May 20, 2024

Lil Yachty’s latest album, “Let’s Start Here,” did just that: It gave the rapper’s career a new starting point by setting aside his hip-hop origins and rebooting into psychedelic rock. Yachty 2.0 stopped by Central Park’s SummerStage and showed off his new sound, while also giving original fans a healthy dose of his classic bangers.

This year marked a massive shift for Yachty. After his last studio album, 2020’s “Lil Boat 3” and a mixtape the following year, he had stayed mostly quiet. He hadn’t yet fully broken out of the SoundCloud, mumble-rap boom of the late 2010s: The red hair, AutoTuned voice and comical lyrics had made a name for him, but at the same time almost painted him into a niche corner, unable to break out. But by 2023, Yachty had reinvented himself.

He started last year with “Poland,” a simple, yet massively viral rap hit that put him back on everybody’s radar. With his new album, though, Yachty defied expectations and released a completely non-rap record that had more in common with the classic psychedelia of Pink Floyd and Funkadelic (or more recent iterations like Tame Impala) than anything in his previous discography.

The new chapter of Yachty had begun with this surreal, spacey production, and fans flooded into New York’s Central Park on Friday night to see it for themselves. Yachty’s band and singers appeared on stage first, all dressed in white, while trippy, dream-like visuals projected onto a huge screen behind them. The funky tunes of “drive ME crazy!” opened the show, with Yachty gliding in singing the soft vocals of “the ride” and “pRETTy.”

The typical 808s and bass of a normal rap concert wouldn’t be heard for a few more songs, as the band played an electric guitar-assisted rendition of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” before Yachty transitioned into the hip-hop portion of the night. It was as if the concert was divided into Act I and II, and finally the old Yachty came out to play some of his bangers. After the indie rock start, fans opened up the crowd to mosh along with “Yacht Club,” “Flex Up” and “Coffin.” Strobe lights and lasers illuminated the stage as Yachty jumped around screaming his lyrics as his braids and beads danced wildly in the air.

Fans of the new and old Yachty were treated equally throughout the night. The crowd sang along to his summery verses on “Broccoli” and “iSpy” and catchy classics like “One Night” and “Minnesota.” The band came back out for one final rock sesh to close out the show, and within minutes the crowd switched from jumping up and down and shouting rap lyrics to jamming out to “the BLACK seminole.” Although the crowd was livelier when he played the hits, they stayed with him through the entire show — a testament to Yachty’s reinvention of his brand.

After the release of “Let’s Start Here,” Yachty got a shoutout from Questlove for “pushing the envelope” and being an example of “music’s future,” beyond just the rap genre. Whatever may come next, (he’s supposedly developing an action movie based on Uno — yes, the card game) fans will want to keep an eye on where Yachty sails to next.

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