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Smile when you’re winning: Lil Yachty, DRAM and Chance the rapper.

From Lil Yachty to DRAM, 2016's best hip-hop is all about black joy

With references to Super Nintendo, Pixar and healthy vegetables, this year has seen a new breed of rap superstars who are content to swap scowls for smiles

T he last decade has seen a lot of rap move towards a darker and introspective sound. Major players such as Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar have taken on topics such as their own mental health, while dominant scenes such as drill in Chicago have reflected the violence in the city in which it was invented. In 2016, though, there has been a slight realignment towards fun rap that channels happiness above all else, something Chance the Rapper tagged #BlackBoyJoy , encouraging others to participate. A crop of new young rap stars hope to turn the tables toward euphoria, and flip rap classicism on its head.

Chance is the artist at the epicenter of this mood shift; critically lauded and liked within rapper circles and without , his latest mixtape, Coloring Book, was an expansive playground with enough room for Lil Wayne and Lil Yachty, and it united Kanye West with the Chicago Children’s Choir, T-Pain with Kirk Franklin. Chance’s music, and the sound of those in his inner circle – Noname, Jamila Woods and Saba – is joyful. It’s hopeful. It’s optimistic. His delivery is animated; his demeanor is excitable. He raps about love, drugs, faith and finding solace, and coats it all in optimism.

Chance has become the posterboy for a very particular kind of black joy in rap, but there are a handful of others doing similar work. Among the most popular of them is Lil Uzi Vert, a Philly rapper whose frolicking half-ballads only see teen romance through the dizzying frames of rose-colored glasses. Since breaking through in 2015, Uzi has been prolific, releasing a trio of doe-eyed, love-centric mixtapes – Luv is Rage, Lil Uzi Vert v the World, and The Perfect Luv Tape – and a collaborative project with Gucci Mane, 1017 v the World, before recently teasing Luv is Rage 2. His singsong is infectious (as on Scott & Ramona) and often even cheery (as on Ronda (Winners), and when he isn’t rapping, he’s dancing around hotel rooms .

A single degree of separation from Uzi, there’s Lil Yachty, the bubblegum rap star that’s a self-proclaimed King of the Teens. As if proving the very utility of his raps, Lil Yachty first became popular when his SoundCloud track, 1 Night, scored a viral comedy video . He makes fun, hook-first pop rap oblivious to songcraft and structure that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with very little interest in legacy and even less in rap canon. His production, which is mostly handled by friend Burberry Perry, evokes clouds, cotton candy and Super Nintendo. Many of the strongest moments in Yachty’s digital discography are distillations of cut scenes from Pixar and Super Mario that make it feel like you’re taking the scenic route through the early 00s on a Flying Nimbus .

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Yachty is DRAM, who recalls entire swaths of R&B history, both recent and distant. DRAM’s happy rap isn’t a far cry from Chance’s, warm and refreshing. But it has an added layer of soul and richness. In a recent interview on the Rap Radar podcast, Erykah Badu said DRAM is what would happen “if George Clinton, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and D’Angelo had a baby”, and it’s easy to follow the lineage. There’s something distinctly neo-soul about his vocals, but there are traces of feel-good funk and manic ODB enthusiasm, too. It’s his ability to be so many different things at once that makes Broccoli, his sleeper hit with Lil Yachty, work so well and it’s why the song shot up the charts: it’s brazenly jolly.

In a different realm, but sharing a similar spirit, is Rae Sremmurd, the Mississippi party rap duo of brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi. Their music doesn’t have the effervescence of Yachty’s, and it isn’t imbued with positivity in the way that Chance’s is, but it’s a similar kind of carefree. Their glee is implicit in their energies, their youthful exuberance. The SremmLife credo is basically have as much fun as you can, as safely as you can, and it permeates their shows , their interviews , and, obviously, their songs. The smash single, Black Beatles, which rocketed up to the top of the Billboard chart, is Peak SremmLife – they’re young bulls living like old geezers with so much money on the floor that “they’re buying school clothes”. They’re young, rich and free.

These are just some of the primary voices helping bring balance to rap’s tone, adding some levity where there was mostly myth-making and legacy-building before, humorlessness and sedation. There is more than enough space for both to flourish, but it is crucial, especially in times like these, that feel-good music brings a little light to our lives. Rap , go forth and be merry.

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How Lil Yachty Got His Second Act

By Jeff Ihaza

Until the pandemic, Lil Yachty never stopped to think about how quickly he became famous. “It was a full year from walking across the stage in high school to then I’m in this penthouse in midtown Atlanta , I got this G-wagon, put my mother in a house,” Yachty explains. “It’s a fast life. You not ever getting the chance to think about a lot of shit.”

Yachty’s 2016 hit “Minnesota,” which had the treacly energy of a nursery rhyme, earned the then-17-year-old the title “King of the Teens.” But since then, he’s become an elder statesman of a certain brand of young superstar — and something like the Gen Z answer to Diddy. He collaborated with brands like Nautica and Target; he appeared in the movie How High 2 ; he signed an endorsement deal with Sprite. Signees to his new label imprint, Concrete Boys, even get an iced-out chain.

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Born Miles Parks McCollum, Yachty embodies many of the ways the music industry has changed in the past decade. He rose to fame on the internet and commands attention with or without new music. Over Zoom in March, he’s calm and reserved, pausing intently before he responds to questions. The youthful exuberance is still there, though. At one point, his mom, who lives nearby, calls to ask what he wants from the grocery store. “I need Pop-Tarts,” he says sweetly. “I really want them cinnamon-bun Pop-Tarts.”

He can afford lots of Pop-Tarts. Yachty reportedly made $13 million on endorsements in 2016 and 2017. (“Work hard, play hard,” he responds when asked about the number.) He spends more than $50,000 a month on various expenses, according to one recent headline. (“If anything I pay a little more. I have many assets and insurance, plus an elaborate payroll.”) He’s working on a Reese’s Puffs cereal collaboration, a film based on the card game Uno, and he was one of the first rappers to hop on the crypto craze, selling something called a “YachtyCoin” last December in an auction on the platform Nifty Gateway. According to a report from Coinbase, the token sold for $16,050. Yachty explains that when he was first discovered by Quality Control records founder Kevin “Coach K” Lee, “one of the biggest things he talked about was being a brand. Being bigger than just an artist — being a mogul.” 

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In fact, collaboration has come to be a useful tool for Yachty as he sheds the King of the Teens title for something more akin to a rap mogul. “I only work with people I have friendships with, who I really admire,” Yachty says. “And I love working with newer artists, up-and-coming artists.”  Within the world of hip-hop, Yachty has found for himself somewhere between a megastar and internet hero, and it would appear that he’s just settling in. “I just fuck with new talent. Not even like, ‘let me sign you, get under my wing,’ ” he explains. “Just ‘hey, I’ve been in this spot before. I know what that’s like, bada bing, bada boom.’ ”

Yachty started Concrete Boys last year. One of the first signees was his childhood friend Draft Day, who offers one of the more exciting features on Lil Boat 3, on the cut “Demon Time.” “I feel old sometimes,” Yachty admits. “I feel old as fuck when someone’s popping and I don’t know who they are. Which is rare, because I be on my shit.”

Yachty is also at the forefront of a new realm of social platforms, namely Twitch and Discord, that engender more direct communication within communities. Yachty frequently talks directly to fans on both platforms, and in April he collaborated with Discord on “sound packs,” which allowed users to replace the app’s normal notifications with sounds he created. 

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I ask Yachty where he sees himself in five years. “Hopefully, a really successful actor,” he responds. “And with a bangin’ eight pack. I’ll probably cut my hair up, maybe a little beard. Real sex-symbol shit, you know what I’m saying?” For Yachty, who opened the door to a new brand of celebrity rapper, it doesn’t register as wishful thinking. His enduring celebrity is proof of what’s possible with a solid flow and internet savvy. “I just want to do everything. Because I’ve realized I can,” Yachty explains. “I’ve learned the power I have. The only thing stopping me is me, for real.”

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Lil Yachty and ‘Super Mario’ Made Nostalgia Great Again in 2016

Sometimes we’re prepared for it — other times, it comes for us

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Share All sharing options for: Lil Yachty and ‘Super Mario’ Made Nostalgia Great Again in 2016

Do o you remember what it felt like to fly in 1996? I’d forgotten, until a teenage rapper named Lil Yachty (who, in his own words, sounds like “ a fucking cartoon character ”) reminded me.

I discovered Yachty in March, when the Twittersphere was hyping Lil Boat , a new mixtape from the 18-year-old, red-beaded Atlanta MC. Word was, the project sounded like cotton candy, river tubing on the hottest day of summer, and a 24-hour marathon of Disney Channel original movies wrapped into one. Worth at least a cursory listen.

The first person you hear on Lil Boat is not Yachty. It’s Ellen DeGeneres. The opening track samples the “just keep swimming” dialogue from Finding Nemo , a millennial mantra that every person under 30 in America has muttered to themselves during at least one final-exam cram session or exhausting late-night shift. When Yachty does eventually step to the mic, his bars are adequate but not head-turning. Then, halfway through the song, he Digivolves into an otherworldly singer, bleating emotions rather than words. His wailing “hellooooooo” sounds simultaneously forlorn and euphoric. It’s whale-speak spun through Auto-Tune.

I bobbed absentmindedly through more of the tracks. The songs are fun and ephemeral, like perusing your friends’ Snapchat stories on a hungover Saturday morning. “Wanna Be Us” has immediate potential as a giddy summer jam. “Minnesota” demonstrates Yachty’s clear debt to fellow ATLien and featured artist Young Thug.

Then the eighth track, “Run/Running,” comes on, and a #throwbackthursday bomb detonates inside my head.

Sometimes we are prepared for nostalgia. We go into Toy Story 3 ready to weep for our own lost childhoods. We visit our college campuses knowing every square inch will be overrun with vivid coming-of-age memories. We roll our eyes when Hollywood decides to make a mature Mighty Morphin Power Rangers reboot because we, unlike movie studios, know you can’t tug at heartstrings with a tow truck.

But when nostalgia comes after you out of nowhere, while you’re just minding your own business, it’s different. It’s overwhelming. It can induce hysteria. I was in a legit panic when “Run/Running” kicked off with a buoyant pan flute, a sound that I immediately knew was an integral part of my youth but couldn’t immediately place. I was transported back to my childhood home in Montgomery, Alabama, and I started investigating. I flipped through my favorite television channels in my mind: Was it the theme song from a One Saturday Morning cartoon? I rummaged through my mess of a closet: Was this the bumper music from a 2-XL tape ? Maybe it was the tune my Bop It played? No, this is way too dope for Bop It.

I couldn’t place it. I was going to go mad listening to a SoundCloud rapper warble over an arcane piece of ’90s flotsam, lost to the sands of time.

I returned to Twitter, the font of all human knowledge. And that’s how I figured it out, as I scanned through reactions from other people who were having the same perplexed , disbelieving , ecstatic response as I was: This is the goddamn menu music from Super Mario 64.

lil yachty 2016

In one of his most famous ad pitches , Don Draper called nostalgia “the pain from an old wound.” That characterization — nostalgia as a fundamentally negative, heart-wrenching, malignant force — is the way the sentiment was viewed for centuries.

“Nostalgia” began its life as a disease. The term was coined by the Swiss physician Johannes Hofer in 1688 as a diagnosis for mental and physical problems suffered by the country’s soldiers. Young men trapped on battlefields far from home, who carried symptoms ranging from melancholy to loss of appetite to irregular heartbeats, were said to be suffering from nostalgia. It was a sign of mental weakness. Over the next 200 years, doctors and military leaders tried a variety of strategies to cure the disease, from leeches to death threats to rituals of public humiliation, according to The Atlantic .

In a 2013 paper, a group of social psychologists wrote that, “Though speculations about the causes of nostalgia varied, they had one common feature; they all ultimately viewed nostalgia as abnormal and problematic.”

In the 20th century, the perception of nostalgia began to shift, but no one had empirically proven its effects until a social psychology professor at England’s University of Southampton got in an argument with a colleague about, among other things, his desire to talk about the Tar Heels. Constantine Sedikides, one of the coauthors of the aforementioned study, had formerly taught at the University of North Carolina and felt nostalgic about his time watching basketball there (during the Dean Smith era). Another professor said this bout of nostalgia clearly indicated he was depressed. Sedikides set out to prove him wrong.

Researchers at Southampton began bringing in groups of people to attempt to measure the effect nostalgia had on their demeanor. One group would be asked to write in detail about a nostalgic event that had occurred in their lives, while a control group wrote about an ordinary event. The group steeped in nostalgia was found to have boosted self-regard, social interconnectedness, and interpersonal competence. Thinking about treasured memories from the past made the test subjects more optimistic about the future.

Studies have shown that nostalgia, which is largely driven by social experiences, increases our desire to connect with others. It makes single people want to date; it makes people in couples happier about their relationships. “It makes you feel loved and connected,” Clay Routledge, a psychology professor at North Dakota State University and another coauthor of the nostalgia study, tells me. “Nostalgia’s kind of a reminder of, ‘Whoa, I’ve had all these great experiences with people. I’ve done really good things. I should keep doing that kind of stuff.’”

While the academic community was proving nostalgia’s benefits, corporations didn’t need a peer-reviewed study to divine that the emotional experience was powerful — and profitable. Over the past decade we’ve watched nostalgia become weaponized, as media giants bludgeon us over the head with comic book movie reboots, video game remasters, television revivals, album sequels, and a seemingly endless string of reunion tours. You no longer need to be a ’90s kid to remember the 23 identity-affirming items on a BuzzFeed listicle, because each of those things has no doubt been reanimated in some fashion to make money.

“The reason why nostalgia is big business … is simply because it helps fulfill basic psychological needs that we have,” says Jacob Juhl, coauthor of the study and an assistant psychology professor and lecturer at the University of Southampton. “Humans have a need for social connectedness. We have a need for self-esteem. We have a basic need to see our life as meaningful and purposeful. Nostalgia is something that helps us fill this need. We’re more likely to gravitate towards products that are going to fulfill important needs for us.”

Technology has made it easier to satisfy our ravenous appetite for microwaved versions of the past. We’re never more than a few clicks from summoning a beloved childhood song on Spotify or a favorite movie on Netflix. And, thanks to social media, we can quickly find other people who also celebrate Mean Girls ’ anniversary every year or believe Super Mario 64 is the greatest game of all time. Obsessions that might have made us feel ostracized as kids now feel validated when they’re trending on Twitter.

“The availability of things from our past is a reason why nostalgia is kind of a hot topic right now,” Juhl says. “We’re able to access nostalgic events that were not necessarily social, where before we were unable to access non-social nostalgic things.”

Researchers say increased uncertainty also drives us toward nostalgic content. That uncertainty can manifest itself on an individual level — information overload on the Twitter timeline or the Netflix queue may lead you to retreat to a sure, comforting thing. But it’s also apparent on a macro scale, where global forces have pushed economic, political, and environmental uncertainty top of mind. When the planet feels like it’s in shambles, we curl up in the coherent, artificial worlds of old movies, TV shows, and video games. “Part of it might be a natural kind of coping mechanism that people use in times when they feel less stable or less secure,” Routledge says. “Nostalgia seems to be a way to get some sense of certainty or control.”

Today everyone from Disney to Donald Trump wants to make you wistful for the past in some way or another. It’s exhausting, and it could eventually lessen our ability to feel nostalgic at all, experts say.

“I think it’s possible that people could become desensitized to [nostalgia],” Juhl says, noting research has shown that people become satiated with stimuli through overexposure, whether it’s a favorite meal or a beloved song. “People would be more likely to become numb to a specific thing in pop culture that is related to one specific nostalgic memory.”

I’ve been feeling that numbness to our current nostalgia overload. In fact, I’ve been annoyed by much of it . But then that Yachty song bowled me over. Why did a tune I’d buried in my mind being featured in a song by a rapper I had never heard of manage to get to me? How did this perfect combo hit all the right notes and cut through the current nostalgic noise?

For a kid who has not yet spent two decades on this Earth, Lil Yachty is a deeply nostalgic artist. In addition to sampling Nemo and Mario , he’s rapped over beats that lifted from Rugrats (harmless), ice cream trucks (grating), and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (never let Kylie near a mic again). He reps Seinfeld and Incubus on his Instagram.

And he loves video games. Yachty talks about Rock Band with his fans. He’s recently revisited the library of the very underrated Nintendo GameCube. He claims to have an incredible N64 collection. I’m inclined to believe he does.

According to Routledge, the kind of intense affection for the past Yachty shows is fairly common for someone of his age. A yet-to-be-published study by Routledge and other researchers finds that early adulthood is a time of increased nostalgic feelings, as teenagers cope with leaving home for the first time to go to college, or, in Yachty’s case, leaving home to hang out with superstars like Kanye West. “Those times of changes [are when] you might be more prone to nostalgia as a way to compensate or to feel more of a sense of stability and your sense of identity,” Routledge says.

It’s this intense devotion to the past that birthed “Run/Running.” Last summer, a month before he released his hit single “1 Night,” Yachty tweeted out a 30-minute YouTube clip of the menu music for Super Mario 64 . The song, produced by legendary Nintendo composer Koji Kondo, is a relatively obscure musical piece in a wildly popular game. Everyone who’s played Mario 64 has heard the tune during the boot-up sequence, but it burrows into a different part of your mind than the actual level music that you’re forced to listen to for longer stretches. It’s ubiquitous and anonymous at the same time (Juhl says songs we once heard a lot but then slipped from our conscious memory can pack a more potent nostalgic punch than ones that remain consistently familiar).

Earl the Pearl , a producer and childhood friend of Yachty’s, saw the tweet, and it immediately took him back to his own memories of playing the game. He thought it could make the basis for a good beat. He added hi-hats, the Super Mario Bros. jump sound effect, and a booming bass that catapults the Nintendo melody into 2016 at about 40 seconds in. Yachty glides over the track in full Auto-Tuned glory, much more at home here than on his other nostalgia plays. “I spent everything I have, just to make it right back,” he croons. This must be how Mario felt when he donned the Wing Cap.

“He wanted to make a beat like this for the longest,” Earl says. “I did the beat in like 15 or 20 minutes. I gave it to him, and he loved it from the first time he heard it. It brings [listeners] back. Like, ‘Aw man, I remember this game when I was a kid.’”

If Yachty was searching for a totem to represent his idealized vision of childhood, he couldn’t have picked a better one than Mario 64 . In 1996, when the game debuted, the character was already iconic, having starred in the best-selling video game of the ’80s (and the most unfortunate video game–adaptation of the ‘90s). For both Mario and Nintendo, the Nintendo 64 marked a first foray into 3-D gaming, a new paradigm for the industry that had previously been explored but not yet perfected.

Mario 64 got it astoundingly right. For its time, the game was a technical marvel, boasting cutting-edge graphics (for a console game ) and unparalleled control sensitivity thanks to the N64’s analog stick. The way Mario ran, leapt, and karate-kicked across his colorful 3-D landscapes was intuitive in a way that earlier games couldn’t match. And the nonlinear structure of the game — the goal is to get 70 stars, completing tasks across various open levels as the player sees fit — paved the way for the sandbox games that predominate the gaming world today. Whether you were a kid seduced by the Toys R Us demo, a seasoned gamer impressed by the glowing reviews, or a developer wowed by Nintendo’s technical wizardry, the game was a revelation. Perhaps no other game has ever floored so many people at once, or inspired such a thrilling sense of limitless possibility ( Minecraft is Mario 64 ’s heir apparent in that regard).

“ Mario 64 had both technology and game design going for it,” says Jeremy Parish, a video game journalist and host of Retronauts , a podcast about retro games. “Nintendo wasn’t afraid to change the workings of Mario, doing things like breaking away from the series’ usual series of short stages in favor of about a dozen huge playgrounds each with multiple goals, to allow players to really learn the ins and outs of these more complex spaces. Nintendo had the intuitive sense to avoid trying to simply turn 2-D Mario into 3-D and instead let the game play out with a more sprawling, laid-back sensibility that felt more appropriate for the third dimension.”

The game was the best-selling release on the Nintendo 64, moving more than 11 million copies. It’s one of those titles everyone who loves video games has touched at one point or another. Dan Houser, cofounder of Grand Theft Auto –creator Rockstar Games, has said every 3-D game developer borrowed something from Mario 64 .

And now one of the hottest rappers of 2016, who wasn’t even alive when the game debuted, has borrowed something as well.

Do o you know what it feels like to fly in 2016? Inspired by my visceral reaction to the song, I corralled a friend’s Nintendo 64 recently and played Super Mario 64 for the first time in at least a decade. Of course, I lingered on the menu screen and thought of Yachty. “That song has been activated by the rap artist,” Juhl explains. “Purely on a cognitive level, it suggests that you’ll be more likely to associate the nostalgic event with him and be more likely to form some kind of attachment.”

There’s no hiding the game’s age. Even as I’m writing this, I’m imagining the blocky graphics to be better than they actually are. The camera, limited to a few preset angles, regularly gets stuck in awkward positions. Some of the songs that are not the incredible menu music — and repeat across multiple levels — grate after a while. And that first flying level where Mario gains the Wing Cap, which I remember as a blissful experience from childhood, is actually incredibly frustrating and kind of cheap .

But… it’s Mario 64. There’s a thrill in returning to that initial courtyard, where I and millions of other gamers took our first baby steps in a 3-D world. The eel that lurks in the waters of Dire, Dire Docks is still terrifying. And Mario’s “wahoo!” upon vaulting into the third leg of his triple jump remains one of gaming’s greatest cathartic releases.

Of course I still love Mario 64 — my brain is wired to. One of the most powerful reasons we lap up nostalgia is because we crave self-continuity, the notion that the things that happened to us in the past are relevant to our lives’ ongoing narratives. “I suspect that when you heard the song, it activated pleasant memories,” Juhl tells me. “It was something that you liked, which was something that you also liked in the past. There’s some part of you from the past that is currently persisting and makes up who you are today.”

This is really what nostalgia comes down to — the desire to be made whole, to know that what happened in the past mattered and still matters. Mario 64 is not just about the acrobatic plumber and Nintendo’s clever game design. It’s about my months-long odyssey to scrounge together $200 for a Nintendo 64, my trip with my father to Toys R Us to buy the console and game, playing Mario 64 with the volume off while my parents slept on Saturday mornings, getting yelled at because I wanted to to get one more star rather than go to school, discovering the Wing Cap level with a childhood friend by accidentally staring into the sun, sharing “Run/Running” with my current friends just to witness their own bewildered excitement, and celebrating the game’s 20th anniversary with people around the world on the internet.

“A lot of these pop culture phenomena are actually more connecting than you think they are at first blush,” Routledge says. “It’s affirming to know that this is something that’s meaningful to other people.”

This game and its many social tendrils are a part of me. Now, the song is too.

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Pink Guy With Devon Gummersall and Joanna Robinson (Eps. 107-108)

The group talks about why these episodes have endured despite their difficult topic before Gummersall joins to reflect on playing the character

lil yachty 2016

The 2024 MLB Preseason Power Rankings

MLB Opening Day is almost here, and it’s time to break down the sport’s unpredictable pecking order. Can anyone compete with the top two teams? Who will be this season’s Rangers/Diamondbacks-esque surprise? And how will the wild-card race shake out?

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Lil Yachty Discusses the Craziest Year of His Career

"This my last year being broke."

Image via P&P

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2016 was a monumental year for Lil Yachty. The Atlanta rapper rose from obscurity and became a global sensation, earning a Grammy nomination for his contribution to D.R.A.M.'s sleeper hit "Broccoli" and accomplishing even more along the way. The 19 year old recently spoke to  Fader   about his whirlwind year, opening up about his wildest experiences.

He discussed meeting Malia and Sasha Obama for the first time at Jay Z's  Made In America  festival in Philadelphia. "Backstage, I went to the VIP section and watched Coldplay where Malia and Sasha were. It surprised me that they knew who I was," he recalls. "Sasha was a fan of my music, a huge fan. I was shocked that Malia and Sasha were asking me for pictures. I was just in shock. I didn’t ask them nothing." Later that night, he met one of his idols, Jay Z, who overheard him singing Coldplay's "Fix You" and told him that he should record his own version of the track. "It was dope," he says of the experience.

He also discussed his growing presence in the fashion world, expressing excitement about getting noticed by  Nautica.  "I had been pushing to get their attention. I was wearing 100 percent Nautica for months," he says. "The Nautica lookbook came through, and we have a lot of future business in the works." He cites his appearance in Kanye West's Yeezy Season 3 fashion show as the beginning of his fashion career, discussing how his position at the front of the stage helped him gain recognition. "That opened doors for me. A lot of fashion doors opened up after that," he says of the fashion show.

In addition to discussing the crazy experiences he's had because of his fame, he also spoke about creating the music that propelled him into the limelight. He reflected on the creation of his stellar Lil Boat   mixtape, which he worked on at Atlanta's QC Studio. "It wasn’t like I had to call nobody [to record features], they were all just here," he says of the popular Atlanta recording spot. "People showed me a lot of love. They took me in, like a foreign exchange student. I was new, but they showed me a lot of love from the start." He goes on to discuss working with D.R.A.M. at Rick Rubin's Malibu home and embarking on three different tours.

After all the success he's found in 2016, it will be fascinating to see where 2017 will take Yachty. Revisit our interview with the charismatic rapper here.


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Summer Songs 2

Yachty's kaleidoscopic new mixtape.

July 20, 2016 14 Songs, 51 minutes ℗ 2016 Quality Control Music, Capitol Records and Motown Records


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Why the 2016 XXL Freshman Class Stands as the Best Ever

Worldwide Steppers Lil Uzi Vert, Denzel Curry, 21 Savage, Kodak Black, Lil Yachty, G Herbo, Dave East, Anderson .Paak, Desiigner and Lil Dicky united as one for the 2016 XXL Freshman Class. Six years later, their union has become the greatest of all time. Words: Peter A. Berry Editor’s Note: This story will appear in the Summer 2022 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands soon.

When modern-day hip-hop fans think of  XXL Freshman , they often go to the 2016 Class over the past 15 years the annual issue has existed. Since being unveiled six years ago, the 2016 Class has become synonymous with XXL Freshman the way Macbooks are with laptops; a subconscious avatar of what’s supposed to be—something that, depending on how old a fan is, might even feel like has always been. In 2022, colorful hair and slurred melodies are default tools in a rap starter kit, and No. 1 singles start out on SoundCloud before platforms like Instagram and TikTok shift them over into platinum plaques.

The 2016 XXL Freshman Class , composed of Lil Uzi Vert , 21 Savage , Kodak Black , Anderson .Paak , Lil Yachty , G Herbo , Denzel Curry , Dave East , Lil Dicky and Desiigner , has helped define this new version of rap normal while most of its members continue reaching new career plateaus more than half a decade after the class was revealed. Nine years after the unveiling of the first XXL Freshman cover in 2007 , the 2016 Class stands as an unmatched combination of influence, peak achievement and longevity that’s made it the greatest ever. In an appropriate benefactor for a class defined by the internet, a big part of its popularity has to do with a viral video.

Dating back to 2011, XXL offered two rap-based proving grounds for members of their Freshman classes . One is a solo a cappella freestyle where the Freshman can spit for as long as they want by themselves. The other is the cypher, which features three to four members of that year’s class rapping together over a beat given to them by XXL .

Through 2015, XXL only provided artists with the beats for cyphers on the day of the Freshman cover shoot. In 2016, XXL switched it up and gave artists the cypher beats beforehand. The one and only year they did that. And so, the 2016 cypher with Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage, Kodak Black, Denzel Curry and Lil Yachty doubled as an experiment—one intentional and the other an accident.

The first test was giving Freshmen the beat beforehand. The unintended one was grouping Curry in the cypher with Uzi, 21, Kodak and Lil Yachty. Denzel's team was given two beats in advance by XXL . So naturally, Denzel created a verse for only one of the corresponding beats he was provided, which was for a different cypher. He ultimately ended up in a cypher he was never supposed to be in. Free-wheeling, fun and colorfully eclectic, the lawless rhyme session was a microcosm of rap’s new era, a striking blend of terse street raps, free-associative flexes and playful energy. To date, it’s been analyzed and parodied by countless YouTubers, and it’s been viewed over 200 million times, the most of any Freshman video in history and the biggest cypher in hip-hop history.

While that cypher has been stitched into web immortality, it’s also created the idea that the class was always seen as a success. The thing is, the 2016 Class started out as just another time rap fans thought this publication got it wrong. In the weeks following the 2016 XXL Freshman Class ’ unveiling on June 13, 2016, a meme with trash bags superimposed over the artists on the cover was circulating on Twitter just as much as the cover itself. To watch one of the Freshman freestyle sessions was to read inane YouTube comments claiming a few 2016 Freshmen should be in a special needs class. At this point, "Soundcloud rapper" still doubled as an insult, and at least half the Freshman artists were seen—as the late, great Tupac Shakur once said—like "product[s] made to crumble"; gimmicky viral artists designed to dissolve as quickly as their internet buzz materialized.

"It was a changing of the guard," says DJ Drama , who DJ'd the cyphers in years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, and signed Uzi to his Generation Now label in 2014. "The old heads didn’t understand the Uzi Verts and the 21 Savages and Yachtys and the Kodaks." And yet, genius is rarely recognized in its own time, and six years later, many of the 2016 Class’ perceived flaws are the reason it’s become indelible.

SoundCloud rap started out as a pejorative term and a genre classification, but by 2016, it had also become a dominant commercial force. Uzi’s breakout singles, "Money Longer" and "You Was Right," earned placements in the top 55 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart before the end of the year, and in 2017, his single, "XO Tour Llif3," peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. For his part, Lil Yachty’s mushy melodies, carefree lyrics and fashion sense helped him power to two Billboard Hot 100 top five singles and a Sprite commercial with LeBron James before Yachty even dropped an album. Using streaming platforms, most of the 2016 Freshman Class also cultivated enormous fan bases. The ability to drop however and whenever they wanted to create at their own pace worked to their benefit.

Lil Dicky’s career also echoes the strength of the internet, as well as the staying power an artist can extract by mastering it. Although Dicky hasn’t dropped a full-length project since his 2015 debut, Professional Rapper , his quirky sense of humor fueled one-off releases like the Chris Brown-assisted "Freaky Friday" and 2019’s "Earth," designed-to-go-viral spectacles that earned hundreds of millions of YouTube views and RIAA-certified plaques.

Knowing the way around the internet is cool, but sometimes it’s better for it to navigate a rapper. Snapping his fingers in a New York City studio, Desiigner’s bizarre, but infectious "Timmy Turner" Freshman freestyle earned nearly 15 million YouTube views and countless memes before he made it into a platinum single, selling 1 million units.

Since then, web relevance, once considered an ephemeral ploy, has continued to largely parallel commercial success. Artists like 21 Savage and Kodak Black have become further immortalized through memes and viral video clips; 21’s 2017 ESPN appearance, which led to a barrage of supervillain memes , and footage of Kodak’s gleeful shimmying while a song snippet played preceded the ubiquity of his 2018 single "Zeze."  This virility doubles as institutional branding that can cement artists as totems of pop culture, and that’s a fact not lost on the folks promoting them.

These days, labels pay for social media maestros to create memes so they can simulate a buzz. Songs are given to TikTok users to create the same effect. Even someone like Future, a 2012 Freshman , has worked memes into his performances, a direct reflection of a symbiosis that’s only strengthened after the unveiling of the 2016 Freshmen.

The internet is a big factor in the dominance of the 2016 Class, but it’s also just one piece of the equation, especially when comparing it to other classes. While the best Freshman classes can rival 2016’s in terms of top star power, none have equaled the top-to-bottom relevancy this long after their cover’s release. These rappers have found inventive ways to maintain connections to fans in and out of music.

Over the last half-decade, Uzi, 21 Savage and Kodak Black have each released platinum albums and accumulated numerous gold and platinum singles along with a whole lot of critical acclaim. Lil Yachty and Lil Dicky have also racked up plaques for singles, too. Dicky’s got an FX show, Dave . A disciple of Dr. Dre, Anderson .Paak’s won eight Grammy Awards. Dave East , who solidified his status as a rap classicist with well-received solo and joint projects, stars as Method Man in Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga . After helping spearhead the advent of Chicago drill music a decade ago, G Herbo ’s most recent album, 2021’s PTSD , earned his best first-week sales total and a gold plaque. Miami rep Denzel earned acclaim after dropping four stellar solo albums since being named a 2016 Freshman. His most recent is this year’s Melt My Eyez See Your Future . Denzel also has two gold and platinum plaques to his name.

In the years since the 2016 XXL Freshman cover hit newsstands, newly selected Freshmen have usually named the 2016 Class as their favorite. To say you’re a fan of the 2016 Class is to say you’re a fan of modern hip-hop. In rap terms, six years is an eternity, but the 2016 Class has managed to evolve rather than age, the benefit of growing into a hip-hop world they helped create. "Everybody in that bitch was great," Denzel says of his fellow 2016 Freshman classmates. "These guys are shaping the game to this day with what they’re doing and possibly have the best chemistry out of all the classes."

Greatness personified.

Read the 2022 XXL Freshman cover story featuring BabyTron , Cochise , Saucy Santana , Babyface Ray , KenTheMan , SoFaygo , Big Scarr , Big30 , KayCyy , Doechii , Kali and Nardo Wick when the Freshman issue hits stands everywhere on July 13. The magazine includes additional interviews with Lupe Fiasco , Kevin Gates , Pi’erre Bourne , NLE Choppa , Yvngxchris , producer DJ Dahi , engineer Teezio and singer Chlöe, plus a breakdown of every Freshman Class from a numbers standpoint, a look back at what the 2021 XXL Freshman Class is doing, the story of why the 2016 XXL Freshman Class  gets so much respect now, a deep dive into the world of NFTs through hip-hop’s lens and exploring rappers’ most valuable collections. You can also buy the 2022 XXL Freshman Class issue here.

See 50 Facts About the 2016 XXL Freshman Class

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What’s on TV This Week: ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Truth vs. Alex Jones’

Joey Graziadei hands out his final rose on ABC, and HBO airs a documentary about the trial of Alex Jones.

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By Shivani Gonzalez

For those like myself who still haven’t cut the cord, here is a selection of cable and network TV shows, movies and specials that broadcast this week, March 25-31. Details and times are subject to change.

THE BACHELOR 8 p.m. on ABC. After an especially fun and rowdy women-tell-all special last week, it is finally time for Joey Graziadei to hand out his final rose and potentially get down on one knee. The host, Jesse Palmer, keeps teasing that the finale will be like nothing fans have ever seen. But the show is famous for constantly using hyperboles like “the most shocking season” or “jaw-dropping,” but no episode has been that wild since Colton Underwood jumped over a fence to get away from producers and cameras in 2019. I’m still hoping Graziadei gets a happily ever after.

THE TRUTH VS. ALEX JONES 9 p.m. on HBO. On Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and killed 20 children and six adults . Before long, the radio host Alex Jones started broadcasting conspiracy theories about the shooting that inspired some of his listeners to harass family members of the victims. In 2018, Jones was sued by some of the Sandy Hook families , and in 2022 Jones was ordered to pay eight families a total of nearly $1.5 billion. This documentary talks to parents involved in the lawsuit and chronicles the trial.

GROWN-ISH 10 p.m. on Freeform. The friends at Cal U are back for one more hurrah. About a year ago, Yara Shahidi, a star of the comedy, announced that Season 6 would be its last, and after a midseason break, a few episodes will tie up the loose ends as Junior (Marcus Scribner) wraps up his college career. Some of the original cast members (including Emily Arlook, Jordan Buhat and Luka Sabbat) will guest star in the final episodes alongside Kelly Rowland, Lil Yachty, and Anderson .Paak.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA (1984) 8 p.m. on Showtime. If you have about four hours to spare, this Sergio Leone film starring Robert De Niro as a New Yorker reminiscing about his days in the criminal underground might be for you. “It’s a collection of occasionally vivid but mostly unfathomable incidents in which people are introduced and then disappear with the unexplained suddenness of victims of mob murders,” Vincent Canby wrote in his New York Times review of the film.

SPERMWORLD 9 p.m. on FX. Inspired by The New York Times’s article “The Sperm Kings Have a Problem: Too Much Demand,” this documentary from Lance Oppenheim looks at the world of online forums, where people hoping to become parents can connect directly with sperm donors. Here, cameras follow those traveling around the country, highlighting the intimacy of these exchanges.

JERROD CARMICHAEL REALITY SHOW 11 p.m. on HBO. The comedian Jerrod Carmichael is just like us: He’s scrolling through Instagram, trying to foster a relationship and having tough discussions with his parents. But in his case, cameras are following him throughout all of it. “I’m trying to self-‘Truman Show’ myself,” he says in the trailer for this new series.

BEYOND THE AGGRESSIVES: 25 YEARS LATER (2023) 9 p.m. on Showtime. For the 2005 documentary “The Aggressives,” the filmmaker Daniel Peddle followed around six people who identified themselves as “aggressives” — they were assigned female at birth but through queer ballroom culture were able to highlight and embrace their masculinity. The first documentary was filmed for five years, and for this 2023 documentary, Peddle brought together four of the original subjects for another five-year journey. “Peddle hews close to his original film’s style: He asks his subjects to define themselves and then he keeps watching, letting their actions color in the lines of their self-definition,” Teo Bugbee wrote in her review for the Times . “It’s an approach which grants dignity to his subjects, an effect which is only amplified by the passage of time.”

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW 9 p.m. on Showtime. Based on a 2016 novel of the same name by Amor Towles, “A Gentleman in Moscow” stars Ewan McGregor as Count Alexander Rostov, who is stripped of his title and sentenced to house arrest for life at a Moscow hotel. The show follows Rostov as he learns a life lesson worthy of a refrigerator magnet: maybe the real journey is the friends you make along the way.

PARISH 10 p.m. on AMC. Starring Giancarlo Esposito as Gracián “Gray” Parish, a criminal turned family man, this show is based on the BBC One show “The Driver.” When tragedy strikes Parish’s family, he returns to the world of crime and, of course, gets himself in a little too deep.

Shivani Gonzalez is a news assistant at The Times who writes a weekly TV column and contributes to a variety of sections. More about Shivani Gonzalez

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“X-Men ’97,” a revival on Disney+ that picks up where the ’90s animated series left off, has faced questions after the firing of its showrunner  ahead of the premiere.

“3 Body Problem,” a science fiction epic from the creators of “Game of Thrones,” has arrived on Netflix. We spoke with them about their latest project .

For the past two decades, female presidential candidates on TV have been made in Hillary Clinton’s image. With “The Girls on the Bus,” that’s beginning to change .

“Freaknik,” a new Hulu documentary, delves into the rowdy ’80s and ’90s-era spring festival  that drew hundreds of thousands of Black college students to Atlanta.

If you are overwhelmed by the endless options, don’t despair — we put together the best offerings   on Netflix , Max , Disney+ , Amazon Prime  and Hulu  to make choosing your next binge a little easier.

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Lil Yachty Responds To Critics Accusing Him Of Biting Playboi Carti’s Sound

Lil Yachty

“Y’all fans be smoking the strongest d##k.”

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Playboi Carti contributed to one of the biggest songs of 2024 as a feature on Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign’s “Carnival.” Some social media users seem to think Lil Yachty wants to replicate Carti’s success by stealing his style.

It appears Yachty will release new music in the near future. Twitch personality Kai Cenat shared a snippet of a new track by the Atlanta-bred rapper during a recent livestream.

One online critic reacted to the Lil Yachty preview clip by posting, “Carti can’t try 1 new sound without rappers immediately biting him, he’s generational.”

Yachty fired back by tweeting, “Biting him? How did I bite him? The beat? if that’s the case I been workin with Cardo since 2019-2020 on record y’all fans be smoking the strongest d##k.”

biting him? how did i bite him? the beat? if that’s the case i been workin with cardo since 2019-2020 on record yall fans be smoking the strongest dick https://t.co/rlcaSRsoP7 — CONCRETE BOY BOAT^ (@lilyachty) March 21, 2024

Cardo Got Wings produced the title track on Lil Yachty’s recently released Something Ether EP. Lil Boat and Cardo also worked together on 2023’s “Van Gogh” by fellow Atlanta native J.I.D.

S omething Ether dropped on February 23. The 6-track, 16-minute effort joined a Lil Yachty discography that includes five studio LPs. 2023’s Let’s Start Here became Lil Boat’s third Top 10 album.

Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign’s “Carnival” featuring Playboi Carti and Rich The Kid spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The collaboration became Carti’s first Number One on that chart.


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    Miles Parks McCollum (born August 23, 1997), known professionally as Lil Yachty, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, and actor.He first gained recognition in August 2015 for his viral hit "One Night" from his debut EP Summer Songs.He then released his debut mixtape Lil Boat in March 2016, and signed a joint venture record deal with Motown, Capitol Records, and Quality ...

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  4. Lil Yachty discography

    The discography of American rapper Lil Yachty consists of five studio albums, three mixtapes, one collaborative mixtape, ten extended plays, ten music videos, thirteen guest appearances and thirty-two singles (including eighteen singles as a featured artist). ... (Chance the Rapper featuring Young Thug and Lil Yachty) 2016

  5. ‎Lil Yachty

    Lil Yachty makes it look easy. An Atlanta-raised rapper with a sleepy flow and a bright, almost childlike outlook, Yachty (born Miles Parks McCollum in 1997) rose to prominence in 2016 with a pair of mixtapes (Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2) that recast the booming caverns of 2010s rap as something soft, sweet, intuitive, and a little goofy—a sound Yachty once called "bubblegum trap."

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    By Joe Coscarelli. Dec. 9, 2016. After 18 years of trying to get noticed, the rapper and teenage eccentric Lil Yachty has been forced recently to practice blending in. It's mostly the hair. On a ...

  8. Lil Yachty and 'Super Mario' Made Nostalgia Great Again in 2016

    He thought it could make the basis for a good beat. He added hi-hats, the Super Mario Bros. jump sound effect, and a booming bass that catapults the Nintendo melody into 2016 at about 40 seconds ...

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    2016 was a monumental year for Lil Yachty. The Atlanta rapper rose from obscurity and became a global sensation, earning a Grammy nomination for his contribution to D.R.A.M.'s sleeper hit ...

  10. ‎Summer Songs 2

    Listen to Summer Songs 2 by Lil Yachty on Apple Music. 2016. 14 Songs. Duration: 51 minutes. Listen to Summer Songs 2 by Lil Yachty on Apple Music. 2016. 14 Songs. Duration: 51 minutes. ... More By Lil Yachty . Lil Boat 2. 2018. Nuthin' 2 Prove. 2018. Let's Start Here. 2023. Michigan Boy Boat. 2021. Lil Boat 3.5. 2020. Slide - Single. 2023.

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    July 27, 2016; Every year, XXL magazine, the leading hip-hop publication, publishes its Freshman issue, in which its editors crown 10 up-and-coming rappers. ... That both Lil Yachty and 21 Savage ...

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    Subscribe to XXL → http://bit.ly/subscribe-xxl Rising rap star Lil Yachty drops some heat in his 2016 XXL Freshman freestyle. The 10 MCs in the 2016 XXL F...

  13. Kodak Black, 21 Savage, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty & Denzel Curry's 2016

    Get your FRESHMAN 2016 Cypher Shirt Here → https://shop.xxlmag.com/products/rapper-t-shirtWatch Kodak Black, 21 Savage, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty and Denzel C...

  14. Lil Yachty's Rock Album 'Let's Start Here': Inside the Pivot

    When Yachty entered the industry in his mid-teens with his 2016 major-label debut, the Lil Boat mixtape, featuring the breakout hit "One Night," he found that along with fame came sailing the ...

  15. Lil Yachty, 21 Savage, Lil Uzi Vert: In 2016, the Kids Took Over Rap

    DECATUR, GA - AUGUST 23 Lil Yachty attends lil Yachty's Surprise Birthday Lunch at Cici's Pizza on August 23, 2016 in Decatur, Georgia. The first time I heard Hawaiian Punch-braided teen rapper ...

  16. Lil Yachty music, videos, stats, and photos

    Yachty gained recognition for his hit debut singles One Night and Minnesota from his debut mixtape Lil Boat in 2016. In February 2016, Yachty debuted as a model in Kanye West's Yeezy Season 3 fashion line at Madison Square Garden. On June 10, 2016 he announced he had signed a joint venture record deal with Quality Control Music, Capitol Records ...

  17. Lil Yachty & D.R.A.M. Shock the World At 2016 BET Hip Hop ...

    Lil Yachty & D.R.A.M. Shock the World, Bringing the Roof Down at 2016 BET Hip Hop Awards! You Won't Believe the Epic Moment Caught on Camera!" #BET #hiphopaw...

  18. XXL Freshman Freestyle: Lil Yachty

    Lil Boat's freestyle is the 10th and final freestyle of the 2016 XXL Freshman Class. Many didn't expect much from this freestyle, as Yachty doesn't consider himself a rapper , but he spits a ...

  19. Watch Lil Yachty's 2016 XXL Freshman Interview and Freestyle

    Watch Lil Yachty talk about dealing with the haters and staying true to himself in his video interview above and see his bars in his 2016 XXL Freshman freestyle and exclusive photos below. See ...

  20. Lil Yachty Thinks 21 Savage Had Best Verse From 2016 Freshman Cypher

    That particular year, people on the internet voiced mixed opinions after the 2016 XXL Freshman cypher featuring Kodak Black, 21 Savage, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty and Denzel Curry went public on ...

  21. XXL

    The second Freshman Cypher for the 2016 class. Featuring a hard verse from Denzel Curry, an off the top freestyle from Lil Uzi Vert, a fast-pace verse from Lil Yachty, followed up

  22. Pretty

    Provided to YouTube by Universal Music GroupPretty · Lil Yachty · The Good PerrySummer Songs 2℗ 2016 Quality Control Music, Capitol Records and Motown Record...

  23. Why the 2016 XXL Freshman Class Stands as the Best Ever

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  24. Lil Yachty Addresses Critics Suggesting He Bit Playboi Carti's Style

    The Recording Industry Association of America certified the rapper and singer's 2016 debut Lil Boat and its 2018 sequel Lil Boat 2 gold.. This accolade by the trade organization honors 500,000 ...

  25. What's on TV This Week: 'The Bachelor' and 'The Truth vs. Alex Jones'

    Wednesday. GROWN-ISH 10 p.m. on Freeform.The friends at Cal U are back for one more hurrah. About a year ago, Yara Shahidi, a star of the comedy, announced that Season 6 would be its last, and ...

  26. Lil Yachty Fires Back At Critic For Saying He's Biting Playboi Carti

    The 6-track, 16-minute effort joined a Lil Yachty discography that includes five studio LPs. 2023's Let's Start Here became Lil Boat's third Top 10 album.

  27. Lil Yachty and Leslie Jones to Take the Stage at Springfest 2024

    Lil Yachty rose to fame in 2015 with "One Night," a single from his debut EP. Since then, he's released five studio albums, with the latest, "Let's Start Here," debuting in January 2023. ... Jones also starred in the 2016 "Ghostbusters" remake and "Coming 2 America," the sequel to the 1998 Eddie Murphy film "Coming to ...