The dark side of the boat: reviewing Lil Yachty’s Pink Floyd-inspired album (2024)

The Atlanta rapper’s ambitious ‘Let’s Start Here’ is exciting

Courtesy of Complex

“Let’s Start Here” takes inspiration from Pink Floyd.

Tabitha Cahan, Contributing Writer
January 30, 2023

As a music aficionado, keeping up with Pitchfork is practically my religion. What I was not expecting on my Pitchfork feed, however, was a promotion announcing “Let’s Start Here,” Lil Yachty’s psychedelic rock album. Now this piqued my interest.

Lil Yachty, or Lil Boat, as his fans refer to him, is an Atlanta-based rapper whose discography is, quite frankly, forgettable. His trademark over-autotuned vocals are outshone by rap powerhouse Travis Scott, and his instrumentals have rarely been described as inventive. With the exception of his TikTok-famous hit “Poland,” I couldn’t name a single one of his songs.

Though Lil Yachty is categorized as a rapper, with his musical career being launched within the hip-hop genre, his fifth studio album, “Let’s Start Here,” is decidedly not rap. Best defined as a psychedelic rock album, “Let’s Start Here” is unrecognizable in comparison to Lil Yachty’s previous hits such as “Poland” or “One Night.” Taking the leap to enter a new genre that is relatively underused in terms of mainstream music is risky, but like Radiohead’s electronic album “Kid A,” this genre experimentation really paid off.

Could this be Lil Yachty’s “Kid A”? To Radiohead fans everywhere, let me explain. No, I am not likening Lil Yachty’s previous discography to Radiohead — that would be preposterous. Radiohead is many things, and forgettable is not one of them. What I am more interested in is Radiohead and Lil Yachty’s refusal to be defined. I believe that “Let’s Start Here” is Lil Yachty’s rebellion against the confines of rap.

Radiohead, pre-“Kid A,” was defined as a 90s Britpop band, likened to that of U2, Oasis, Blur, etc. “Kid A,” however, blew that definition completely out of the water. It was a dystopian electronic album, filled with soundscapes and entirely different instrumentation. As Pitchfork writer Brent DiCrescenzo aptly described it, ‘Kid A’ makes rock and roll childish.” It was one of the most shocking turns in their discography.

“Let’s Start Here,” executively produced by SadPony, was released on Jan. 27, 2023. Contributors and features include MGMT’s Benjamin Goldwasser, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait, Alex G, Mac DeMarco, Wimberly, Justin Raisen, tee*zo Touchdown, Daniel Caesar, Fousheé, Diana Gordon, Magdalena Bay, Justine Skye and Nick Hakim. This lineup is completely unexpected but exciting nonetheless.

In this psychedelic rock odyssey, Lil Yachty’s inspiration of Pink Floyd definitely shines through. Many songs on the album also sound similar to Tame Impala or even Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!” In this equally shocking left turn, Lil Yachty is redefining the creative limits of his music.

The opener “the BLACK seminole.” beautifully exemplifies his Pink Floyd inspiration. This song feels like a direct homage to “Dark Side of the Moon.” Pieces of the song seem to be drawn from “Breathe (In The Air),” “The Great Gig in the Sky” and even earlier works like “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” Best described as a cosmic rock expedition, the track is a seven-minute journey into the world he has created. The instrumentals are transcendent — complete with a guitar solo, of course. Similar to “Everything In Its Right Place” from “Kid A,” it sets the stage for the songs to follow.

The third track on the album, “running out of time,” is sung in part by Justine Skye and feels poppy and bright. The bassline is upbeat and funky, complementing the guitar riffs and swirling synths. Lil Yachty sings romantically, inviting the listener to stay up all night with him. I mean, if this is the soundtrack, I’m game.

“THE zone~” also features Justine Skye, but it feels much more like the psychedelic powerhouse Tame Impala than the previous. Between the instrumentation and the hyperbolic lyrics “I’m so far gone,” this one truly feels like an acid trip.

On a more lighthearted track, Diana Gordon is the main singer on “drive ME crazy!”, and it’s pure bliss. The instrumental is more minimalist in the beginning, honing in on Gordon’s voice. Toward the end of the track, there is a synth breakdown that cuts the song into half time, and we hear Lil Yachty rapping for the first and only time in the album. The string ending neatly ties the song up in a little bow.

In another track that sounds straight off a Tame Impala record, “sHouLd i B?” transitions perfectly into “The Alchemist.” The punchy drums and modulated synth make for two effervescent tracks. The breakdown in “The Alchemist” is accented nicely by Fousheé hitting her highest register.

The final track “REACH THE SUNSHINE.” sounds eerily reminiscent of Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song.” “Pyramid Song” was originally intended as a track for “Kid A” before it was on “Amnesiac,” an album composed mostly of the b-sides of “Kid A.” The first line of “REACH THE SUNSHINE.” sung by Daniel Caesar, “Staring in the mirror, and what do I see / A three-eyed man staring back at me” has a flow comparable to Radiohead’s “I jumped in the river and what did I see? / Black eyed angels swam with me.”

It is equally sparse in terms of instrumentation, until it reaches a crescendo about two and a half minutes into the song (almost the same time stamp as “Pyramid Song,” might I add). The crescendo transports the listener to the same pocket of the universe with a deep, synth-fueled surge. This feels more sinister than the Radiohead track — the anti-chorus is peppered with evil laughs rather than Thom Yorke’s signature croon. This track is Lil Yachty reaching his full potential. It is ethereal and otherworldly. The cacophony of the anti-chorus reaches new heights, and it’s exciting to hear.

Whether my argument resonates with you or not, it is always exciting to see artists take risks. One cannot deny how ambitious of a move this is, especially given the constraints of being a trap artist. In the same vein as Radiohead, throughout his rise to fame, Lil Yachty has been mainstream. “Let’s Start Here” and “Kid A” show that an artist can completely change their trajectory. In an age with increasing amounts of cash-grab, radio-friendly drivel, albums like this give me faith in the future of music.

The dark side of the boat: reviewing Lil Yachty’s Pink Floyd-inspired album (2024)
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