Two Yung Lean fans photographed by Jason Bergman
If, somehow, you haven’t already heard Yung Lean, then you may think his music is the spurned mumble of a Reddit user who got refused entry to a 16+ rap show. This, from the outset, is fair. But if you leave assumption aside, peer into his world, and read between the lines, you realise Yung Lean occupies a unique space; he’s an outsider, offering a unique take on a genre that, since it’s birth, has felt intrinsically Americanised. He occupies a fantasy world - flipping the stereotypical iconography of US hip-hop on its head, finding solace in sadness, and dropping bars about Arizona ice tea.
In the year since “Ginseng Strip 2002” dropped on YouTube, Yung Lean has turned not just into a legitimate star, but a cultural influencer. He’s influenced the next generation of teenage suburban rap fans in the same way Mac Miller did back in 2010 - the fans wear the same clothes, imitate his prose on social media, and fiercely devour the plethora of new music put out on a regular basis. The fact that Justin Bieber was photographed with the Sadboys is evident at the progress Yung Lean has made since half the music-internet couldn’t decide whether to take him seriously or not - and it’s Bieber’s pastiche of Lean’s aesthetic that not only proves the relevance and impact his career is having, but how far it can go.
You only need to take a quick glance through YouTube to see the artists that are coming up off the back of Yung Lean’s success. They may not all be influenced directly by Lean, but they occupy a similar space, making rap music from the future that sounds vastly different from anything released before the iPhone 4 was invented.
In an attempt to satisfy your thirst for everything else in the post-Yung Lean rap world, here’s a few people who are making waves.