lil yachty, prince of fun
Bored of the ordinary life, 19-year-old Lil Yachty is fast tracking his way to fame and fortune, turning his rap dreams into a reality in just one year.
Lil Yachty wears suit jacket and trousers Charles Jeffery LOVERBOY. Shirt Martine Rose. Jewelry, socks, and sneakers model's own.
Chances are, you discovered Lil Yachty — the 19-year-old Atlanta rapper, singer, creative, and future entrepreneur formerly known as Miles Parks McCollum — via his rainbow-hued music video for "1 NIGHT." The weird and wonderful video, a soundtrack to summer 16, is four minutes and fifteen seconds of green screen fun: it shows Yachty hanging out on a boat with his signature cherry red braids, Yachty harpooning a hammerhead shark, Yachty as a singing tug boat, Yachty cuddling a kitten... Surrounded by people dancing in wet suits, he sprays everyone with silly string as lyrics and nautical emojis bounce across the screen, karaoke style. "Is this drugs?" asks one YouTuber in the comments below. You'd be forgiven for thinking so, but this Lil Boat doesn't even drink!
Freshly landed in London for the very first time, the sleepy captain is sitting in a Hackney studio showing off his tattoos for the camera. 'Mama's baby' is written on one arm, 'daddy's soldier' is written on the other. There's an anchor here, a "big ass boat" there, and a barcode with the Georgia zipcode on his wrist that he "wanted to get on the back of [his] neck like Hitman, but [his] neck is black as shit so whatever." He has another tattoo down his stomach, "but my stomach's kinda fat and I'm sitting down, and when you're sitting down and you're fat, your fat kind of comes together so I can't show you that one…" he mumbles, almost undecipherable, but somehow adorable. "Sorry, not sorry!" he yells.
The self-crowned King of the Teens, Lil Yachty is currently riding the big waves he's been making both on social media and in the music world with the auto-tuned dream rap he and his friends on the Sailing Team make. "It's a movement," he explains. "It's me, my friends, and a nautical theme. Just boats and beats and red hair and water and positivity and being swag."
Growing up in Atlanta, Lil Yachty was surrounded by music and always knew what he wanted to do. "I always wanted to be famous," he states, eating a handful of peanut M&Ms. "When I was a little kid, I used to have dreams of getting out the car and walking the red carpet with all the flashing lights, or walking out on stage with everyone screaming my name and cheering." It was while working in McDonald's during high school that he conjured up a plan. "When you hate a certain way of living so much, you'll think of anything to get out of it. I hated having no money, I hated being in college, and I hated being normal," he shares, matter of factly. "I didn't wanna be normal anymore. I just wanted to be a superstar."
After quitting college (he hated it) he crashed at a friend's place in New York, set out to become Instafamous, and in February of this year found himself modeling for Yeezy Season 3 at Madison Square Garden. In a Yeezy sweater as red as his hair, he stood front and center — a man on a mission to catch the attention of everybody there. Heading back to Atlanta, he put out his floaty Lil Boat mixtape and soon followed it up with Summer Songs 2. Warm, colorful, and gentle on the ears, Yachty's flow sits in a happy place between real life and the subconscious.
It's led to him finding fans in Skepta and Frank Ocean; the hype is real and while Wiz Khalifa refers to it as mumble rap, Yachty himself once dubbed his signature sound bubblegum trap. "What the fuck is bubblegum trap?!" he laughs. "I don't even know. I said that shit one time as a joke and now I make bubblegum trap." Does he hate himself for that? "I don't hate anything in life. I'm blessed. I'm happy." Not a fan of what he calls "serious rap" he's found himself in trouble for his apparent lack of respect for rap legends. "People don't understand that I'm not a rapper!" he laughs. "I rap, but I'm not a rapper. I'm an artist. I make more than rap music. Old hip-hop heads don't get it, but honestly, forget them." Rather fittingly, he has collaborated with the likes of Gucci Mane and T-Pain, counts Kylie Jenner as one of his mixtape features, brought the party to D.R.A.M.'s "Broccoli," and has a verse on Charli XCX's addictive new single "After The Afterparty," also joining her in the zombie-infested house party video with a pleasingly strict pink dress code.
Yachty has been into fashion since high school. "I had no money but I was introduced to the thrift store," he remembers. Having worn vintage Nautica long enough for somebody at their HQ to take notice, he has just released a capsule collection in collaboration with the preppy 90s brand, clearly understanding the importance of having a wider game plan and strong visual identity. "You gotta have a brand. That's how you last. It's bigger than music. You're gonna see me everywhere with the things that I'm working on… it's gonna be crazy. Every lane. Everything."
Considering we've already seen him in a Sprite commercial playing the piano in a sparkling ice cave with Lebron James — reworking the lyrics to his song "Minnesota" into an ode to soda — we believe him. "That's why I say I'm not a rapper," he enthuses. "Once you start thinking like a brand, you're not a rapper anymore. Diddy's not a rapper, he's an entrepreneur... Jay Z? He's an entrepreneur too. They're brands, you know? That's how I'm trying to be. I wanna be the biggest and the best."
Knowing that the eyes of the youth are on him, Yachty prides himself on setting a good example. "I always try to keep a positive message. No drugs, no alcohol — not that I judge anyone, each to their own — I just like to stay 100% clean. I don't party, I don't club, I stay out of negativity's way and keep a clean image." That image is why he's so inspiring to teens, so empowering, an unlikely role model. His world is one of friendship and fun, originality and creativity; one where dreams are followed and haters chucked overboard. "I look at life like it's so easy," he says. "If you want to be rich; you can be rich. If you want to make yourself famous; you can make yourself famous. You just have to put your mind to it." Like Peter Pan surrounded by his lost boys, Lil Yachty makes the make-believe real.
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Maxwell Tomlinson
Styling Bojana Kozarevic
Photography assistance Rory Cole
Styling assistance Lena Ernestus