An empire of emotions: Yung Lean brings the Sad life to stage

One of Yung Lean’s most mined, formative years in life was 2002. He was six years old.

You’d be forgiven for initially pegging him as much older, like when you hear Ginseng Strip 2002, a song in which he raps about Slytherin and seeking morphine in the same breath. His subject matter is brazen, for anybody, much less an eighteen year old rapper from Södermalm, Sweden. Yet here he is, a breakout internet artist, a veritable synonym for youth and youth mode culture.

He’s a reverse Peter Pan of sorts, the kid who wanted to grow up fast. A testament to the power of social media and video platforms, where his legions of fans scan his every move and are quick to replicate; he’s demi-god of sad style. He’s become a lifestyle unto himself; the music, the bucket hats and slouchy oversized tees, – all subtle nods to the ’90s. Beyond the fashion, what’s appealing about Yung Lean is his carefree attitude in his music. He doesn’t adhere to any sort of outlines of how rap music should sound. His subject matter is outlandish as he raps about the usual accoutrements of rap music (money, girls, money) with an outlandish candour, which seems even stranger when you remember he’s Swedish.

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Breaking out stateside is difficult, very few have been able to manage, and Yung Lean has been one of the most successful to do so. He embodies all of the fierce emotions that come with adolescence, from all the first times and new experience that youth brings. He’s free form with his lyrics, going from serious to comical back to serious in seconds. All of his verses are laid with a boyish charm, as he sings about having getting his dick stuck inside a lampshell.

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The Gospel of Lil B

Lil B‘s religious allegory starts in his birthplace of Berkeley, California. Not much is known about the Based God’s early years, until he came to rise with his disciples, The Pack. He began rapping with them at 16 and found early success with Vans. The song was a staple in the burgeoning hyphy movement, which was spreading beyond the Bay Area and finding its way into homes and clubs all across North America.

He went solo soon after that and launched his career independently via social media. Whether by fluke or his own premonition, he saw the value in promoting through Myspace, and created hundreds of accounts to share his music. He’s somewhat of a trend forecaster when it comes to social media, abandoning Myspace shortly after its peak for YouTube, where he’s been a mainstay, clocking hundreds of thousands of subscribers, who faithfully guard the comments section on his videos.

Somewhere along those lines, he discovered that he was very based, perhaps the most based of all, and decided to crown himself as such. What’s based you ask? We’ve gathered that it’s a positive affirmation, a sort of Mills harm principal, in which you live life according to the pursuit of your pleasures. It’s also a haven for those who can appreciate irony and the sentiment behind being based. Supporting Lil B is kind of a fuck you to the music industry, which tends to churn out the same sort of music with the same super producers and an image that is full of false braggadocio.

It’s there in Lil B’s music too, with songs like “Pretty Bitch” and “I’ma Eat Her Ass” but it’s done in a very lowbrow, and ironic sort of way. It’s okay to laugh with him or at him because he’s laughing too. His high output of work is notable; he’s put out thousands of songs, some deeply engaging (Birth of Rap) and others that are merely repetitive sentences sung with enthusiasm.

He’s a veritable force on social media, especially on Twitter, where he was very proud of himself for following one million people with his own hands (no bots!). It’s social media where his fan base congregates, multiple times a day, to relish in the tidbits of wisdom he offers them.

He preaches love – love for yourself, others and of course for the Based God. We weren’t yet ready to receive it, when we reached out to him via email to set up an interview. Continue reading

Mobb Deep: Havoc and Prodigy – two decades strong

Havoc and Prodigy have been creating music together since they met as teenagers at the High School of Art and Design. Since then, they’ve dropped numerous albums, travelled the world several times over and have been involved in some pretty legendary rap beef. The feuding also made its way into the group, with the duo splitting for a brief hiatus in 2012 before reconciling to record and tour once again. And, in that way, the relationship between Havoc and Prodigy is one of the of the realest in the industry.

They’ve been creating together for over two decades since their beginnings in Queenbridge, Queens. From the hood dissertation that was The Infamous to releasing The Infamous Mobb Deep this year, it’s come full circle for Havoc and Prodigy. They’ve truly grown up together and have seen each other through both creative and personal growth. The split was very publicized, with verbal sparring over twitter and fans torn between sides.

It’s the type of rivalry we’ve all been in at some point in another, with those that we share a rarified relationship with, where true feelings aren’t masked behind false words. These types of relationships are the strongest because they can withstand the depth and complexity of us as humans, and the only ones which will reveal the sometimes brutal truths we need to face. For Havoc and Prodigy, their hiatus was a chance to focus completely on them as individual artists, and when they reunited a year later (as many predicted they would) they came back with tenacity, recording and touring with a renewed sense of passion and loyalty too Mobb Deep. It’s a clarity you can only reach after having had some strife.

We saw them perform together to a packed house, a testament to the reach of Mobb Deep since their first album. It was clear as soon as the first two bars of Shook Ones Part II came blaring through the speakers, Mobb Deep is forever.

Ab-Soul

Since Ab-soul’s These Days was released in June, there’s been a paradigm shift in the hierarchy at Top Dawg Entertainment. By releasing his album after cohorts Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q, there was an insuperable pressure for him to maintain the remarkable level of success that TDE artists have had with their solo records. With These Days, Ab-soul has raised the bar, for both his Black Hippy brethren and all artists, actually.

In These Days listeners are taken through the murky waters of Ab-souls mind. His delivery is frank, unabashed and witty with enough silly punchlines to remind you that despite his shitty experiences, his humor is well intact.

Witnessing almost the full album come to fruition on stage gave even more depth into the character of a man who is often hidden under a hat and oversized shades. What his physical presence lacks is more than made up for with his on stage persona. As soon as he ran up on stage, the crowd, already rowdy and sweaty from anticipation erupted into maniacal praise.

From the first song to the last (with a few smoke breaks in between) he was a maze of energy, dropping some wisdom, and sharing his spirituality with the crowd between songs.

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