By Jeffrey Deiss
On April 23, Lil Yachty dropped his mixtape Michigan Boy Boat. I haven’t been this excited for a project in a while, especially considering it’s a Lil Yachty project. Michigan Boy Boat has totally confused rap fans and critics alike. I can just imagine what people think when they listen to Michigan Boy Boat: Who are all these no-name rappers featured? Why are they all rapping off beat? Why do these instrumentals sound like they were cooked up by a 12 year old on GarageBand? And why, just why, is Yachty releasing a project about Michigan of all places?
These questions are totally valid if you haven’t been invested in the underground rap scene of Detroit or Flint. These two cities and their surrounding metro areas are home to the most batshit crazy, off the wall artists the rap world has ever seen.
I didn’t realize what was going on in Michigan at first. Every once in a while, I would see a Detroit rapper blow up on the internet, but it took me a while to connect the dots. First there was Teejayx6 and Kasher Quon with their hilarious scam rap. Then, 42 Dugg blew up by stealing the show on Lil Baby tracks with his unmistakable drawl. Next came Sada Baby with his murderous, TikTok-ready dance tracks. Finally, YN Jay and Louie Ray emerged with their infectious songs about… “coochie.”
Then, Lil Yachty started releasing one-off tracks with these Michigan rappers on YouTube. Only then did I notice that these artists are part of a growing underground network.
Lil Yachty found great success earlier in 2017 when he linked up with Detroit’s Tee Grizzley for the anthemic “From the D to the A,” which is still a banger to this day. He saw potential for growth in Detroit’s scene and kept running with it. Hell, Yachty even tapped in with Kodak Black for the track “Hit Bout It,” featuring a bonkers beat from Michigan producer Carlo Anthony.
Michigan Boy Boat is a culmination of all the work Yachty has put in for the Michigan underground. Yachty appropriates the offbeat Detroit flow over clanky, bizarre beats by Michigan producers like Carlo, Helluva and ENRGY. He features high-profile artists like Tee Grizzley but also sheds light on lesser known figures like ShittyBoyz BabyTron and Krispy Life Kidd.
Second track “Dynamic Duo” is fantastic, showcasing Tee Grizzley and Lil Yachty in peak performance. “G.I Joe” features Flint’s Louie Ray over one of the smoothest beats I’ve ever heard on a Yachty project. Unexpectedly, Swae Lee kills his performance on the track “Never Did Coke.” I don’t know why Yachty included Swae on a Michigan themed mixtape, but it was definitely a good decision. Swae Lee’s flow is effortless and his melodies glide right over the repetitive beat.
Other highlights include the two Sada Baby tracks. The first one, “SB 2021,” is just insane. Sada Baby’s rapping occasionally devolves into animalistic grunts and noises and it makes me wonder what kind of stimulants he was on when he recorded his parts. The other track, “SB5,” is even more ridiculous. Sada’s rhyme schemes honestly blew my mind on this song. Pair that with an absolutely slimy beat by 30 Roc and you’ve got a bona fide hit.
The Flint posse cut “This That One” wraps up the project nicely. The ENRGY beat is wacky as ever, with metallic drums and occasional key changes for no apparent reason. Every rapper does his thing and the chemistry between the Flintonians is undeniable.
There are definitely some less interesting tracks one here. “Concrete Goonies” could definitely use a beat switch or an exciting feature, because Yachty doesn’t really do much by himself. “Don’t Even Bother” with Veeze and Baby Smoove is kind of a snoozefest. I could do without it in the tracklist. Nevertheless, I find this project rewarding in spite of the misses here and there. I’m just happy that Lil Yachty brought mainstream attention to these underground artists.
If you found this project (or this review) interesting, I suggest you dig deeper into the rap scenes of Detroit and Flint right now. Some tracks I recommend to get acquainted with the sound:
Quin NFN – Detroit Flow (not a Michigan rapper, but like the title suggests, the sound is pure Detroit)