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What You Missed: Lil Yachty at The Sylvee

For any other rap artist, taking on a live show that moves between two different genres is out of the question; but for Lil Yachty, it's all a part of the field trip. And on Saturday night, he blended his most recent 2023 psychedelic rock project, Let's Start Here, with the remainder of his rap discography, spanning eight years of work with ease.

Once the lights lower, the giant LED screen lights up with hallucinatory textures and colors; "Let's Start Here" pops up on screen right as his all-woman band comes out. They kick off "drive ME crazy!" before Lil Yachty walks onto stage in a white sweater, surrounded by yelling and cheering. He opens with five back-to-back songs from the newest album, wrapping the room in glittery textures and drowsy waves of bass. "the ride-" stands out as one of the strongest tracks, and as the second song of the night, he tells us, "Don't ask no questions on the ride."

Lil Yachty began as a SoundCloud rapper amongst the "mumble rap" and trap wave around 2015. His earliest work from album, Lil Boat was a bit looser and goofier, but he would eventually start hopping onto larger artists songs, like "iSpy" by KYLE and "Broccoli" by DRAM, pushing his name to college-aged audiences. He continued making records, and in 2020, he found success on TikTok--he now has 8.3 million followers. This year he dropped Let's Start Here, a triumph of a project where he swaps his bubblegum trap sound for psychedelic rock.

On paper, it shouldn't work; Lil Yachty had been dropping hip hop projects for years. But this album takes on funkier, trippier, band-led beats that have him singing falsetto in vast soundscapes dripping with reverb and psychedelic visuals. After its release, it quickly became a crowd favorite, pulling in a wider audience for the 26-year-old. It's paid off too, considering that The Sylvee is sold out and and the pit is packed like a sardine tin.

Before the show even begins, there's an ambulance parked out front with EMT workers scattered around the venue. The Sylvee's security is as alert as ever. Rap shows always get a little rowdy, but it's clear that they're expecting insanity tonight.

And they're not wrong to assume so: during Concrete Family's set, someone needs to be pulled out of the audience, likely from heat exhaustion. The security team grabs more waters and rushes to hand them out to the front rows.

Concrete Family is a group of rappers who are signed with Lil Yachty, comprised of Camo, Draft Day, Karrahbooo and Moe. They all take on a song or two of their own, hyping each other up as they take turns. Even as individual artists, they work together on stage like a true family. During Nick Hakim's set, he asks security to pull a rowdy fan out of the crowd. It's not entirely clear what the fan was doing, but the crowd hasn't been exactly polite to him. He's a psychedelic-soul artist, and his quiet, ethereal tracks just don't meet the level of energy for this audience. He performs through it anyways, biting his tongue and delivering a pretty performance with his small band.

Despite the audience reaction, Nick isn't a left field opener choice for Lil Yachty: Hakim helped work on a few tracks from Let's Start Here. But Lil Yachty's discography ranges further than this project, so he splits the show up into parts. After a handful of songs with his band, they step off and he takes on the stage solo for his trap songs, using a cover of Phil Collin's, "In the Air Tonight," to transition into the 17-song run. Even as he switches to a harder sound, Lil Yachty stays kind and smiley. He carries a giggly politeness to him that is almost as compelling as his music, and it's hard not to grin when he looks around the venue with a smile.

He runs through shortened versions of his songs, also including his most famous guest verses. After "Minnesota," "Poland," "One Night" and more, his band creeps their way back on stage and the screen behind him turns back to the trippy visuals. "IVE OFFICIALLY LOST ViSiON!!!!" forces the audience to switch from moshing to slow head banging. Finally, he finishes where the album began: "the BLACK seminole." The nearly seven-minute song takes on plenty of quiet soundscapes, which in a live setting, he gives to guitarist Quenequia Graves, shredding a solo that melts faces.

Just as they began, the band ends the night, with Lil Yachty's mic at his side, and him standing center stage. He peers out at the crowd, wrapped in the sound of his vocalists and band playing the final notes. The Field Trip Tour lands us back down on the ground, with our heads still aimed toward the clouds.

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