Yung Lean raps over pillow-fluffy beats and raps about glory holes and Arizona Iced Tea. Who the fuck is this kid? And why is he like this?
In the video for Yung Lean’s “Ginseng Strip 2002,” the 16-year-old rapper from the Södermalm district of Stockholm dons a bucket hat, does a version of the cooking dance and talks about about getting dome from a crackhead who looks like Zooey Deschanel. The Swedish teenager is a beguiling mishmash of American hip-hop’s more peculiar, Lil B-indebted elements, and he raises a lot of questions. Mainly, who the fuck is this kid? And why is he like this? Lean's head-scratching online presence includes a track called "OREOMILKSHAKE" about enjoying a delicious shake and sticking his member in a glory hole. He flexes about a constant Super Mario habit on "5th Element" and in one photo flashes a gallon jug of Arizona Iced Tea while wearing a do-rag, which strikes me as something that would be tough to find in Scandinavia. When I Skype with Lean, he's guzzling foreign Pepsi and polishing off a bag of chips while producer Yung Sherman of their Sad Boys crew plays Super Smash Bros 64, and it becomes apparent that these kids are not, in fact, trolling. Aside from the awkward pauses in conversation when they consult each other in Swedish, they seem no different than restless American teenagers as they wave Lil Ugly Mane records in my face and are genuinely awed when I tell them I recently caught a Project Pat show. In our nation's weirdest rappers they've found a culture that speaks to them, and like teenagers do, they’re emulating their idols. The resulting tracks are uncanny, habit-forming and inexplicably brilliant.
Noisey: You used to be Yung Lean Doer, now you’re just Yung Lean. Where did your name come from?
Yung Lean (neé Doer): Leandoer, that’s my name. I just thought it was funny, like sippin’ lean, promethazine. Shouts out to Yung Sherman for the name. We had this rap collective before, and when I joined he was like, Little Lean Doer is in the clique.
How did you all meet?
Me and Yung Sherman met at a park. There were a lot of people drinking beer in that park. We were listening to like Robb Bank$ and just started connecting. Then Yung Gud Shorty—the third member of Sad Boys—was friends with Yung Sherman before, so I met Yung Gud Shorty through him.
I heard that you’ve been been singing and rapping since you were a little kid. What did that stuff sound like?
It sounded horrible. At my summer house we made a mixtape with horrible beats, rapping about Eminem and football. When I was in fourth grade I made a song about the part in Stockholm where we come from.
What’s it like there?
It's a lot of hipsters, definitely. It's very cold. It's just a very normal neighborhood.
Is there anything to do besides making music and playing Nintendo?
That's it. Drink beer, sip Hennessy, sip on a Piña Colada.
Are you into drugs?
This is just very awkward. We're on probation. We got caught. Yung Sherman got busted for doing graffiti. I got busted for smoking weed.
Are there any good rap shows in Stockholm?
No. Not any that we want to see. Except for Gravity Boys and us, the rap scene sucks.Ryan Hemsworth was here a while back, but I'm not 18 so I can't go to any shows. I couldn't even perform at my own show. I was supposed to play two weeks ago and I couldn't go because they said I was too young.
What about girls? Do you have a girlfriend?
We have plenty of hoes. That's all you need to know.
What are the girls in Södermalm like?
They're all hipsters. They like Avicii, they like Swedish House Mafia, and they're into apple cider. They're pretty lame. We ain't about those hoes.
Do kids at school know about your music?
No, not really. Just my friends. I thought my friends were the only ones that were listening to it, then I was at a party and this guy came up to me and asked if I was Yung Lean. That's when I found out other people were listening.
Who are some of your favorite rappers?
I love Future. "Turn on the Lights" is the best song ever. You can cry to it. You can relate to it. We hate Macklemore. Free Big Lurch. Big Lurch needs to get out, so does Lil Boosie, and Max B. We like Metro Zu, but mostly Lofty.
I saw you tweeting at Lofty, and you’re signed to Issue’s Teaholics label. I’m curious how kids in Sweden get put onto guys like that.
Through the internet, like Noisey, definitely. We just started listening to Metro Zu last year or two years ago. Then I think I heard Issue for the first time last year. I heard that he was E-40's son and started listening to him.
I noticed you connected with East Bay producers Friendzone on Twitter as well.
I was really happy. That was, like, the most happy time in my life, I've never been so happy as when Friendzone tweeted me. That was really cool.
What can you tell me about your debut mixtape?
I have enough songs for plenty of mixtapes, but my old songs aren't that good. July—4th of July [is when] the mixtape is gonna be dropping. Issue sent me a lot of beats. I'm gonna use some of them for my mixtape. I wanna do a song with him as well.
What are your plans after high school?
I'm not gonna go to university. I don't want to do anything. I wanna twerk for the rest of my life. I'd like to live in a house in Miami and make music, or Brooklyn. I'm not sure I wanna stay in Stockholm. Right now I don’t have a choice.
Have you ever been to America?
I've been to New York once, that was like two or three months ago. That and the time when Friendzone tweeted me were the best times in my life. Arizona was very cheap, so was Koolaid. I had pizza. I had lunch at Five Guys Burgers. That was the best burger I've ever had. It was super delicious.
I’m really into your new song “Gatorade.”
I made it last week during Easter break. Me and Yung Gud Shorty were here and he’d made the beat ages ago. He added some things and we just recorded it. On Twitter I said “Shawty wat u sippin oon gatoradee.” From there, I was like, Fuck, I have to save that. So that just became a song.
Is rapping about iced tea and Gatorade something you picked up from Issue?
No. We were called Arizona Iced Out Boys long before we met or heard about Issue. We were in my basement, and we all like Arizona, then we came up with the name. I didn't know Issue liked iced tea until I heard his music.
You’re also Sad Boys. Why are you sad?
Cause Squadda Bambino isn't here, and neither is Lil B. If Squadda and Lil B were here, we'd be happy.
Frances Capell is the original member of the #SadGirls crew. She's on Twitter - @ffffrances