I went to his show and saw eight bucket hats in 30 seconds—and then I interviewed him.
The bucket hat is not the most recent of advances in fashion technology. Cam’ron; Diddy; Fat Joe; all could rock a Kangol like a pimp on a fishing trip and the look has since passed cyclically to Earl Sweatshirt, ScHoolboy Q and Gucci Mane. But while the bucket has never long been off the heads of rap’s elite, it’s not become a suburban fan’s favourite like the beanie or the snapback - until last night.
I went to a Yung Lean show in London, spotted eight bucket hats in 30 seconds, and had to double check my ticket to see if a dress-code existed in the small-print. Like a photo album full of babies on the beach or a show-reel from VH1 Classic, the bucket was everywhere, never once leaving my eyesight.
This is the first guy I saw.
You can catch the moment where his friend turned around and caught me taking a photo. Otherwise known as, pause, man the fuck up.
So I did. And they were glad to oblige.
I told this guy I liked his bucket hat. He replied – “Yung Lean has it, you know, the brand Shadow?” – and I shook my head. I am unversed in brands and also I’m really poor right now so if you want a portrait taken HMU, my portfolio follows below.
In case it wasn't clear that the bucket hats in both pictures are different, I've drawn a luminous green arrow. Feel free to call me an idiot.
Like the swag infiltration of 2010, a movement that saw shares in five-panels, kush-imprinted socks and box logo hoodies soar; Yung Lean fans mirror his look with pride. It’s easy to target Yung Lean as a niche internet semi-joke but you know this isn’t just a cute internet thing when teenagers start spending their dish-washing money on overpriced sweat-shop fabric because they think you did it first; it’s an influential power-move.
The cute bucket hats; the classic Polo sport cap; the way the crowd stayed turnt up for the entirety of the show; all representative of the respect and influence that Yung Lean has over his fan base.
Afterwards, Yung Lean and I sat down for a chat and he spilled some knowledge.
Noisey: “Kyoto”, your last video, felt like a step-up. You splashed out on some quad bikes. Was it a conscious thing to make a more cinematic video?
Yung Lean: No, it was more like… The story behind the video is that we were going to go to Amsterdam. This production team hit us up and said they had a huge budget, we didn’t have to pay for anything. They came up with an idea and I was like, no fuck that, I want quads, I want a car, I want us to be sponsored by Versace and North Face. I was dreaming and making shit up but they came through.
This is how it works. We have no money and they have a bunch of money. We have to take from them to make profit. We spent zero dollars on the video and they spent a bunch.
This is the future.
As long as you get what you want. They get their name really small and you get everything else. That’s pretty much how it was. It wasn’t a conscious step at all. We made that song in fifteen minutes. I came up with the idea for the video and we did it.
It seems like you guys bang out songs quickly.
Yeah, I think the best process is when you do a song just like that.
It’s why hip-hop is doing so well, because the artists can put out songs quickly.
But really it’s also about quality. I don’t want to be a rapper that puts out, like, 600 songs a year. I don’t like it because I don’t have time to listen to it and it becomes quantity over quality.
The last time we spoke, you said that people at your school hadn’t really heard your music. How has that changed?
I quit my school.
You didn’t finish?
No. It didn’t work. I like school but like…
It’s a different education to getting out there and actually doing life. Can we talk about Scandinavian rap?
Scandinavian rap started in the 90s, off the back of Run DMC, and it was a bunch of Swedish dudes doing the same thing. It evolved and evolved and then it just stopped. It came to a point where we had a rap elite. It was like, the government, or a high-group of people, and they were the only people putting stuff out and guesting on each other’s tracks.
Where do you see yourself fitting into the Scandinavian scene?
I don’t at all. I don’t fit at all. I don’t think they like me.
But your sound is also completely different to US hip-hop or anything in the UK. Do you fit anywhere?
I don’t associate myself with anything. I don’t associate myself with where I’m from or where I am.
That’s a good thing, you get a lot of guys who start out and try to big-up their own city. Or try to rep somewhere tough like Compton.
If I was from like Compton or some interesting place, I’d be proud too. But I’m from Stockholm and I can’t change that. There isn’t anything interesting to rap about.
I grew up in an apartment / with my dad and mum
What kind of message do you want to send out?
Fuck a message. I hate it when people try to explain music. The best thing about music is that it’s invisible. If you make a song and someone is like, explain it, and you explain the message, it’s like – poof. It all crashes down.
You guys talk about a lot of early 2000s stuff.
It started out as an anti-movement. A couple of years ago a bunch of young rappers came up, like Joey Bada$$, a bunch of those guys. They were all repping the 1990s.
Yeah, like "95’ Til Infinity" and whatever.
Yeah, they were really into boombap and Souls of Mischief and stuff and we were like, this sucks, we want stuff to happen. We started saying 2002 and 2003 because those years look good if you write them down. They’re aesthetically pleasing. I guess there’s not that much to it really.
2001 looks beautiful written down.
It really does look good if you think about it.
Lastly, what’s your favourite Pokemon?
Bulbasaur. But also Charmander.
Ryan Bassil is a great photographer. He's on Twitter — @RyanBassil