It is a vibrant April afternoon, and Yung Lean is strolling down a Stockholm avenue, iPhone aloft. The rapper – actual title Jonatan Leandoer Håstad – is recent from a boxing session and heading to his favorite cafe for a post-workout meal. “Verify this out – there’s individuals strolling round!” he says, rotating his cellphone to disclose a reasonably busy major street. As we communicate, Sweden is likely one of the few European international locations not in coronavirus lockdown, and watching the 23-year-old interacting with unmasked strangers as he goes about his enterprise borders on the surreal.
But that is in no way probably the most jarring factor about our video encounter. That will be Håstad himself, who’s smiley, switched-on and, save for the neck tattoos that creep from his collar, completely typical in look. He under no circumstances resembles the sullen teen in a bucket hat whose atonal raps about intercourse, medicine, unhappiness and Oreo shakes received him a worldwide following and a crucial mauling within the mid-2010s. A 16-year-old white, middle-class Swede embracing gritty rap glamour and peddling a gaudy early-internet aesthetic, Yung Lean was handled as a novelty; lately, Håstad is having the final snigger. Slightly than a lost-in-translation curio, he’s now thought of a pioneer in emo-rap, the massively widespread pressure of hip-hop by which mumbled lyrics about intoxication and alienation meet lure beats, spaced-out instrumentals and melodic hooks.
“I used to be undoubtedly forward of my time, however I don’t assume I single-handedly modified the route of recent hip-hop,” says Håstad as he lunches alfresco. He attributes his prescience partly to watching early trailblazers resembling Lil B and Chief Keef and realising “that is going to stay for the subsequent 10, 20 years”, but in addition to his distinctive mixture of influences. “One of many bands that I used to be impressed by as a child was [90s rockers] Broder Daniel, who’re actually massive in Sweden – the primary [Swedish] emo band.” He was additionally “hit the toughest” by the introspective facet of gangsta rap – Geto Boys’ Thoughts Taking part in Methods On Me, the “unhappy 50 Cent songs”. Alongside his Unhappy Boys manufacturing collective, he consolidated his influences right into a sound. “All of it got here collectively,” he shrugs. “It made sense.”
It was a hunch borne out by the fashion’s monumental recognition, however such vindication has one unlucky side-effect: what was as soon as shockingly distinctive now sounds comparatively humdrum. It’s a drawback Håstad tackles head-on on his upcoming fourth album Starz by significantly increasing his remit. Working alongside his melancholic signature sound are bouncy pop-punk, shoegaze and industrial rock. The result’s a file that’s meatier and extra rounded than any of Håstad’s earlier work.
Starz can be the primary album Håstad has made sober – or one thing near it. Emo-rap has been ravaged by drug-related casualties – main figures resembling Lil Peep and Juice WRLD have died lately – and Håstad’s personal substance abuse points led to him being admitted to a psychiatric ward in 2015, then, finally, adopting a extra clean-living life-style. “I’m not going to lie, we did drink slightly codeine after we recorded [Starz],” he shrugs. “However the principle factor is that I finished ingesting and doing different medicine.” His early songs had been characterised by narcotic references (his moniker performs each on his title and the codeine-based cocktail), however Håstad doesn’t assume medicine are a “massive a part of Yung Lean”, claiming he solely centered on them as a way to give himself a USP. “I did assume: ‘What’s going to make a distinction between me and different rappers?’ I believed it was humorous, a 16-year-old child rapping about coke.”
Håstad’s sense of humour is one among his most perplexing dimensions. He’s clearly amused by facets of the undertaking – calling his crew Unhappy Boys was one thing they had been “joking about” earlier than they really did it – however equally adamant that the entire thing is straight-faced. “Some individuals thought it was ironic and a few individuals had been like: ‘He’s real, he’s only a bit unusual.’ And in actual life, I used to be real and a bit unusual!” he laughs. “I used to be by no means a clown, all the time extra of an outsider.” He actually wasn’t satirising hip-hop by rapping badly on goal, as some have recommended. As an alternative, he’s eager to emphasize his long-term dedication to the artwork, recounting teenage escapades resembling freestyling for hip-hop group Bone Thugs-n-Concord. “We knew they had been on the town, and I used to be actually hungry to be a rapper. My buddy filmed it and I began rap-battling Krayzie Bone – I used to be this annoying 15-year-old child with curly hair.”
Regardless of Håstad’s lifelong love of rap, he has really made a few of his finest work in fully totally different sonic universes. He information atmospheric punk together with his band Död Mark and final 12 months, underneath his Jonatan Leandoer96 alias, launched an album known as Nectar, an excellent scramble of C86 indie, new wave and storage rock. The latter undertaking, says Håstad, was motivated by a drive to sing lyrics that had been “brutally sincere”. Earnestness is an concept he incessantly returns to in dialog. “While you take away all of the web traits, the medicine, it’s nearly one factor: is that this music real, is that this actual emotion?”
For all of the hipster worth, debauched residing and confounded commentators which have orbited his profession so far, Håstad says it needn’t be so sophisticated: lately, Yung Lean is solely the sound of him baring his soul. “After some time, you set your self on the market,” he says. “In the event you hearken to all my music, you’ll discover me.”
Starz is out Friday 15 Could