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Yung Lean @ Union Transfer.

March 21, 2016

YUNGLEAN-0011Text by Cameron Robinson. Images by Charles Shan Cerrone.

It was around 8 P.M. and a sense of anxiousness and anticipation was building in the crowd gathered for Yung Lean‘s first stop on his North American tour. As the crowd eagerly waited, 50 Cent was heard playing in the background. Curiously, 50 Cent was Yung Lean’s first inspiration and introduction into hip-hop.

Born Jonatan Aron Leandoer Håstad in Sweden, Yung Lean first broke onto the scene in 2013 with the release of his music video “Ginseng Strip 2002.” The video was a viral hit, reaching more than two million views on YouTube.

Yung Lean and his group, Sad Boys, including producers Yung Sherman and Yung Gud, are an eclectic mix known for the “sad boy” genre and their vaporwave aesthetic. Sad boys all around gravitated to Yung Lean, who brought recognition to the genre and a refreshing spin to the music. The video and subsequent mixtape led to him being listed in XXL‘s 2014 article “Top 15 European Rappers You should Know.” At the time he was 16. Fastforward three years and Yung Lean is now on his second North American tour, has sold out shows at Webster hall, and has garnered more than six million hits on Spotify, just for his top song alone.

A quick explanation of the genre: “sad boys” glorify the idea of being able to be sad and not hide it. Yung Lean is considered a “sad boy” because his lyrics, more often than not, convey a sad tone. As for vaporwave, it is an aesthetic and musical genre that is built around anything retro, mainly from the 80s, 90s and early 00s.

Other than his music, Yung Lean is also known for his style and love of the 90s. This love is a clear theme throughout his music, rapping on topics from Stars Wars to dial-up Internet. Interestingly, one staple Yung Lean has become known for is his affinity for bucket hats. On this, his fans did not disappoint, wearing bucket hats, they showed up in droves.

“I’ve had this bucket hat since before Yung Lean but I never really wore it,” said fan Austin Marshal. “But for this concert I had too! I really love his older stuff but I appreciate the artistic direction he took for this album. I have to say, he’s a trap guy.”

Yung Lean released his second studio album Warlord on Feburary 25th.

Before the arrival of Yung Lean, Adamn Killa amped up the crowd with an impressive, lively performance. After the set, 15 minutes passed by, and the crowd grew more and more hype. Finally, as fog filled the venue the lights dimmed and before the music started the crowd went wild!

Then, the opening notes of the song “Hoover” began to play, the bass dropped and the stage lights flashed on. Yung Lean began rapping, hands went in the air and people had an aura of exuberance that could only be produced by Yung Lean. Midway through the song, people began jumping off the stage, crowd surfing. The energy going through the venue was ecstatic.

Rapping with ferocity, Yung Lean and the rest of the Sad Boys, shrouded in fog, looked like silhouettes on the stage. This created a mystical sort of aesthetic. Adding to this were the tombstones and crosses that decorated the stage. Behind them was a projector screen that really came alive when they begin to perform the song “Yoshi City.” Images of hands grasping at fire followed by different images and symbols brought the performance to life.

It had been nearly an hour and the crowd has only become more excited. One fan, Marlon Gomez, stated, “I just really started listening to Yung Lean this week. I’m a production guy. I’m usually into EDM but he’s pretty good!”

At that moment the bass dropped and Gomez started to head bang with reckless abandon.

“The first time I heard this song [Yoshi City] my jaw dropped,” Gomez continued. “No rapper makes beats like this. The 808s are sick and that bass!”

The crowd was in a trance-like bliss to Yung Leans lyrics. It’s clear to see why Yung Lean resonates so well with his fans. Most interestingly, he brought together such a diverse crowd – Asian, Black, Hispanic, white, etc.

“I have a friend from Sweden,” said fan Alex Smigo. “Weed is legal there. He told me that when he would leave school. He’d smoke weed listening to Yung Lean, not giving a fuck!”


One Comment
  1. Anonymous permalink
    March 25, 2016 7:47 am

    Great job Cameron!

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