It was 2013 when Jonatan Leandoer Håstad, known by his stage name Yung Lean, released the music video for his single “Ginseng Strip 2002.” The obscure video, featuring Lean dancing excitedly with Arizona iced tea cans in both hands and Japanese text interwoven with amateur video effects, has given the 19-year-old Swedish rapper international attention and infamy for producing songs and videos that are so bad they’re good. With the help of the Sad Boys, his team of friends-turned-producers, Lean has created a subculture of Internet rap that only continues to confuse and attract listeners.
Lean’s third studio album, “Warlord,” is no exception. Released Feb. 25, “Warlord” is both an expected and refreshing mix of Lean’s signature, heavily synthesized sound. Throughout the album, Lean’s, monotone voice dominates each track, making the entire thing hard to listen to all at once. This time around, Lean has managed to incorporate slightly autotuned effects into his otherwise nasally vocals, yet this small factor isn’t enough to shield the irritating effect.
Making matters worse, the album’s lyrical content has little to no appeal whatsoever. Lean’s lyrics, known for being vacant, obscure and extremely childish, are a true weakness of the album. Lean’s “sad boy” persona, which attempts to glamorize depression, is lost and instead replaced with random bursts of self-centered praise and comical similes. The album’s single tracks, “Hoover” and “Af1s,” give listeners a general idea of what they’re going to get for the rest of the album. The lyrics seem as if Lean is merely trying to fill up space with a meaningless array of phrases.
The true stars of this album, however, have to be Lean’s producing team. Yung Gud and Yung Sherman, the dynamic duo that make up the Sad Boys, manage to tighten the sound of “Warlord” with their mixture of beats. Lean’s success can be credited to his hazy, almost cloud-like mix of synths and sample beats created with the help of the Sad Boys.
“Warlord,” however, takes a different approach. The harsh bass and drums of the tracks mimic the trap sounds heard from artists such as Travis Scott and Future, creating an environment geared more toward mainstream rap music. Overall, Lean falls short in various aspects of the album, making “Warlord” worthy of solely a participation trophy.