Lil Yachty just can’t win. That, or he keeps changing how he plays the game. His initial “bubblegum trap” sound was widely derided by purists. Even by Soundcloud rapper standards, Yachty was catching considerable flack. But the problem wasn’t that his music wasn’t hard; it’s that it wasn’t particularly good. It had a sound, and he could pull off some quality tracks if he put his heart into it, but when his debut album, Teenage Emotions, landed with a thud last year, it was clear that Yachty’s sound would have to be significantly altered if he had any hopes of sticking around.

Earlier this year, he released his second album, Lil Boat 2. Having as much to do with his debut mixtape as Troll 2 did with Troll, it stripped away his charm and eccentricity so that he could fit in better on a Migos Spotify radio playlist. If his earlier work had major issues, it could at least inspire debates. With his second album, Yachty seemed resigned to just making the most tepid trap possible. But hey, it reached number two on the Billboard charts.

He keeps up with the nautical imagery on the cover of his second release of the year (and third album), Nuthin’ 2 Prove. Whether it’s an improvement depends on if an album with some shockingly bad songs, some generally good songs, and plenty of mediocre songs is better than one that’s just mediocre all the way through. There are times when it’s a struggle to get through Nuthin’ 2 Prove but there are also ever-so-brief flashes of potential.

Yachty saves the worst for first, as in, first four songs. The opening track, ‘Gimmie My Respect’ is even less subtle than its title. Not even two minutes long, it’s the musical equivalent of being exposed to a fart in an elevator. Just when you think it’s safe to breathe through your nose again, the stench hits you. The cheap beat and ridiculous but not even remotely clever threats (“Right at your crib while you’re eatin’ dinner. Dressed in a mask like it's Comic Con”) is barely improved upon with ‘Get Dripped.’ Playboi Carti does what he can, but Yachty sounds like he’s falling asleep in the booth, and the cartoonish beat by MitchGoneMad and EarlThePearll sounds like it’d be more at home emanating from a GameBoy Color.

‘Riley From The Boondocks’ initially seems like it’ll be a chance for Yachty to throw out some actual personality, and while his flow does briefly get a bit more energized, he slurs in a way that makes it seem like it would hurt him to have even a little bit of fun. Then, on ‘I’m The Mac,’ the hook is so unappealing, it becomes the antithesis of catchy.

He has nowhere to go but up, and there are a few relative diamonds in the rough. Track five, ‘Yacht Club’ isn’t enough to forgive the sins of the first four, but he and Juice WRLD trade lines back and forth with complete ease and give the album some of its best lines. (Yachty: “I’m a young king. I might fuck Alexis Texas.” Juice: “But I ain’t on no Drake shit. I won’t get her pregnant.”). EarlThePearll’s light touch complements them well, and there’s some actual resonance, even if it’s as simple as Juice’s raspy mourning of “Me and Boat got kicked out the yacht club.”

Elsewhere, a pair of fueled-up verses from Cardi B and Offset gives 'Who Want The Smoke?' power. (Cardi: “Don’t know what’s on their mind, but it should be retirement/Get the AARP or this AR get to firin’”) But Yachty doesn’t even try to keep up with the power couple, especially not with his tossed-off hook. Right after, he takes another detour, not in quality plummeting but in themes. Yachty starts getting romantic and sounding like his old self. ‘Worth It’ is ‘Just The Way You Are,’ but with lines like “I don’t give a fuck if your titties don’t stand.” ‘Everything Good, Everything Right’ manages to succeed because of its hook, not in spite of it.

No one’s idea of a great, or even particularly good, performer, Yachty wisely primarily chooses guests who won’t put him to absolute shame, but sometimes they have nothing to work with. Trippie Redd and a Faith Evans sample are about all that’s holding ‘Forever World’ together. On ‘Fallin’ in Luv,’ Gunna and Yachty sound like they’re both trying to stifle yawns. At least Kevin Gates tackles his verse with vigor on ‘Nolia.’

The variety compared to its predecessor is enough to consider this a slight step in the right direction for Yachty, but it's also a mark against it, because it shows a lack of following through on any sort of vision or cohesion. For every lightning in a bottle moment of inspiration or fun, there are several misses. His sound might be lighthearted, but it can at least be memorable. (Don’t try to act like ‘Broccoli’ would’ve been as big as it was without Yachty’s help.) He has nothing to prove but not much to show either.