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Lil Yachty's smile is infectious; his music, not quite so much.
Lil Yachty may be well known, but he couldn't sell out the Bomb Factory for the first show of his Teenage Tour. Friday night was a stark reminder that he's liked more for his fashion sense and persona than his music.
Everything about Lil Yachty is signature, from his braided, cherry-red hair to his retro, nautical-themed clothing. The 19-year-old rapper is celebrated for his positive and inclusive messaging, but he's often harshly criticized for his music stylings, dubbed "bubblegum trap," and his disinterest in hip-hop's history.
At first Lil Yachty was just another kid who wanted to be Internet famous, but after amassing a following on Instagram, he started releasing music as notable as his fashion sense, and his celebrity grew to new heights.
A year later, he's at the epicenter of a rebellious generation of rappers who are foregoing traditional hip-hop sonics and finding success through online platforms like Soundcloud. Lil Yachty is on his first headlining tour, in support of his recently released album, Teenage Emotions.
On Friday, he ran out onstage to the opening notes of "Like a Star" wearing a $10,000 pair of self-lacing Nike Air Mag sneakers, like the ones Marty McFly wore in Back to the Future II. His followers went wild. Like most of his catalog, the song is heavy on autotune, and the software helped him to sound just like the record in person.
Following the order of the album, Yachty performed the aggressive anthem “DN Freestyle" next. He addresses his haters on the song, and it reveals how desperately he wants to be liked.
Despite his ardent following, Lil Yachty is still unnerved by his critics and detractors. There would be nothing wrong with that, except that it clashes with the persona he attempts to project: someone who's happy-go-lucky and unbothered by criticism.
Yachty's debut mixtape, Lil Boat, was light and fantastical in its storytelling. Songs like "DN Freestyle" are not. It can also be hard to get used to Lil Yachty's penchant for changing his musical aesthetic on each track.
While he worked through slower material like “Bring It Back” and “Lady In Yellow,” influenced by '80s pop, he bargained with the unenthused crowd and promised to deliver his turn-up music after getting through this section.
When he got to the higher-energy material, it was hard to deny his magnetism. Lil Yachty's smile is infectious, and his good songs — such as "iSPY," "Broccoli" and "One Night" — are real earworms.
Dallas even had a moment during the show. Local rapper Diego Money made an appearance, and — likely because of his influence — Yachty freestyled over Tay-K’s “The Race," a track that has been buzzing since the 17-year-old Arlington rapper was arrested on capital murder charges.
The last song Yachty crooned to was “Forever Young,” a Diplo-produced anthem that showed Yachty at his best and set him up as a potential crossover into mainstream pop. It was a highlight of the show. But Yachty spoiled the moment by remarking that he was offended that some left before the song started. Spoken like a true teenager.