Sad Boy General Yung Lean has a home is New York City. As an artist who’s as misunderstood as he is revered, the scene at The Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday night was buzzing with a blend of young rebels and elder insiders eager to witness this 18 year old Sweedish enigma, along with his Sad Boy counterparts, showcase emotional hip-hop vibes.
“the ocean’s where they’ll find you, the ocean’s where they’ll find you. you can find me if you look in your mind too.”
Lean’s recent reality seems exciting and eventful. Playing shows all over the world (he announced that his crew just arrived from Paris), his sound, to put it simply, is electronically affected rap stood up by hard hitting percussions. His head-tilting style is a smorgasbord of past and present trends like pink polos, ski masks, bejazzled jeans, baggy camo jackets and curve brimmed or bucket hats. It’s quite the sight.
Lean, joined on stage by producer Yung Sherman and hype man Bladee, put out an exhaustive effort that ended with hardcore fans bum rushing the stage to jubilantly turn up to the occasion. Belting out raps and melodies through a hi-tech auto-tune-enabled mic, tracks from Lean’s albums Unknown Death 2002 and Unknown Memory such as “Blinded,” “Yoshi City,” “Volt,” “Electricity,” “Hurt,” and “Kyoto” hit hard through the reverberating speakers.
At a few points during the set, Lean would pause to reflect on the scene in front of him. Here he was, in a city far from his home that he dreamt about growing up. Here, hundreds of fans flock to witness the internet sensation do his thing. Looking introspective and exhausted, Lean’s calls to the crowd were mostly to the tune of “What the fuck is up New York?” in that recognizable Sad Boy Sweedish accent. At one point, after a young fan jumped on stage to vibe, Lean told her to jump and crowd surf, to which the fan excitedly obliged. When the crowd failed to receive her as enthusiastically as hoped, Lean was less than pleased: “Ah, that’s fucked up, man. Are you OK? Hey, is she OK?... She is? Alright, good... Man, no joke. We were out in fuckin London and someone got sexually assaulted at our show. Not cool, we’re not trying to get sued out here.”
There’s no shortage of typical, unabashedly fabricated materialistic references in Lean’s lyrics. Benjamins, Ice, Range Rovers - it’s all in there. Likely a product of growing up idolizing the American rappers who freely flaunt lavish living, it’s when Lean strays away from that type of predictable context when his true artistry shines through.
Surrounded by talent, most notably his go-to producers Yung Sherman, Suicide Year, & Yung Gud, there seems to be potential for longevity & growth. While the Sad Boys have an obvious connection to emo-teens and resonate well with the carefree crowd, it will be interesting to witness their evolution and, ultimately, see if they have the staying power to succeed in a hyper competitive industry.
While Lean and the Sad Boys’ music is not everyone’s cup of [arizona iced] tea, their audio and visual art is intriguing, unique, and entertaining as hell.
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