I don't think anyone's been able to explain exactly the reason why so many people like Yung Lean. I know why I like him, but he doesn't seem to be one of those artists that would appeal to such a wide range of people. Yet he does.
Since Yung Lean came on to the scene at the beginning of 2013 he has gone through very quick and seamless changes. When he first started to make songs and post them on YouTube, he was just a weird Swedish kid mumbling over beats by Yung Gud and Yung Sherman about things he heard in Gucci Mane songs. His flow was incredibly offbeat and the lyrics were rather immature. Lean's sound at the time was essentially a vaporwave project with rapping and more hi-hats. Fusing early 2000s nostalgia via GameCube and Digimon references, and part Arizona Iced Tea aesthetic (which he has seemed to have dropped altogether with this one). For the average listener he wasn't seen as a legitimate artist but more of a Tumblr sensation.
Then "Kyoto" drops around Christmas 2013, and suddenly Lean's spitting legitimate bars and the production has somehow gotten even better. Yung Lean actually sounds like an established rapper ready to take over the world with his infectious brand of cloud rap. Lean obviously meant business. He wanted the world to know he wasn't some joke "meme rapper" who got famous off of Tumblr.
Throughout most of 2014 Yung Lean has spent touring and dropping various one-off singles and music videos. The videos no longer feature strange 3-D Windows 97' screensaver effects or rotating bottles of Arizona Green Tea all over the screen. Lean obviously wants to be taken seriously. Even hiring various directors to direct his videos rather than do it himself. Finally Yung Lean releases the first single off of his upcoming album Unknown Memory
, "Yoshi City". Similar in both video and sound to "Kyoto", Lean is laced with a beat that's as friendly and warm as it is nostalgically sad.
Then the album finally comes out, and completely shatters all expectations. Lean is a little less focused on the rapping this time around (he still raps but it's not as in the forefront as on Unknown Death 2002
) by using autotune and vocal modulation to cater the trippy production perfectly.
"Blinded" is one of the few tracks were Lean's rapping actually stands out a bit. Lines like "Mitsubishi cruising down the lanes like it's Nascar", and "Countin stacks with my boys in the sushi bar" prove that even though he's fairly successful now he's able to rap just like when he was in his bedroom making "Ginseng Strip 2002". Another easy standout track is "Ghosttown" which features G.O.O.D. Music (like Kanye West's label) rapper Travi$ Scott who, now looking at the collab, the duo should have collaborated a long time ago. Both rappers are known for switching from rapping to using weird autotuned vocal effects and honestly this collaboration is damn near perfect, I hope that there are more Scott/Lean tracks in the future. The last track that I'd like to point out is the cuddly "Leanworld". On this track Yung Lean seems oddly un-Lean. It's basically a love story between Lean and an unnamed girl who he serenades, "Key in the gate, it's a lean world. Heaven lean kingdom with a lean girl". The song also touches in on his new found success and how he ignores the haters because his fans are all that matter in this "leanworld".
Without a doubt Yung Lean delivered with Unknown Memory
. This isn't the same kid who mumbled his way through "OreoMilkShake" and rapped about looking up girls skirts and sticking his dick in a glory hole. This is a new Lean. A more matured Lean. An objectively better Lean. This is the future of hip hop, a sadder future.