Quality Control Music/Capitol Records/Motown Records

As a brand, Lil Yachty is having a great 2018. The crimson-braided rapper voiced Green Lantern in Teen Titans Go!, remade the Chef Boyardee jingle and nabbed a leading role in the How High sequel, solidifying his mere presence as a millennial-pandering cornerstone for companies that should, but don’t know better. Yet for all of his business success, Yachty has lost considerable ground in his first profession: rapping.

Nuthin’ 2 Prove is fashioned as the latest attempt for a soft Lil Yachty rebrand. The hooks are catchy. The beats sound expensive. The features hit. However, the title suggests that the Atlanta rapper is comfortable in his skin while everything from the album layout, lyrics and song titles beg to differ.

Nuthin’ 2 Prove is a showcase of duality, split between the traditional trap leanings of Lil Boat and the more emotional pop side of Lil Yachty. Separating the dual personalities is a jarring listening experience that flirts with a sense of cohesion without committing to it. Yachty isn’t a bad rapper but once he exceeds eight tracks on a release, his weaknesses—repetitive flows, little narrative cohesion, mush-mouthed delivery—become glaring. It doesn’t help that Yachty is often outclassed by his peers; Playboi Carti, Juice Wrld and Young Nudy all get the best of him here. The pinnacle of the project's Lil Boat portion arrives on “Who Want the Smoke?” featuring Cardi B and Offset. Over a Tay Keith production, Boat sounds at home ceding the ground to a fiery Cardi and dexterous Offset. In short, less Lil Boat is more Lil Boat.

The ultimate sin of Yachty’s third studio album is burying his melodic, playful and more compelling side to the latter half of the album. The light and glittery synths of “Everything Good, Everything Right” allow him to delve into his weirder side. Across the song’s hook, he elongates the syllable of “bye” or sings “uh-oh-oh-oh-ohh” through a processed warble, which gives the song a satisfying texture. “Forever World,” featuring Trippie Redd, is anchored by an expertly placed Faith Evans sample of “Soon as I Get Home.” It’s an outlandish idea that surprisingly works. Yachty and Redd’s imperfect voices are a nice juxtaposition to the angelic chirp of the Evans' soul sample.

Lyrically, Yachty raps with confidence, but over 15 tracks he awkwardly tries to be the biographer of his personal myth. Starting an album called Nuthin’ 2 Prove with a song called “Gimmie My Respect” seems intentionally ironic, while lyrics like, “Niggas keep forgetting about who goddamn/Started this muhfuckin' new wave shit,” come off as unintentionally bitter for a 21-year-old still in the prime of his career. Lines like, “I'm the mack, I'm the mack/Minor setbacks for major comebacks” or “Had to take some time alone, had to regroup, got that shit right” partially work, because it proves Yachty has a degree of self-awareness. The tragedy is that the “regroup” he took for a “major comeback” never arrives.

Nuthin’ 2 Prove, like it’s 2018 predecessor, Lil Boat 2, largely sees Yachty spinning in place, warring with his past and grasping at a murky future. Lil Yachty is an exceptional A&R still struggling to be seen as a good-to-passable rapper and Nuthin’ 2 Prove is a monument to his meticulous taste. Unfortunately, the project is devoid of many of the quirks that made early Yachty a fascinating figure, making his second album of the year feel like a hollow shell instead of the next logical step for the once adventurous and controversial rapper.

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