the former category for him to achieve an impressive range of collaborators. These include Chance the Rapper (who recruited Lil Yachty for the track “Mixtape” on his highly acclaimed Coloring Book); Drake (who featured the song “Minnesota” on his Ovo Sound Beats1 show) and female MC Bhad Bhabie, with whom he collaborated on the minor Billboard hit, “Gucci Flip Flops,” and will be sharing the stage on The Disrespect Tour this coming fall.
As long as Lil Yachty stays true to his idiosyncratic image and continues to choose his friends wisely, the future looks bright for this master of “idiotic, startling, and brilliant outsider rap.”