Lil Yachty takes a huge step forward in his career with the release of his debut studio album Teenage Emotions. But what got us to this point? How did Lil Yachty become the phenomenon that everybody's talking about? Here are some of the high points of his journey to stardom.
January 2014: Yachty shares his first IG post
Yachty is nothing if not a master of social media. He currently has nearly three million Instagram followers, and gained much of his following via IG and other social media platforms. But it all started on Jan. 8, 2014 (175 weeks ago, in Instagram terms), when he posted this BRE (Before the Red hair Era) photo.
As the son of a prominent hip-hop photographer who was a veteran in front of the camera by the age of four, Lil Boat was a natural fit for Instagram.
August 2014: He drops his first song on SoundCloud
Yachty didn't really break through until late 2015 (more on that later), but he had plenty of music before then. While some argue that his debut track was “Bitter Sweet,” the very first track he posted on SoundCloud on Aug. 10, 2014 was the confusingly-spelled “I Got the Baag.” Check it below.
Summer 2015: Yachty moves to NYC
In the summer of 2015, not long after adopting his nickname and nautical-themed style, the teenager formerly known as Miles McCollum moved to New York City with one simple plan: meet famous people. As someone with an eye on the fashion and streetwear worlds, Yachty wanted to meet and impress people like “fashion influencer” Luka Sabbat. “They're the cool kids all the kids listen to,” Yachty told Rolling Stone. “It was strategic. They helped my name build.”
August 2015: Busted for credit card fraud
While back in Georgia that same summer, Yachty and a 21-year-old friend named Clarence Logan were busted at a mall with over three dozen fake credit cards between them. They were charged with forgery, fraud, and counterfeiting, and Yachty was let go on $11,000 bail.
December 2015: “One Night” used in popular comedy video
Yachty's first big break arguably came at the very end of 2015, when his song “One Night” was used in a comedy video by Caleon Fox called “When Bae Hits You With That 'So What Are We?'” Almost immediately, YouTube commenters started asking what the song used in the skit was.
February 2016: Yachty models at Yeezy Season 3 show
By early 2016, Yachty had become close with the controversial tastemaker Ian Connor, who last year was accused of rape by multiple women. Connor played some of Yachty's tunes for Kanye West, which led to Yachty being invited to model for Kanye's Yeezy Season 3/album release show at Madison Square Garden.
March 2016: He drops his debut mixtape 'Lil Boat'
Yachty released his debut mixtape Lil Boat in the weeks after the Kanye show. The project proved the teenage rapper had a unique style that went beyond his social media presence.
April 2016: Collaborates with D.R.A.M. on “Broccoli”
April 6 was the release date for the hit collaboration with D.R.A.M., “Broccoli.”
May 2016: Works on Chance the Rapper's 'Coloring Book'
Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book featured Yachty alongside Young Thug on the track “Mixtape.”
June 2016: Yachty Spits a Hot 97 Freestyle
That June, Lil Yachty appeared on NYC radio station Hot 97 with Ebro Darden. When asked if he was a rapper, he said, “No. I don't know.” And then, as if to prove his point, he wiped out during a freestyle.
The back-and-forth with Darden and Hot 97 continued, with Yachty releasing a song aimed at them in July. He then joined Ebro again on the latter's Beats 1 show in November for something resembling a reconciliation.
June 2016: Signs With Quality Control and Capitol
June was a huge month for Yachty. In addition to the Hot 97 appearance, he revealed he was signing to Atlanta powerhouse Quality Control. That was quickly followed by the announcement of a joint venture between Capitol and QC for Yachty's next project. Also that month? Yachty made the XXL Freshmen list.
July 2016: 'Summer Songs 2' Drops
Yachty keeps the music coming in July with the release of Summer Songs 2 and an accompanying short film called Keep Sailing.
August, 2016: Yachty disses Biggie, Pt. 1
In an interview with Billboard, Yachty says he “honestly couldn't name five songs” by either 2Pac or the Notorious B.I.G. Outrage follows.
October 2016: Want a Sprite?
Yachty teams up with LeBron James for a Sprite ad featuring Yachty's hit “Minnesota.”
November 2016: Expands into fashion
Yachty's nautical fascination finally pays off when he's asked to model a collaboration between Urban Outfitters and Nautica.
November 2016: Yachty disses Biggie, Pt. 2
During an appearance on Pitchfork's “Over/Under” series, Yachty refers to Biggie as “overrated.” He quickly apologizes.
December 2016: Links with Kyle for “iSpy”
Towards the end of 2016, Yachty teams up with Kyle to release “iSpy.”
February 2017: Getting that Target money
Yachty has never been one to shy away from endorsements (“endorsement money is huge,” he noted in a 2016 New York Times profile). So it was no surprise that he did an ad for Target. What was a surprise was a) it was a collaboration with Carly Rae Jepsen and b) it featured a remake of Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock's 1988 classic “It Takes Two.”
March 2017: Named one of Forbes' 'Cash Princes'
Yachty's newfound commercial and financial success is celebrated by Forbes, who names him one of the magazine's Cash Princes alongside Desiigner, D.R.A.M., Noname, and others. That same month, he teams with Nautica for a second collection.
It will be interesting to see where Lil Yachty takes his career from here. Man cannot live on controversy and cool hair alone, so we'll be looking forward to seeing what happens when he becomes a little more established and no longer has to defend his every move against criticism from rap purists. What will Lil Yachty be like in a world where he's not constantly battling for acceptance—a world where, perhaps, there may even be a teenager or two rebelling against him? Whatever happens, we'll be listening.
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