Michigan Boy Boat
If you let rap classicists tell it, Lil Yachty's slurred melodies and occasional flippancy betrayed a lack of reverence for the culture. But that was always more about traditionalism than rap bona fides. His malleability is ample evidence of hip-hop connoisseurship. Whether he was adopting the triple-time flow alongside Offset and Lil Baby, or flaunting a Drakeo the Ruler–esque cadence alongside Remble, Lil Boat frequently turned his own songs into tributes to regional styles and sounds. Michigan Boy Boat is the boldest example. Released in 2021, the album sees Yachty work alongside artists and producers from Detroit and Flint, MI, some of the most innovative stylists of the 2010s. Over the course of 14 songs, Yachty oscillates between production and rap styles that embody the best the state has to offer. He sounds at home whether sliding across frenetic piano or bouncy synths, and he has a knack for absorbing the stylistic tics of his collaborators. For "Final Form," he cruises a Helluva production for a flex exhibition; it's not hard to imagine Detroit luminaries 42 Dugg and Tee Grizzley lacing the track with more outward flashes of machismo. Grizzley himself joins Yachty for "Dynamic Duo," another Helluva-produced track that evokes the energy of modern D-Town. Accosting ominously rumbling keys with BabyTron on "Hybrid," Yachty adopts the Tron's descending deadpan while letting loose quippy punchlines. "SB 2021" sees Yachty jump into the more jittery side of Michigan rap, using a rambling rhythm to match both collaborator Sada Baby and the skittering percussion. On "Plastic," he joins forces with Icewear Vezzo and Rio Da Yung Og, his braggadocio capturing their plainspoken authority. It's a chameleonic act built on a level of dexterity that naysayers would say Yachty didn't possess. Pulling from aesthetics from Detroit pioneers across generations, Yachty serves up a regional tribute at the intersection of adaptability and mutual respect.