A Conversation With the Designer Behind Lil Yachty’s ‘Teenage Emotions’ Album Cover
Earlier today (April 20), Lil Yachty unveiled the cover art for his debut album, Teenage Emotions, featuring people from all walks of life sitting in what appears to be a movie theater. In front of him, a girl afflicted with vitiligo sits laughing, while behind him a gay couple make out. The cover's already being lauded online for its inclusive slant, and on Instagram Live, Lil Boat discussed the inspiration behind it: "If you have vitiligo or if you're gay or whatever it is, embrace yourself. Love yourself. Be happy, positive."
Legendary photographer Kenneth Cappello shot the cover and graphic designer Mihailo Andic, who handled Yachty's logo and did the covers for both Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2, designed it. We spoke to Andic, 23, about how he started working with Yachty, how the cover came together and which of Yachty's friends are featured on the cover. Below are excerpts from our conversation.
XXL: How'd you first start working with Yachty?
Mihailo Andic: That was actually right before the Lil Boat mixtape came out. This is one of my favorite stories. It was just one day before Valentine's Day and one of my brother's friends came over to our house and was catching up with me when he said, "You should listen to this guy named Lil Yachty." And this was before he had any songs popping. "1 Night" and "Minnesota" were out but he didn't have the tape out, so I was like okay, I'll check him out.
That was around the time he did the Kanye show [at MSG], and I saw him there and then I listened to a song and I came up with this idea for a cover. It was just a really simple mock up of Yachty on a boat and it was in the middle of the water background, kind of like the ocean, and I sent it over via email and later that night they hit me up. They loved the idea, and after that, the rest was history. That's how we all came together.
I took a pic from his Insta, did a little Photoshop work and in less than half an hour I did a mock up and said, "Listen, I think I have a really great idea of how your visual branding and covers could look. Here's a quick idea. If you guys like it, get back to me. If not, appreciate your time." And they loved it.
How did the Teenage Emotions cover come about?
We actually started talking about this album sometime last year, so I think we were all in the same city for one of the tour stops back in the summer and we kind of just started talking about the upcoming album. At that time, I was initially starting to think about ideas for where we could take it visually, but we didn't really have a clear understanding of what direction we were gonna take it in for the album.
We had a similar look and feel for the first two mixtapes, Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2. We weren't exactly sure if we were gonna do that this time around, so it was a few months of thinking through the fall and the winter. We were just going through ideas, I was looking through references, sending over mood boards as to what one idea could look like or what it could look like in this kind of style. And then I think it was in January or February, we actually were all in L.A. and we kind of just sat down. We were hanging out and we started discussing what we could do for the album cover.
Yachty and I were talking and kind of just bouncing around ideas, and I just asked him, "What would you want to see out of this visual for your first album? What do you think is important here and what do you think we can do that's a little more progressive and maybe a little more different than what we did previously?" He was telling me these ideas, and one of them happened to be having a group of teens surrounding him in some way. And that's where the initial idea came from. He mentioned that to me and he was telling me it'd be really important to show the diversity, the inclusion of all these different teens who could come together and form this cover.
After that, we were continuing that conversation and once we had that idea, I showed him this mood board. It was actually a mood board on my Instagram saved page. [The idea for the cover] came out once we were talking, and I was like you know what, I'm probably gonna spend a few days and just go through some pictures and see what I can gather up before I see Yachty. I happened to gather this photo, and it was just a reference shot, and it had a really beautiful picture of a theater. And I thought maybe this could be one of the background ideas where we could house the actual cover, so I showed him that and immediately, that was the one that clicked.
[The theater] also relates to the whole teenage aspect of the album. A lot of teenagers, that's around the time they're going on dates. The movie theater is one of those important spots where teenagers are gravitating towards, and I'm sure it's part of everyone's life. Takes them back down memory lane, so that was where we got that idea.
Then two months after, we set up a shoot. Kenneth Cappello, that guy's one of the biggest legends ever, we got him to shoot the cover. We thought he would be a perfect for that. We knocked it out and after a few days, we had our final product. It's different than what we've done previously, but just to see everybody's reaction today and to see how much positive over negative there is, it just shows we took it in the right way and we were all right in what we were going for.
Talk about casting the different characters on the cover. How'd you pick these people? How'd you find them?
That was back to what Yachty wanted to include in the cover, and we did a bit of ideation around that before, but he had a pretty good idea of who he wanted in the cover, and he wanted this cover to stand for inclusion and all teenagers. He's pretty much the king of teens and he just wanted to show no matter who you are, you have to embrace who you are and you have to be be proud and be yourself, and I think that's what we captured with this cover.
You mentioned some previous ideas you had before you settled on this one. What were they?
I had two sets of ideas before this. The first set actually were in the same lane as the whole teenager, taking it back kind of vibe, and then the others were a little more in line with what Lil Boat and Summer Songs 2 looked like, a little more nautical, just expanding that universe. But to be honest with you, I don't think we were leaning toward that direction and those kind of ideas. They felt a little too mimicky of the first two covers, so we just pushed them to the side and said you know what, time to progress. Time to build on this and create something new and unique.
Yachty has some friends on the cover as well. Who are they?
Any last words on the cover?
For this cover, once we had this idea nailed down and we were in the process of executing it, we kind of knew this one was gonna make an impact. It was a little more about the message this time around. It wasn't as artistic or even you could say expressive, it was more a cover that had a meaning, and more so it had a message for everyone. And I'm glad that everybody sees that message.
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