Galore Crush: Yung Lean
Art Basel seems like a dream now, but as cold as it is NYC we promise it did actually happen; we did actually bask in the sun and not look at art. We also went to hang out with Swedish rapping sensation Yung Lean and his crew Sad Boys. If you’re yet to acquaint yourself with Lean, who in his earlier work incorporates so many American references (Arizona, Fluff, Gatorade etc) it’s hard to not be compelled by his story. How on earth did this kid from Sweden become obsessed with these products and American culture? And more importantly how on earth did he translate that into an artistic venture and blossoming rap career? We got a little high, drank a little champagne and asked him a few questions.
Interview by Jessie Kohlman and Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson
How do you find people respond to you in London?
We have crazy UK fans. UK and American. In London, we’re playing The Barbican. It’s gonna be crazy. There’s a dress code, very fancy.
You have so many American references in your lyrics, but British and European people still respond to them. Why do you think that is?
I think that when you listen to music you get more of a feeling. That’s bigger than the actual lyrics or references.
Growing up in Stockholm, what was the Hip Hop culture like there? How did you first get into rap music?
When I was a kid, around seven or eight, I started listening to Nas, Illmatic. Those were my first albums. After that I started buying CDs for myself. I think the first CD I bought on my own was 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying.
So American Hip Hop has always had a major influence on you?
Yeah. It was definitely the first touch I got. But there’s also this Swedish rap band The Latin Kings, or Dizzee Rascal who’s from London.
Who else do you like from London?
I love Skepta and Naira Marley. Max Twigz.
Have you always rapped in English?
I started rappin in Swedish. Then I started writing in English and it just flowed better.
First verse, how old were you when you wrote it and who was it about?
I think the first one was for this competition in third or fourth grade. I was with this other kid and he suggested that we rap. So I wrote both of our verses, i think about like, computer games or something. And then I made my first mixtape when I was eleven or twelve. I spent a whole summer on it.
We need that mixtape can we find it online?
I can’t even find it.
Was it any good?
No. It was horrible. It was just loops of beats overlaid on each other.
How did the sad boys crew meet?
We met two years ago in a park. My friend was seeing Sherman, and she kept talking him up to me saying how we would love each other, blah blah blah. Then we just met.
So you joined their already established crew?
They had a bigger crew that made music. I joined in and then we split off and did our own thing. Then just started making music.
Do you go to school anymore?
So when you were in school and starting to blow up online, how did people react?
I don’t even know, I was super lowkey. I just kind of kept to myself. I remember when I was in 10th grade and everything started blowing up, there was a group of seniors listening to my songs in the cafeteria. I came down and had no idea what to say. I was trying to hide from them.
So you didn’t feel very attached to your school?
Nah, I didn’t like that shit.
Any musician that you’ve met that’s been particularly awesome?
I met Mike Will Made It yesterday. And I saw 2Chainz walk by once. That was okay. I don’t really know though, I mostly look up to my friends and what they’re doing.
Stuff that you reference in your videos, particularly in the one for Hurt, how do you get all of that in Sweden?
We just borrowed that shit. Just put out what we wanted on Facebook and people had it. It’s like Swedish Fluff. It’s all European rip offs.
We went to your first Webster Hall show and felt like the oldest people there, but it was cool.
You should’ve come to this one. This tour is so much more. Better visuals, better props. We’re traveling in a tour van and bringing tons of strobe lights. The whole deal.
What’s your favorite part of performing?
Listening to your songs on big speakers. Being able to do whatever you want.
Is it crazy when people know the words to your songs?
It’s so nice. If you listen to a rapper you normally know their lyrics. It’s weird though.
It is weird though isn’t it? Because you started this not expecting anything.
Yeah. But I was gonna do it anyways. I’m always gonna be doing this. Even if people don’t rap my lyrics, I’ll still do it.
So what do you love about America?
I love being on the road. DC was cool, Philadelphia too. There’s venues every night. And they’re all called Masquerade or The Barber or something like that. I love Texas, Miami, LA. In Atlanta the girls are crazy. A bunch of them showed up at the hotel.
Craziest on tour moment?
I don’t know like, throwing champagne.