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Lil Yachty & James Blake Unite For “Bad Cameo”

Lil Yachty and James Blake vault over their differing aesthetics for some genuinely gorgeous moments on 'Bad Cameo.'
The cover for the Lil Yachty & James Blake collab album, ‘Bad Cameo.’

Even if Lil Yachty veered towards psychedelic R&B/indie with his latest record, and though James Blake has been the singing feature de jour for nearly a decade, the two artists never collided paths once in their career. Just off of aesthetics, the two seem to be miles apart, which made the announcement of their collaboration album, Bad Cameo, such a genuine surprise. Just released a few days ago, here’s everything you need to know about what Lil Yachty & James Blake accomplished on Bad Cameo.

Psychedelic Melodies Abound

Many of this project’s greatest tracks lean into the motif of its biggest question: just how can two artists so far apart on paper come together? It’s when they stick to mystery or the unknown that they find the most common ground. “In Grey” is a sprawling electronic meditation where the pair’s harmonies carry the song rather than any true lyrical content; it’s like a film that’s ultra-light in dialogue. 

“Missing Man” is another standout in that lane, a spot where the aforementioned allegorical lyrics that Yachty and Blake both lean into absolutely land. Surely, the MIA figures they refer to in the title are themselves, but the absent-minded psychedelic reflections on where their lives are going astray are hard to exactly pin down. Surprisingly, that ambiguity is a real strong suit, emphasized and made more effective by the meandering synth melody that sets the tone for the whole song.

How To Square Hip-Hop Sensibilities With Yachty’s Genre Pivot

However, there are some drawbacks. One of the major ones on Bad Cameo is something that close affiliate Aubrey Graham hit on: “Can’t listen to the stick talk in falsetto.” Especially given Yachty’s penchant for the allegorical on this project, typical hip-hop lines sound out of  place in close proximity: “Close the book with a folded page to keep the chapter / Told my grandma how much my chain cost look like I slapped her.” Or on “Woo,” where he delivers what appears to be a double entendre about life and lifestyle, “(moving) too fast, I blurred directions,” before following it up with, “my brother selling green red and white like he represent Mexicans.”

Taken from @lilyachty on Instagram

All of that to say, the Atlanta artist is clearly still finding his footing in this lane. Having only announced it officially with the release of “Let’s Start Here” a year and change ago, that’s more than understandable. Plus, with Lil Yachty cast alongside a genuine master of this noxious, woozy sound like Blake on Bad Cameo, it’s more than fair to grade some of those awkward moments on a curve. 

James Blake & Lil Yachty Excel All The Same On Bad Cameo

If there isn’t a specific mention of Blake’s performance here, it’s not because it’s unremarkable, but more because his talents remain metronome-like. Yachty and some of the experimental production cues on this project are the things that bounce outside of the margins, while the Englishman provides incredible, high-quality verses and harmonies around them. While the Atlanta multi-hyphenate has said before that the project is incredibly “left” for both of them, there aren’t many moments where Blake feels like he’s out of place or can’t find his footing.

If it wasn’t abundantly clear already, your enjoyment of Bad Cameo likely rests on your take on Yachty’s rebrand and embrace of a new lane. Fans of Let’s Start Here will almost assuredly love this project, even if it steps towards a more low-key direction. For this writer’s money, it’s a clearer expression of that sound and makes it abundantly clear that the “One Night” rapper is onto something successful, and getting more James Blake material in the process is hardly something to complain about.

You can find Bad Cameo and all of the James Blake & Lil Yachty backlog wherever you stream your music.

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