You could say Lil Yachty is keeping expectations low on his latest album. After all, he did name his third studio effort “Nuthin’ 2 Prove.”
The Atlanta rapper’s strength has never been in lyrical abilities; rather, he’s won fans for his playful demeanor and the infectiously upbeat subgenre he’s dubbed “bubblegum trap.” Lighthearted and full of sounds from Super Nintendo games, the rap style popularized by Yachty and DRAM pioneer took off in the mainstream and even found appearances in Drake’s “Ice Melts” off his 2017 “More Life” playlist. However, it seems like with each studio album he releases, starting with last year’s “Teenage Emotions” and March’s “Lil Boat 2,” Yachty is increasingly drifting away from the fun and sing-songy rap of his breakout hits “One Night” (2015) and “Minnesota” (2016).
Instead, the 15-track collection “Nuthin’ 2 Prove” takes itself too seriously trying to keep up with mainstream trap rappers like Migos and Travis Scott. It ends up becoming a middling project that only superficially checks off the boxes of the genre: yes, there’s the booming bass and 808s, but with none of the force of personality to pull it off. The 21-year-old muddles his way through his rhymes in such a monotonous tone you’d think he didn’t want to be there, and there’s little sign of the quirks that made him one to watch as he blew up on the scene in the last two years.
The A-Team talent that Yachty has assembled certainly elevates the music, but often at the expense of outpacing the red-dreaded rapper in the process. On “Who Want the Smoke,” Cardi B absolutely kills, injecting the track with more energy in one verse than Yachty has in the entire album. And her partner in crime, Offset, delivers a ferocious, adrenalized verse that is among his best work to date. Listeners will likely come away from the song feeling like Offset would make good on the threats he issues, while Yachty is the wannabe rapper boasting for boasting’s sake.
Indeed, Glocks and 50 racks are recurring themes on the album as Yachty is clearly celebrating his newfound riches. While no one expected Yachty to be the Shakespeare of the ATL, he delivers lines on “Nuthin’ to Prove” that are insipid at best, head-scratching at the worst. Examples: “I’m more dog, no Petco” and “My bitch is my bitch / My wrist is my wrist” (from “We Outta Here!” Ft. Young Nudy).
There are moments of promise on the album; While the “Girl you’re perfect the way you are” trope found on “Worth It” has been trotted out endless times, the song’s flute-laced production paired with Yachty’s unique vocals is a dreamy treat. And “Forever World” with Trippie Redd, featuring a sample of Faith Evans’ “Soon As I Get Home,” is old-school R&B goodness.
It’s hard not to wish for Yachty to jump back into the sing-song, goofy world of “One Night,” complete with a ridiculous green screen, a blow-up shark, and plenty of nae-naeing. He paved his own lane by being his weird self, but sadly, on “Nuthin’ 2 Prove,” Yachty’s guilty of following the crowd.
“Nuthin’ 2 Prove”
Quality Control Music/Motown Records/Capitol Records
Producers: 30 Roc, Earl the Pearll, MitchGoneMad, Digital Nas, Cubeatz, Chase the Money, Tay Keith, Javar Rockamore, MISOGI, OZ, Jake Goes Digital, ISOBeats