Swedish sensation Yung Lean is one of hip-hop's most enigmatic personalities. The self-professed sadboy has once described his music as "influenced by fantasy and nature and you know, finding like little elfs in the forest, and being high on cocaine while being in a Death Star in Star Wars, and just creating our own worlds." The influences are certainly felt in his lyrical content, an imaginative blend of traditional hip-hop stuntin' and eerie, folkloric imagery. The trend continues on his brand new album Stranger, only something feels different this time around. There's an artistic confidence in Yung Lean that was only being discovered on previous releases, and in many ways, it's as if he has reached his final evolutionary form.
The beautiful "Red Bottom Sky" is a testament to that fact, with an ambient, cloud-like synth arrangement and lullaby-esque melody. The entire production aesthetic is more akin to Boards of Canada or Brian Eno than it is Metro Boomin or Mike WiLL Made It. That's not to say that the brilliance of Lean's project will be lost on hip-hop heads; the Swedish rapper still has bars, and many of which are dense with imagery. "Reality for me I don't see it like you see, Broken Piano, pockets stuffed with magic beans," raps Yung Lean on "Skimask," leaving you to decipher exactly what he's talking about in the first place. And yet, it's somehow so clear.
Stranger might not be the most accessible album on first listen, but it's certainly one worth exploring. It plays out like all the best fables, teetering between moments of darkness and childlike whimsy. If you haven't been checking for Yung Lean, take a chance on Stranger. It might low key emerge as one of the year's best surprises. What do ya'll think of this project?