Interview: Lil Yachty Is Ready for Mainstream Success and Wants to Bring Soulja Boy Back While He's At It

He released his debut project last week.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Lil Yachty, the latest Internet sensation in hip-hop, isn't your typical Atlanta rapper. Instead of your standard trap beats, Yachty prefers to rap over sounds like, for instance, a flip of the Rugrats theme song. That isn't to say that Yachty isn't spitting, because he is, though he does lean on a very unorthodox style of melodies. A good way to describe Yachty's sound in a nutshell would be a blend of Makonnen and Lil B

Whenever he drops a new song, his fans flock to listen, and that was the case with his debut mixtape, Lil Boat the Mixtape​, which has racked up millions of plays in just a few days. There's something special about the kid, and though he's only taken his rap career seriously for a short bit of time, some major players in the game have taken notice. Yachty modeled in Kanye West's #YeezySeason3 fashion show, while his song "Minnesota" was spun on OVO Radio weeks ago. Even the legendary Rick Rubin has co-signed the 18-year-old rapper, as the two recently met up to talk about music and life while Yachty was in California.

Naturally, for an artist like Yachty, the real question is, can he crossover from Internet fame to becoming a viable entity in the rap game? But Yachty says he's primed for success and ready for whatever comes his way. We were able to talk to the young Atlanta rapper about his goals in music, some dream collaborations, where he wants to go from here, and much more. As a bonus, you can stream an exclusive new song from Yachty featuring Quavo from Migos​ that didn't make the final cut of his new project.

Who are some artists that you came up on and influenced your sound?
Soulja Boy, I listen to Coldplay a lot. That's my favorite rock band. I like Frank Ocean a lot. He's tight. I fuck with old Makonnen, like his first drops. Lil B of course. 

What are some of your favorite Coldplay songs?
"Strawberry Swing," everything off of their second most recent album [Ghost Stories] basically. All of the classics, "Clocks," "Yellow," all of those. 

How did you develop such a widespread love of music?
My dad. He didn't make music, but he always played a lot of different genres all the time. He played Coldplay a lot. 

When did you start really getting into rapping?
Eight weeks ago, honestly. I never thought I was going to be a rapper. I've been rapping for a year, but six to eight weeks ago I started popping and taking it serious. 

What were you doing before that?
I dropped out of college at Alabama State in September or October and I said I was going to pursue it. 

Did you like going to school?
Hell no. [Laughs.] It was horrible. 

How has your life changed after your music career took off? 
I tell everybody the same thing, I still feel the same way. I don't really feel any different, it's cool. I feel like I'm experiencing all different types of things.

What's the feeling like when you hear "Minnesota" played on OVO Sound Radio?
I didn't know [it was coming]. Someone told me and I was like, "Word." It was ok.

What's it like being around Rick Rubin?
We really talked about music. Different genres, different albums. We talked about Frank Ocean's album, the one that's not out. We talked about Kanye making his album. 

What do you think of Kanye's album?
It's tight. My favorite is "Father Stretch My Hands" or the joint with Rihanna ["Famous"]. It's fire. 

How do you think you can crossover from just an Internet rapper? 
My image, and I feel like kids can relate to me. They fuck with me so they want to see me in person. I'm very interactive with my fans. We FaceTime and play Xbox together. I stay in contact with them.

What are your goals with your music?
I want to just be number one on everything. On the charts, on everything. Get out this Soundcloud category. I wanna to get on the radio. Go mainstream, that's what I want to do right now. I think all I got to do is hit the radio and it's over with. 

How do you fit in with the Atlanta scene?
It's just that Atlanta the top of the music culture, the hip-hop culture. That's just how it is and how it's going to be. I'm just so different. I'm trying to be the face of everything. I'm just so in a new lane that you can't really categorize it. 

Who are some artists you want to work with going forward?
Lil B, of course. I know it will happen soon, we gotta do a whole mixtape. That would be one of my life goals completed. Me and Makonnen have been talking, we just haven't worked yet. Chance the Rapper, we could make something tight. I love Chance. Travi$ Scott too, I love Travi$. And Cudi, but I really want to do some stuff with Travi$ Scott. 

What about Soulja Boy?
I'm trying to put Soulja Boy back on the map. Seriously, I could do it. He just gotta rebrand himself and he could still have the whole youths attention. 

What's your recording process like? 
Quick. I prefer to write my raps down, but I freestyle a lot. I used to have to pay for studio time so I had to have my songs written already. Like half of the songs on my Soundcloud are all written. All my new content is mostly freestyle because I have more access to the studio time. I can kind of play around with it. 

Do you see an advantage either way?
I like writing more because I can sit and place my words where I want to. I can get my melodies down pact. 

You rapped over a beat that flipped the Rugrats theme song. 
I always wanted to do that beat since I heard it. When I was a kid I remember I used to freestyle on that part. I always did, as it was on I used to always freestyle to it. It was always in my head, then when I became a rapper, I asked my friend Earl and he couldn't do it. I asked my producer Perry and then it took him two seconds. 

Talk about performing and your stage presence as a newer artist. 
I just started performing. My first show was in LA. I've been practicing in the mirror since I don't know when. Like I said, I've always wanted to be famous. I always wanted to be a celebrity, I always had dreams of being on the big stage with lights. Even when I didn't know that I was going to be a rapper, it was just a dream. I used to perform in the shower too, so when it comes time, I've practiced so many times that I know what to do. 

Do you ever have any nerves in front of a crowd?
Maybe an inch, but it becomes go time so fast so that when it's time to go it's time to go. 

Do you plan to branch out from music eventually?
Definitely, I'm trying to get in these movies and TV shows and all that.

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