2018 was a fantastic year for both new and traditional hip hop. Established artists such as Kanye West, Nas, and Royce da 5’9” released albums. Although these older artists did release great albums, most notably 2018 was a great year for the subgenre—“new wave”—giving a platform for upcoming artist Lil Yachty to release two of his biggest records.
Lil Yachty’s “Lil Boat 2” debuted on March 6th, reaching 2nd on the Billboard 200. In an emerging subgenre, it was enormously influential, whether by bringing superstar Lil Baby to the spotlight or proving the longevity of one of the “founding fathers” of the subgenre. Partly due to its influence, Lil Boat 2 is should have been the Album of the Year because it provided a substance to the nebula of new wave, and showed that the youthful subgenre was capable of artistry.
New wave really started forming as a popular genre in early 2016, with the release of MADEINTYO’s Uber Everywhere. It’s commercial success was a sign of times to come. 2017 would help expand on “new waves” commercial viability, and 2018 was a year that saw its most put together artistic albums as of yet.
In the subgenre’s infancy, artists often forget that it is the album as a whole rather than individual, ignoring the effort to make albums concise and woven together. Rather, the projects become collections of singles, choosing quantity of tracks over the quality of the album. This causes the album to lack a single “concept”. The “concept album” treats each song as a piece of telling a narrative, and helps create artistic expression over the listening.
Lil Boat 2 was the put-together concept album new wave needed. There are 17 tracks, and each brings something unique to the record. The intro track, SELF MADE, is a 2 minute song bragging about his rise from living in the projects of Atlanta to fame in Hollywood. The first half of the album consists of tried-and-true hip hop raps. After a 2 song interlude, they morph into songs that at first seem under-instrumented, but are just incredibly moody pieces. The reversed sounds of harps on DAS CAP make it uncomfortable to listen to.
Lil Boat 2 maintains the hallmarks of new wave without relying on them too much, avoiding losing the art to clichés. Although it has plenty of featuring artists, they add to the song, not simply rounding them out for extra streams.