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Yeat's 2093: Mumble Rap or Economic Theory?

Yeat is breaking out of the Matrix. In fact, he bought the Matrix. He sold it too. At least, that’s what 2093 would have you believe; it’s the California rapper’s newest record and a far cry from the mumble rage sound he blew up on just a few years ago, replacing copied and pasted beats with intergalactic production and boasting intelligible vocals no longer obstructed by a ski mask. But is all this change positive? I liked the bells and twizzies, and I can understand longtime fans lamenting their absence (or at least reduced presence). But it was never going to be Tonkas forever, and no matter how you slice it, 2093 is an important milestone in Yeat’s artistic progression.

Hip hop is currently at a bit of a crossroads, with trends like rage and Jersey club feeling played out barely a few years into their inception and hardly any new ideas gaining mainstream traction. Yeat made a name for himself in rage music, riding beats brimming with Playboi Carti’s brand of looped synth leads but using a lower delivery and unique adlibs to craft a series of irresistible bangers (even if they were interspersed among some lazier attempts on 20+ track albums). It’s a particular sound, but if you get it, you get it. Yeat’s vocal experimentation has always stood out to me among other Carti clones like Ken Carson, Destroy Lonely and SoFaygo, who make similar music but with writing so sloppy and monotonous it’s no wonder the genre has almost completely stagnated. While I hope these rappers also see artistic growth, I’m not surprised Yeat is leading the pack. And while there is plenty of room for innovation within the boundaries of rage music, and 2093 is by no means a complete departure from it, Yeat’s evolution involves stepping outside of the subgenre’s typical confines.

Another side of recent hip hop has been an apparent race by some of the genre's biggest stars to make the most expensive sounding rap blockbuster—and it hasn’t been particularly flattering. Both Travis Scott and Kanye West’s newest projects are attempts at grandeur that often fall flat, even if they each contain a handful of great tracks (it’s worth noting that West has successfully executed this aesthetic in the past). Nonetheless, if you told me a couple years ago that these projects would be more apt comparisons to a new Yeat record than some Opium dreck, I would’ve laughed. You don’t know the future. But apparently Yeat does. He went to 2093.

And he didn’t come back the same. The songs on 2093 are more expansive than most of Yeat’s previous output, featuring monumental intros and outros that elevate the futuristic world building and beat switches that keep the tracks dynamic. This greater attention to song structure is quite refreshing for a rapper with a rage background. It’s clearly influenced by artists like Scott and West, but with their recent output, I’d argue Yeat is giving them a run for their money. His production value has also caught up and is about as colossal as it gets, bolstering the record's futuristic appeal. But Yeat’s experience with time travel didn’t just affect his music—it altered the man himself.

I’m not sure what Yeat saw in 2093, but it was impactful enough to inspire a turn to sobriety. Rather than advertising an endless supply of percocets via a slurred delivery that might reflect their influence, on 2093 Yeat showcases his struggle to leave them behind. On “Nothing Changë,” Yeat proclaims, “I just wanna feel things, I wanna feel real. I want to feel like [a] normal human, don’t wanna pop a pill,” and on “Bought The Earth,” he croons, “Off the drugs but I miss ‘em.” This battle is discussed throughout the record and his successful lyfestylë change is embodied in his unprecedented vocal clarity. That said, sobriety is not always conducive to better music (see Lil Uzi Vert’s Pink Tape), and I hesitate to overstate its impact and thereby diminish Yeat’s artistic integrity—the choice to mumble less might be aesthetic and little to do with his drug habits. That said, it feels good to see an artist you love find health and happiness. Who knows, maybe he’s off the Frosted Flakes too.

When Yeat isn’t rapping about drugs (or lack thereof), he’s rapping about spending money. The record kicks off with him dubbing himself “Psycho CEO,” and the bossman goes on to promote his endless supply of disposable cash on every other track. It's so ubiquitous that citing examples seems unnecessary, but one of my favorites is his flex on “ILUV,” where he threatens, “I’ma buy your fucking company and sell your hard work for a dime.” Not to mention that “Bought The Earth” is the ultimate interstellar capitalist ballad and could serve as the album’s thesis statement. But why highlight this? Bragging about money and exaggerating luxury is foundational to so much hip hop. Who cares if Yeat does it too? 

Well, in this case the frequent flexing isn’t just filling space, but is actually essential to the whole album working. Bear with me. Bars about money are thrown around so often in rap music that they’re almost never cause for closer examination. Rappers use them to come across as successful and powerful in the same way they’ll drop endless lines about getting women. But the focal point of those songs is almost never the money itself—it's the inflated image of the rapper who has the money. In the case of 2093, however, nearly the whole project revolves around having and spending money, to the point that a debased undercurrent emerges where the purchases feel mechanical and everything is disposable. 

I don’t think the magnification of this theme alongside the sonic shift in 2093 is a coincidence. The production on the album is larger than life. It sounds expensive and evokes a rush similar to the fleeting euphoria found in buying new things. Yet simultaneously, after so many songs, the towering instrumentation starts to feel hollow. Almost as though the extravagant bells and whistles are compensating for a vacancy that grows tangible but hard to pinpoint. This is not unlike the effect spending large quantities of money can have on a person. It’s a cliche as old as the concept of wealth acquisition: Money can’t buy happiness. Sure, making it feels great, and spending it in large quantities can be exhilarating and temporarily gratifying (or so I’m told, I’ve yet to experience the luxury…). But it is also an endless mirage. There is always more to buy and always something neglected to stay in the rat race. As Yeat declares in the aptly titled “Morë,” “It’s a lot of shit I need and I still need more.”

I’m not arguing that 2093 is the next great critique of late capitalism. But whether intentional or not, it embodies an emptiness in consumerism I don’t think I’ve ever experienced so viscerally through music. It’s an indispensable aspect of what makes the project work for me as an album and not a grab bag of playlist fodder, an attitude I have toward many other Yeat records. By comparison, Travis Scott’s Utopia has similarly big budget production and vapid lyrics, but Scott’s lack of depth merely leaves me feeling like he himself is bland. The focus is on him, and he doesn’t have anything interesting to exhibit. Even if the music sounds great, it feels empty in a way that’s far less redeeming, speaking to his particularly insipid nature rather than the damaging psychological effects of our economic system. Then again, maybe Yeat just thinks that being the CEO to buy the Earth sounds cool. But if 2093 is entirely sincere in its embrace of spending money, the vacuum it surrounds is perhaps all the more poignant.

1 Comment

As a die hard yeat fan I loved this article, the author did a phenomenal job of viewing each perspective and expressing his opinion on yeats music with respect.

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