About a year ago, the Internet—at least, the not-insubstantial part of it where hip-hop, contemporary art, and online culture overlap—went suddenly, seriously crazy over a Swedish rapper named Yung Lean. He had just released a song and video called “Hurt,” and was about to release a mixtape in conjunction with the influential Brooklyn streetwear brand Mishka. It was crudely made, from its rudimentary beat to its garishly computerized video, and the ambiguity of whether it was serious was part of the appeal.
“Hurt” seemed like the sort of weirdly entertaining diversion the Internet likes to obsess over briefly, just until the next one shows up—but Yung Lean’s fan base has only grown and strengthened since then. A little less than a month ago, he released a new single, “Yoshi City,” that significantly ups the quality in all respects, from the catchiness of the hook to the professional production quality of the video.
Now Lean’s about to start his first American tour and is prepping for the release of a new album later this year. He’s also on the verge of making the leap from an Internet cult to a real-life one, a la Odd Future. Here’s a primer on the unexpected next big thing in rap (maybe):