Swedish rapper Yung Lean is a strange artist who had a brief but exciting time in the limelight. The emcee (real name Jonatan Håstad) first appeared on the radar of rap fanatics in the early-2010s with his song ‘Ginseng Strip 2002’. With his crew, The Sad Boys, Håstad made music that was reminiscent of trap but had a far more slow-moving sonic.
Furthermore, his music videos and overall aesthetic were a strange Tumblr-born hybrid of grainy VHS visuals with the lo-fi incorporation of psychedelic patterns. His style of music would eventually become known as cloud rap, and he ascended rapidly.
Although his delivery wasn’t the best, and his lyrics were, people were fascinated by the creativity of his producer, Gud. A mystical figure who pieced together entrancing rap instrumentals with ease. Songs such as ‘Oreo Milkshake’ and ‘Ginseng Strip 2002’ were oddly appealing, and one of Håstad’s tracks was so amazing it brought singer Charli XCX to tears.
Yung Lean’s early projects, such as his debut EP Lavender and mixtape Unknown Death 2002, were mainly independently released cult classics that made their way around SoundCloud speedily. However, as he acquired more fame, Håstad’s style became less experimental and began to curate more than just underground online fodder.
In 2014, Lean signed with the Stockholm-based independent record label YEAR0001 and began touring and recording more seriously. Playing across 24 cities in Europe, the Sad Boys embarked on their White Marble Tour and then embarked on their Black Marble Tour, which saw them play shows in the US, including the famed Webster Hall in New York City.
Throughout the 2010s, he released official albums, but in 2017, he released his critically acclaimed third project, Stranger. Its lead single was popular with fans, and Charli XCX was particularly fond of this track.
In an interview with esteemed Fader magazine, Charli XCX once revealed, “[I like] Yung Lean, Stranger. In particular, the song “Agony.” It feels so raw and emotional and beautiful. That song brought me to tears once on a plane, I just felt like I could relate so much, and it made me feel sad but in, like, a really good way.”
You can listen to the 2017 fan-favourite in the video below.