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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He’s enthused onstage, and  you can tell as soon as the lights come on that he’s aware of his unique position. He only has to put his hands in the air, before hundreds of hands are mirrored back to him, a sea of bucket hats and ironic chains. He’s accumulated quite a few hits in his few years online, and the crowd knows every word. It’s really quite something to hear “got my balls licked by a Zooey Deschanel lookalike” in tandem.

We’ll be posting video from his performance at Vogue Theatre shortly.

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