This article originally appeared on Noisey US.
Lil Yachty's debut studio album, Teenage Emotions, is out tomorrow. In advance of the release, he sat down with Zane Lowe for a wide-ranging Beats 1 interview to talk about the album's creation, the artists that inspire him, and the nature of creativity. The first face-to-face interview between the two turned out to be revealing and heartfelt from both sides.
Yachty was open to talking, following Lowe down every path he chose. Within minutes, the 19-year-old was discussing his daydreams. "I always have visions," he explained. "It's weird, I have visions all the time in the weirdest spots. I just had a vision while I was peeing about my merch[...] I used to have visions of being a star all the time, but I never knew I wanted to be a rapper. I used to have visions of flashing lights and red carpets."
He told Lowe that the creative vision which sparked his career came in 2015, after being arrested in Florida for credit card fraud. "I remember being in jail, like, 'Man, I'm not old enough.' And then I thought, 'I just turned 18.' I had just turned old enough to be in big people jail. It wasn't necessarily getting arrested, but when I got out of jail, I went back to Alabama." Back at Alabama State University, with no cell phone, he realised that he needed to escape. "I usually had headphones in blocking out the world," he told Lowe. "I had no music. I heard everything, I felt everything. People used to always laugh at my hair, stuff like that. I just remember being in social studies and a teacher was talking and I was in the back. It was like lights off. People were asleep, people were texting. It was just like, 'This is doing nothing. What am, I doing?' I was dumb broke. I walked home and I called up my friend and was like, 'I don't want to be here.' I went back to my room, I packed up everything I could take [and] I left.
He also told Lowe about his idols. Growing up, Yachty said, Lil B and Soulja Boy were inspirations. "I feel like Soulja Boy was one of the smartest when it came to connecting with your fans and taking it to another level," he said. "That's how you get the real love. Someone will love you, but if they feel like they know you or they can relate to you, it's a real genuine solid love. Even when you're down, as opposed to, 'Oh yeah, you've got a hot song.'"
"I'm pretty normal," he said. "That's why I hope teenagers can relate. I try to be a voice because I'm a pretty normal teenager."
He tried to explain the trinity of Lil Yachty, Lil Boat, and Darnell Boat to Lowe, but never got precise. He said that Lil Boat is "aggressive, real reckless." Lil Boat raps more, Yachty explained, and that's something that he cares about less and less. "I have to realise that that was me just trying to impress other people," he said. "Just doing certain things, trying to show them the Boat side: rapping, like when I did that freestyle. Certain times when I'm like, "Look, I can do this," when really, with my fans, I didn't have to do that for them. They didn't care."
Yachty's taste has always been broad, but there were still some surprising moments when Lowe asked about the playlists he relies on. Seal, SBTRKT, and Lauryn Hill aren't a shock; Nelly and Tim McGraw, nobody saw that coming. That Lil Yachty likes Fall Out Boy is understandable. That he chose to shout out Slipknot in an interview is remarkable.
He reserves special praise, though, for Kid Cudi: "I'm one of the biggest Kid Cudi fans of all time. He's very relatable. He was one of the only artists making music at the time for emotional people, going through something, or just taking dream journeys. The real creative kids who are in the world. He had a dope sense of style. He was a guardian angel, like a tour guide throughout life."
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