About six-months ago, I penned an article entitled, “I’m Sorry, I Just Don’t Get Lil Yachty,” voicing my disdain towards the new wave rapper simply because I didn’t, and don’t, get his attraction or sound. But, I showed the sailing team figurehead respect for his character, and perpetual ability to convert asinine criticism into motivation (like from your’s truly).  At only 19, his disproportionately high emotional intelligence has equipped him with the skills to effectively navigate this corrupt and toxic music industry. However, what’s more impressive to me than his maturity—and established career with limited talent—is his keen eye for art. Credit must be given when it’s due. 

“Am I the only one who really cares about cover art?” Lil Yachty questions on his “Mixtape” feature off Chance The Rapper’s acclaimed Coloring Book album. Getting the nod from Chano was a validating moment for Yachty as it somewhat legitimized him musically. He dropped his career-catapulting rookie project, Lil Boat, a little over one-year ago to mixed reactions that tilted towards acceptance. While this tape was melancholic for me because of the musical future it foreshadowed, I can’t help but be enamored by the cover art.

It looks like a dreary day. The sky’s grey mistiness seamlessly blends into the iridescent bluish hues of the calm ocean. Distance muddles the centered figure’s face, but the red accents expose his identity. The gaudy red from Yachty’s hair, overalls, little boat, and album border distinctly pop against the mutely pigmented backdrop, lending itself to multiple interpretations, and suggesting that Yachty’s depth extends deeper than his music proposes.  

Since Lil Boat’s release, Yachty’s explosive career has positioned him as one of new wave rap’s faces. Or as Charlamagne stated during their most recent Breakfast Club interview, “The poster child for wack rappers.” In effort to strengthen this position (the new face one, not the wack poster child), Lil Yachty recently dropped his forthcoming debut studio album’s, Teenage Emotions, cover art and track list, scheduled to release on May 26th.

It appears that his keen eye for art has sharpened with time. Perfectly complementing the album’s title, Teenage Emotions features Yachty sitting center in a crowded movie theatre fitted with a colorful grill and an opened pink Canadian tuxedo that reveals his “SAILORSINK” tattoo and icy pendants. He’s surrounded by a melting pot of quintessential teenage outcasted archetypes: a heavy-set redheaded girl; an albino; a girl with vitiligo; a gay couple kissing; a punk rock-looking girl whose hairstyle and tattoos suggest direct parental defiance. But unlike their representations in modern-day cinema, these “outcasts” aren’t angsty or upset; they’re smiling, laughing—blissful. It's the way it should be. The amalgamation of individuals in a movie theatre represents a safe setting that imparts ubiquitous joy, regardless of one’s appearance. Everyone has fun at the movies. Everyone should be comfortable, and have fun being themselves. The significant album cover really is quite remarkable, impactful. Despite his youth, Yachty is an emotionally deep, caring role model.

Yachty explained Teenage Emotions’ cover on live IG, “In high school as a teenager growing up, you’re surrounded by so many different types of people … There are so many types of people in the world who practice different religions or do whatever they want to do. It’s basically like… don’t be afraid to do you, to be you … Love yourself. Be happy, positive.” 

For as much slander as he receives (and I give him), Lil Yachty is an overwhelmingly positive individual who simply wants others to feel comfortable in their skin. Using his own eccentric physical and musical aesthetic as an example, he urges kids who are struggling with low self-esteems to embrace and express their identity. Despite the political blunder that’s raping our nation, we’re entering a progressive world that welcomes individuality. Lil Yachty is applying that mindset to Hip Hop by imploring individuals to celebrate their differences, not conceal them.

While I’m not a fan of the sonics, I respect that this enlightened thinking manifests in his euphoric music. We're frequently bombarded by suffocating pessimism and negativity—it’s refreshing to witness a kid embody such an upbeat, loving mentality. And who knows, with features including, but not limited to, Migos, YG, Diplo, and production from Southside, maybe Teenage Emotions won’t be too bad. Check out the track list below, and stream this album everywhere on May 26th. 

  1. "Like a Star"
  2. "DN Freestyle"
  3. "Peek a Boo" featuring Migos
  4. "Dirty Mouth"
  5. "Harley"
  6. "All Around Me" featuring YG and Kamaiyah
  7. "Say My Name"
  8. "All You Had to Say"
  9. "Better" featuring Stefflon Don
  10. "Forever Young" featuring Diplo
  11. "Lady in Yellow"
  12. "Moments in Time"
  13. "Otha Shit" (Interlude)
  14. "XMen" featuring Evander Griim
  15. "Bring It Back"
  16. "Running With the Ghost" featuring Grace
  17. "FYI (I Know Now)"
  18. "Priorities"
  19. "No More"
  20. "Made of Glass"
  21. "Momma" (Outro) featuring Sonyae Elise