Lil Yachty cannot be stopped. Your feelings toward this statement may be complex, but there is no denying the power of forward momentum and a complete saturation of the “pop” rap marketplace. The so called ‘King Of The Youth’ has spent seemingly every moment not in the studio over the past two years cross-crossing the globe with his message of joy and acceptance with an infectious energy that fills any space he graces with his presence. Adults may not understand it, but in the streaming age they don’t have to. The kids get it, and that’s all that really matters.
Night had just fallen on Columbus, OH when Yachty took the stage at Breakaway Festival 2017. The second to last main stage act of the night, Yachty greeted a crowd of thousands divided only by the gap immediately behind the sound board. Teens and college students from the Ohio region had been descending on Mapfire Stadium for hours, splitting their time between two stages of talent. Yachty’s crowd was the biggest of the night up to that point, and he greeted them with a smile that showed his clear appreciation for their support.
The first of many single verse song performances passed before Yachty addressed the crowd. “Ohio!” Another verse passed. “It’s been a while since I’ve been here. Who has the Lil Boat mixtape?” The crowd roared in response. “When this shit drops, I need you to go wild.”
This is when the night came alive. Yachty kicked off “Wanna Be Us,” the opening to his 2016 debut mixtape, with assistance from track collaborator Burberry Perry. As soon as the beat kicked in the crowd rushed forward, and the already limited space available between the thousands gathered grew smaller by the second. Everyone seemed to be singing along, or at the very least contributing to the tidal wave of dancing bodies the seemed to roll through the audience as they bounced along to the beat. Nothing mattered in that moment other than the moment itself, and from that point forward Yachty held the crowd in the palms of his twenty-year-old hands.
Watching the crowd embrace Yachty it was hard to not think about how fast the Canadian native had climbed the ranks of the music industry. Having been in the public eye for just over two years Yachty has already released three albums worth of material, as well as dozens of guest verses. He has numerous sponsorships and endorsements, including a major marketing push with Target where he reworked “It Takes Two” alongside Carley Rae Jepsen. The highlights of this output filled the near-hour of performance time Yachty spent on stage, and the crowd hung on every word.
Even the most impressive artists can be outperformed by mother nature. In fact, one of the true tests of entertainment is how one responds to circumstances beyond their control. As Yachty’s set reached its latter half the grey skies that had filled the sky over Columbus all day slowly began to open. The rain never fell with any consistency, but the wind did pick up, chilling an already cool September night with bouts of sprinkles. These changes tested the audience of scantily clad festival goers, but it did not break them. The excitement Yachty conveyed from the stage was mirrored by his fans, and their constant motion helped to create a warm energy around the first night of Breakaway Festival that no one wanted to depart.