Release Date: Nov 10, 2017
Record label: Year0001
T he 21-year-old Swedish innovator is back with an album of hypnotic soundscapes that thankfully feels more comfortable in itself than 2016's ropy Warlord. Indeed, in the year that saw the emo cloud rap of Lil Uzi Vert's XO Tour Llif3 become song of the summer, Yung Lean's sadboy aesthetic feels more fitting than ever. Channelling his uniquely hazy take on melodic southern hip-hop, Lean's lyrics pour forth Bart Simpson-bravado (on Skimask) as much as harrowing insights into the paranoia that engulfs his mental health and romantic life (Red Bottom Sky).
For those out of the loop, Lean is a Swedish rapper, who, along with his producers/best friends Yung Gud and Yung Sherman (aka the Sad Boys), they created somewhat of a hype frenzy when they uploaded videos to YouTube that were rife with slacker style. With his 2013 track "Kyoto" currently standing at 29 million views, it's hard to pin down exactly what aspect of Lean has caused this mammoth hype. If you are one of those who are out of the loop, his third album Stranger is actually a pretty good place to start.
It was easy, when he first emerged, to feel cynical about Yung Lean off name alone: a perfectly grating encapsulation of a certain early-2010s mode of irony that reconstituted hollowed-out rap tropes into winky Tumblr art. If Lean and his small crew of disillusioned Swedish teenagers hadn't come up with the Sad Boys, inevitably someone else would have. My Twitter timeline, around the time "Ginseng Strip 2002" was blowing up, was filled with the same performative melancholy--sincere articulations of depression primed for external validation, or sometimes simply sadness as #aesthetic.
Four years after shrugging his way into the hip-hop conversation with the gauzy Unknown Death 2002, Jonatan Leandoer Håstad might be the most unsung young influencer in all of contemporary hip-hop. Though the connecting lines are arguably more dotted and circuitous than solid and straight, the emo wave of SoundCloud rap that brought us the likes of Lil Peep and Trippie Redd owes a certain spiritual debt to the Sad Boys movement. While Yung Lean and his like-minded cabal never quite blew up on Billboard, the miasmatic spread of this current, oft-Floridian sound into the charting mainstream nonetheless smells of his groundwork if not his actual handiwork.
Yung Lean does most things with an unshakable confidence. Key among the reasons for that is surely his prodigious work rate, which means that the next opportunity to right any perceived wrongs is never far away. Not that he's set too many feet wrong so far; the Swede - still only 21 - enjoyed near ubiquitous rave reviews for both his 2016 releases - second LP, 'Warlord', and December's surprise release, 'Frost God'.
Several of 2017's hip-hop chart breakthroughs have one thing in common: they're sad, despairing and desolate. Take Post Malone's 'Rockstar', Lil Uzi Vert's 'XO Tour Llif3' or Future's 'Mask Off'. All three coat big hooks in tales of bleak, nihilistic excess. This isn't a new trend by any stretch ….
F ew artists seem as likely to reduce unsuspecting listeners to a profound state of WTF? as Jonatan Leandoer Håstad, better known as Yung Lean. A baby-faced 21-year-old rapper from Stockholm, who rose to prominence aged 16 thanks to a viral YouTube video, his lyrical shtick, delivered in a voice that veers between Nordic and faux-American, is based on a combination of drizzly Drake-ish solipsism (the crew he heads is known as the Sad Boys) and mumbly depictions of a lifestyle based around an arsenal of drugs including weed, cocaine, ecstasy, Percocet and the cough syrup-laced drink from which he takes his name. It's not so much that he's a European rapper who, rather than come up with a style of his own, has settled for mimicking what black American artists do.