At some point between the release of 2018’s Nuthin’ 2 Prove and now, Lil Yachty realized he’s a grown ass man. The universally appointed King of the Teens is now anadult — turning 23 in 2020 — and legacy is weighing on his mind, forcing the one-of-one Atlanta MC to reevaluate what his enormous, worldwide success really means. It may seem surprising, then, that his forthcoming album Lil Boat 3 returns to a trilogy Yachty began at the age of 18, but he views this series finale as both ending and beginning — a way to silence any lingering doubters and own his place amongst rap’s upper echelon. Of course, he’s already done that with production as minimal as it is playfully innovative, and a voice that sways between sweet and deadpan. Yachty’s career thus far has essentially tested and proven the hypothesis that rap music can be both good and fun, and Lil Boat 3 will be his clearest assertion of this philosophy to date.

“I'm just trying to enjoy myself,” says Yachty, now on the other side of a couple years of soul searching. “I didn't get to where I'm at now by taking everything so seriously. I'm not trying to be nobody else.” Case in point: Lil Boat 3’s first single, “Oprah’s Bank Account,” featuring DaBaby and Drake. The bubbly cut attests to both Yachty’s renewed energy and magnetism as a creator — even Ms. Winfrey said she loves it. While the song finds Yachty praising a love interest in his own way, the video’s a feat of comedic genius. He dresses as Oprah, interviews Drake about his beard, and shares an infomercial about sliding into rappers’ DMs. In just one move, Yachty unveils a grand vision, shows his refined sound, and displays his signature wit. Produced by childhood friend Earl on the Beat — “My light, my lover, my dawg,” says Yachty — the track both expands Yachty’s established identity and recalls some of his early hits.

When the man born Miles Parks McCollum uploaded “One Night” to SoundCloud in late 2015, he was a college dropout with vague dreams of becoming a rap star. About a year later, after that song went viral, he could be seen at Madison Square Garden modeling a pair of Yeezys for Kanye West’s fashion show. Yachty’s rise has since been a super-charged ascent to the highest stratum of pop culture. He quickly joined Atlanta’s formidable Quality Control family, making him a labelmate and collaborator to Migos, while also banking outside-the-box singles with the likes of DRAM (“Broccoli”) and KYLE (“iSpy”). Two of his three albums hit Billboard’s top 10 (the third reached No. 12) and as if that wasn’t enough, Yachty parlayed his nautical theme into an esteemed spot as creative director for, where else, leisurewear mark Nautica.

During this time, though, Yachty’s entire life was in the public eye. He quite literally grew up with his fans, often the same age as his most ardent supporters. “With the life I've been living, I’ve been forced to mature a lot faster than my peers,” he says. The microscopic attention to his colorful dreads, boundary-pushing music, and unique perspective in interviews made him jaded. After a run of releases stretching into 2018, Yachty needed a break. His grandmother passed away and though he spent time in the studio, music took a backseat to the uncertainty invading his life. Working on Lil Boat 3 helped him get through it, as did the input of the hugely talented friends who contributed. “I had made the album one way,” says Yachty, “then I played it for Young Thug and he told me, ‘Hey, it drags at times.’ I really trust him and take his word for it. I went back in, switched up some styles, made it more hype. I think it’s great now.” 

After a two year hiatus in which Yachty had trouble finding his desire to rap, he’s emerged eager to present his new direction. Lil Boat 3 is the fresh start he needed, but it’s still distinctly him — exploring fresh topics and sonic territories without alienating his day-one fans. That balance wasn’t easy to achieve at first. “It’s really stressful, man. I ain't going to lie,” Yachty admits. Ultimately, he learned to let go. “I'm just being honest throughout the album. Some people overlook me because they thought I was acting like a clown in the early days, but I don't give a fuck about that,” he adds defiantly. His endorsement deals, extensive jewelry collection, and the platinum plaques hanging on his wall say more than a few jabs ever could.

But even if you remove all of the accolades and expectations, what remains is a 22-year-old ready to show the world the man he’s becoming. It’s a task that was once daunting, but one he now embraces with the kind of joy that’s set his career apart from the very start. Lil Yachty’s music is a balm, a breath of fresh air, and now, a reflection of who he’s becoming. “With old albums I've been nervous, but with Lil Boat 3, I'm just extremely excited. It's the most excited I've ever been,” he says. You can almost hear the grill-laced grin in his words.


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