We Asked Teenage Lil Yachty Fans About the True Meaning of Happiness

The teenagers of Rolling Loud in Miami talk about teenage emotions, 'Teenage Emotions,' and the route to fulfillment.

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06 May 2017, 11:25pm

Lil Yachty is the future of music. He's a catalyst for change whose music can be a calm and soothing sanctuary while also being ebullient and fun-as-hell; he's barely able to contain his excitement and positivity. He's young, different, and not interested in pandering to rap's canon.

Plenty of people sneer at that, of course. But the temptation to dismiss a new generation as a bunch of freeloading know-nothings isn't limited to the Snapchat generation. How many times have your parents told you that there will just never be another [insert musician here]? And, if you're their age now, how many times have you done the same to some youngin with different taste? You're both wrong! There will always be another artist capable of capturing the hearts and minds of a young nation. Sure, that person might look and sound different. Maybe they'll have red hair. But that emotional connection remains the same, regardless of what year it is.

For what it's worth Yachty himself, clearly, gives less than half of one fuck about the shade thrown his way. "Man, fuck them kids, bro!," he tells Kyle in the introduction to "iSpy." "Look around, bro! Look at life!" At a certain point, you can swim against the tide of Yachty's positivity until your lungs are watery, or you can lie back on the sand and watch the waves. "Kids want to have fun and be positive," Kyle Kramer wrote at Noisey in praise of Yachty back in March. "The future of rap is ambient and melodic, and the most exciting instrument in contemporary music is the digitally modulated human voice."

Three weeks before the release of his debut album, Teenage Emotions, we went directly to the those very same kids at Rolling Loud in Miami, a three-day hip-hop festival where the 19-year-old is playing on a bill with other bright young hopes like Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti. What could they tell us about Yachty and the highs and lows of teenage emotions? And what could they tell us about the true meaning of happiness?

Samir, Brian, and Andrew (all 19, all from Atlanta)

L-R: Samir, Brian, Anonymous Dude, Andrew

Noisey : Are you guys Yachty fans?
Samir: Yeah.
Brian: Absolutely.
Andrew: I actually just saw him at Coachella.

So what is it that you like about Yachty?
Brian: How young he is. He's our age so we gotta support the youth.
Andrew: He's doing his own thing. He's just doing Yachty at all moments.
Brian: He's on like a positivity kind of vibe. He's always just happy, just rapping.
Andrew: Like, that man was 19 and was at the Grammys. I have have to respect that.
Brian: He was at the Met Gala too. He's gone up from a year and a half ago so much.
Andrew: He's also from our county, too, so like, that's awesome. We're from Cobb County.

So it's safe to say that his music makes you happy?
Andrew: Without a doubt.
Samir: It provokes emotion. It brings out an emotion that you just can't, you know, you can't describe it.
Andrew: It makes me smile. And when you're smiling, you're happy.

What is your personal definition of happiness?
Brian: Doing what you enjoy.

Why do you think it's tough, especially for older people, to understand Yachty's appeal?
Andrew: Because what he's doing is not, like, lyrical rap of old. He's completely doing his own thing. He's on his own wave. Nobody else is gonna get that and it's understandable that some people don't get it.
Brian: I think he works best with sound. Lyrically, he might not be as intellectual as Kendrick or anyone else.
Andrew: I believe he said in a recent interview, as far as image or something, he feels like he's the best in the game right now. And I gotta kind of agree with that because as someone who is as young as he is, you gotta respect that whether you're a fan or not.
Brian: When you see Lil Yachty, you see this guy with red hair, he calls himself Lil Boat, and he's rapping about whatever — I can see how older people might not appreciate it.

So you guys see the teenage experience being reflected in his music?
Andrew: Oh, absolutely. And even his new album cover looks really cool. It's just random as hell. It's just like him in a movie theater with some weird shit going down.

What's the hardest part about being a teenager today?
Brian: Getting away with things.
Samir: It's also being hated on by older generations as well. You're automatically gonna be looked down on.
Andrew: Anything we do now is either reckless or radical and [older people] are just not about it at all.

What's the best part about being a teenager today?
Andrew: That we're starting over. We're doing our own thing, man.
Brian: We get to reap the benefits of being a millennial, which technology-wise, is incredible. Like things we're able to do — these concerts. It's incredible. We get to basically enjoy everything that's being developed now.

When you guys think about the future of hip-hip, what artists come to mind?
Samir: Lil Uzi, Lil Yachty.
Andrew: Travis Scott's taking over. I don't care what anyone says.
Brian: Not a lot of people heard of him. He's from the Bay. His name's Caleborate. He's slept on a lot but he's young. I think he's on the come up.

What about the opposite? Who needs to hang it up? Who's on their way out right now? Who needs to retire?
Samir: Shit. Lil Wayne.
Brian: After Tha Carter V.
Andrew: Like that song with DJ Khaled. That was just too much. I don't know. If Lil Wayne wants to rap he needs to do his old stuff. But he's not a new rapper, he'll never be able to change that.

Kia, 19, Miami


Noisey: Do you like Lil Yachty? Are you a fan?
Kia: I listen to him. I'm not the biggest fan, but I know his songs.

Does his music make you happy?
Kia: It makes me confused [laughs]. It makes me want to party, but it's nothing I would listen to by myself.

In what way does it make you confused?
Kia: I don't know. He's one of those new artists who are kind of just about noise and they don't have a storyline with their music.

Do you believe Lil Yachty is happy?
Kia: I think he's happy. I would be happy if I was 18 and had all that success.

I think he's 19.
Kia: At least he moved out of his mom's house so that's big.

What's the hardest part about being a teenager today?
Kia: That's a hard one. I think all the negativity assigned to us. Everybody says we're ruining the world because we don't care, but I think we're more awake than the older generation.

Yeah. Like, they kind of dismiss you without listening first?
Kia: Yeah, it's all about what they think is right, what they think that we need to do. But it's our world in, what, 20 years? There's no point in them telling us what to do anymore.

What's the best part about being a teenager?
Kia: The freedom. You can do whatever you want, be whatever you want. You can be a boy if you want to be a boy. You can be a girl if you want to be a girl. You can wake up, change your life. I think it's just so much freedom that our parents didn't have.

When you think of the future of hip hop, what artists come to mind?
Kia: Migos, definitely. I would say Yachty, Uzi — they're gonna be the future whether we like the new things or not. That's the future. That's where we're headed now.

What about the opposite? Who needs to hang it up and get out of the game?
Kia: Gee, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

If you don't want to make any enemies you don't have to answer.
Kia: I know. They're gonna come right after me. That's a scary one. I think everyone just has their own thing. It's not like anyone should end it. It just might not be popular with everybody.

Isabella, 19, Miami & Grace, 18, Miami

Grace (left) and Isabella (right)

Noisey : Are you guys fans of Lil Yachty?
Isabella: Not really.
Grace: He has a couple good songs.
Isabella: Yeah, he was good in the earlier stages of his career.
Grace: When he first got big. "1 Night" is really good, but I think he's just ...
Isabella: It's not even like, "Oh, he's too mainstream." He just overdoes it.
Grace: I think he's annoying.
Isabella: Yeah.
Grace: I'm going to be going to the other person that's playing at the same time he is.

Shots fired. What was it about his early music that you liked and that you related to?
Isabella: He just seems like a sell-out now. I mean, he's making money, and that's fine, but at the same time, he's lame.

What is your personal definition of happiness?
Isabella: I think it's a state of mind. I think you can be happy anywhere. It's a mindset, really.
Grace: You can be broke or you can be rich, as long as you have good people in your life and you're happy.

What's the hardest part about being a teenager today?
Grace: Money [laughs]. Finance, really, if you don't have your parents help. But what do you mean, in terms of what, like, what context?

What do you feel like people misunderstand about being a teenager, especially older people? What don't they get that they kind of just…
Grace: They think our generation is retarded.
Isabella: Yeah.
Grace: They think we're just stupid.
Isabella: And that we make dumb decisions.
Grace: I mean, don't you learn from that? I'm sure that my dad has done a bunch of shit that he's not proud of. You learn from stuff like that.

Nyx, 19, Jojo, 19, & Erika, 18 (all from Miami)

L-R: Erika, Jojo, Nyx

Noisey: Do you guys like Lil Yachty?
All: Yes.

That's a unanimous yes?
All: Yes.

Why do you like Lil Yachty?
Nyx: I don't know. I feel like he's different. He doesn't really care what people really think so he just does whatever. I like that.
Jojo: He has his artistic look with his beads and everything. I like that about him.

Does Lil Yachty's music make you happy?
Erika: Yeah. Wait, what's the guys name? Joe Budden. Remember that whole thing?

Joe Budden is a little older. I feel like sometimes old people don't understand teenagers and what makes them happy. What's your personal definition of happiness?
Nyx: Happiness? I mean, just always having a good time and, you know, good vibes.
Jojo: Positivity and stuff like that.
Erika: Just like they said: good vibes and just chilling.

Yeah. And Lil Yachty's music makes you feel those things?
Erika: Yeah, I feel like you just go and dance and be crazy and do whatever you want to do.

What's the hardest part about being a teenager in America right now?
Jojo: I think it's like affording your expenses. Like what you wanna buy: a car, apartment, food. Pretty much being on your own and being independent.

What about on an emotional level. What's tough about being a teenager?
Erika: I mean, like obviously, relationships, friendships breaking up and everything.

And do you feel like Lil Yachty's music sort of reflects that? Do you relate to it on an emotional level?
Erika: I don't know about an emotional level, but more like a happy level. Like, it makes me want to dance.

When you think about the future of hip-hop, what artists come to mind?
Nyx: X.
Erika: Oh, yeah, XXXTentacion.

You like him?
Erika: Yeah I love him.

Who else?
Nyx: Lil Uzi and Drake.
Jojo: Lil Uzi, Travis Scott, Kid Trunks.

And what about the opposite? Who's not cool anymore, like a little outdated?
Nyx: I would have said Playboi Carti but he has a new album so, I mean, I know he's still there, I guess.

Anything else you want people to know about being a teenager?
Nyx: You're only young once. You only live young once, you know?
Erika: And once you're thirty, you're not gonna be able to do the things you're doing now. You'll have other responsibilities that you have to take care of.

Ryan Pfeffer is a Miami-based journalist who once stepped onto Pitbull's party cruise. Follow him on Twitter.