Chances are you’ve never heard of him, but I wouldn’t blame you; the Swedish rap game isn’t on anyone’s radar, so if you saw him on the street, you’d just think he’s another young kid wearing winter jackets and bucket hats drinking Arizona iced tea. Jonatan Leandoer (that’s really his last name), aka Yung Lean, isn’t just some kid though, as he is a sleeper hit who’s creating his own lane in hip hop.
It may seem hard to believe, but at 19 years old, he’s just released his sophomore album. Yung Lean’s already got a decent catalog, with two mixtape, two albums, and numerous music videos already available online.
Wait, how did a kid from Sweden even get into hip hop? Well, it’s all thanks to 50 Cent, as his album Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was Yung Lean’s first foray into rap, and his newfound interest blossomed from there.
As a young teen he became friends with a couple goons who would soon be known as Yung Sherman and Yung Gud, and all three found they had similar tastes in style and music. Before long, the trio were calling themselves Sad Boys and were making music and uploading it to SoundCloud.
Yung Lean was always on the mic, with Yungs Sherman and Gud taking charge of production. Sherman and Gud have a very unique sound, which can at times be compared to video game music, but it’s dope. Yung Lean’s delivery and flow are very different as well, as his voice is almost drowned out by the beat, which he does on purpose; it’s called ‘slack’ rapping, and this style is what helps distinguish young Leandoer from other wolves in the pack.
Slowly but steadily the Sad Boys trio started to build their audience and reputation, developing a small but devoted following. Once Yung Lean dropped the breakout hit “Kyoto”, the Internet really started to take notice, as the visuals for the song has amassed 13.8 million view on YouTube. After “Yoshi City” and it’s dope visuals became available to the masses, the Sad Boys’ fanbase grew substantially, and before long the trio would be gearing up for shows and tours.
In the final quarter of 2014, Yung Lean released his debut album Unknown Memory to some critical acclaim and a lion’s share of hate, but the Sad Boys aren’t into giving many fucks when it comes to someone else’s opinion. Yung Lean soldiered on under the radar as usual, posting pics on Instagram and tweeting on occasion, but otherwise seemed to be inactive when it came to making more music.
Nearing the end of February 2016, Yung Lean decided it was time to step back into the spotlight he was able to create for himself, releasing his second album, entitled Warlord. I’ll be honest, I didn’t and still don’t really like his first album, but Warlord is a project that has high replay value, something you might not expect from a 19 year old, baby faced kid from Sweden.
Yung Sherman and Yung Gud have their hands all over the production as usual, creating a unique canvas on which Yung Lean can express himself. 13 tracks long, Warlord has incredibly consistent and high quality production, and it seems the Sad Boys may not be so sad, as Yung Lean’s vocals can be heard clearly over every beat. His confidence and lyrical ability have dramatically improved as well, especially evident on the track “Fantasy”, featuring Chicago rapper Lil Flash; not an expected collab, but a welcome one, and that track is one of the standouts of the project.
Yung Lean’s ability to craft a hook and package a complete song are in full effect on Warlord, and frequent collaborator Bladee showcases his talent on two songs as well, both of which are two of the best tracks on the album (“Highway Patrol” and “Hocus Pocus”).
Warlord is a fun, cohesive project that should catch the attention of those who have yet to catch Yung Lean’s wave, and this album should further establish himself among other rappers. The only thing is, Jonatan Leandoer couldn’t care less about what anyone thinks about his music; when he was creating the Sad Boys with his friends, he didn’t care what anyone thought, he was just doing what he wanted, listening to and wearing what he liked.
I wouldn’t ever expect Yung Lean to reach mainstream fame, and I doubt he wants anything like that; when you’ve created your own sound and aesthetic and found success from it, what more could you want?
Yung Lean has always done something other than what’s expected from a kid like him; he’s from Sweden, he raps in English, does it well, has a great producing duo at hand, and has fans all around the world.
If you happen to walk by this kid on the street, look beyond his North Face jacket and Ralph Lauren cap — you will find much more than you ever expected.
Cop Warlord on iTunes.