Psychedelic rock and psychedelia in general is one of the oldest genres in music. There is over half a century of history in the genre, with artists incorporating it into genres from mainstream pop to obscure punk albums to hip-hop and rap. Lil Yachty has taken it a step further, instead making a psychedelic rock album that incorporates elements of rap and trap. There is an incredible dedication and love of psychedelia apparent throughout the album, which greatly increases my enjoyment of it. I do have some criticisms, but I would like to start with what I love about this record. This is not a cheesy attempt to bring in fans of psychedelic rock, but rather a love letter and a culmination of some of the greatest talent in the genre.
The beats and instrumentation of this album are fantastic. Each song on this album ranges from Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon to Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush. The instrumentation can be transcendent at one moment, and the next could be filled with danceable grooves that make it hard not to bump your head to. Lil Yachty is a relatively small rapper (currently sitting at #478 most popular artists in the world according to Spotify’s statistics), and he released an album with an immense amount of samples and interpolations. Much like Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition, an album that cost $70,000 in samples alone, this album most likely will cost more than it will make in revenue. As of today, this album sits at about 28 million plays on Spotify, and will likely be overshadowed by other popular albums in a week or so.
In the introductory song to the album, “the BLACK seminole.”, there is a strong Pink Floyd influence that seems to come right out of The Dark Side of the Moon and Animals and includes several samples from their works. Genius lists two songs of theirs as samples, but I believe there is a third sample that comes from “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” on Animals. A couple of rap artists have had success with sampling Pink Floyd in the past, most notably with Death Grips’ sampling “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Astronomy Domine” and Danny Brown sampling “Wervin’” from Pink Floyd’s drummer Nick Mason. The rest of the album includes samples and interpolations from artists like Steve Lacy, Tame Impala, Prince, and Jimi Hendrix. On top of that, there are writing credits from Steve Lacy, Alex G, Mac DeMarco, and Jacob Portrait (of Unknown Mortal Orchestra). These names, samples, and interpolations all show the dedication to producing an authentic psychedelic sound, and it does not go unnoticed within the album, rather than coming across as some half-hearted attempt to create a rap-rock crossover.
“the BLACK seminole.” is the highlight of the album, encapsulating all of the great things to expect with the most Floyd-like lyrics on the album that I can only describe as rhetorically-idyllic introspection. The lyrics on the rest of the album tend to deal with more personal struggles and experiences, ranging from social anxieties to overcoming obstacles. While autotune is a relatively newer sound in psychedelic music, it does not feel out of place on this album. This is the style that Yachty has cultivated over his career and it compliments the psychedelic rap production. Psychedelic rock is known for vocals baked in delays and reverb, but autotuned vocals do not sound out of place here. The vocal performance gives off a vibe that lands somewhere between Travis Scott and Tame Impala’s last two albums.
My biggest criticism of this album comes from the drums. The drums can overpower some of the instrumentals, specifically in “running out of time,” “pRETTy,” and “paint THE sky.” The drum loops definitely feel like they overstay their welcome, and while I am unsure that live drums would be a benefit, there is definitely something off about them. The other criticism that I have is that this album is a bit too long, and some of the songs could have been cut for time. It is incredibly clear that Yachty found the right talent and inspirations from this record, but it falls just short of what could have been the go-to inspiration for psychedelic rap artists to come.
As someone who has spent the last several years hosting a psychedelic rock radio show, I listen to a lot of psychedelia. Let’s Start Here. is a cultivation of some of the greatest names in the genre to date, and is an excellent first step to discovering other great psychedelic artists. Like most albums, it has its shortcomings, blunders, and skips, but I highly recommend anyone to give this album a chance, especially if you love psychedelia and hope to see more of it in the future of rap.