Yung Lean impresses on new Stardust mixtape
The Swedish rap extraordinaire’s new mixtape is a tale of idolatry and devotion, and his best project-to-date.
Equally impressive and terrifying, Yung Lean’s career has had its fair share of tribulations. He was just 15 when singles like ‘Greygoose’ and ‘Ginseng Strip 2002’ surfaced on YouTube, earning him instant success and a loyal fanbase addicted to his woozy flows and vapourware aesthetics. Hype across the Atlantic, including a co-sign from Travis Scott, propelled him further into stardom, but with his growing celebrity status came a wealth of drug abuse and hardship which crescendoed with the death of his then manager Barron Machat.
After a series of psychoses, the rapper was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2017. He remained focused on his art, but projects like Poison Ivy felt disjointed, and a shell of the progressive output that defined his career’s beginnings. Fast-forward to 2022, and Lean appears to finally be blossoming into the genre-blending, pioneering artist his most loyal fans knew he would be. Championing the sincerity of previous albums, ‘Stardust’s’ biggest strength lies within the multitude of sonic avenues Lean so easily expands into.
‘Bliss’, with its Russian post-punk sample, sees the Stockholm native adopting the role of a hopeless romantic, hellbent on feeling the devotion of a spiritual lover. FKA Twigs’ feature expands the track into realms of pop-balladry, and the surprising amount of chemistry between them makes you wonder why the link up hadn’t happened sooner. Lean’s gruff, mumbled verses slur into Twigs’ alluring chorus desirously.
Skrillex is another high-profile contributor to the record, who shows he is much more than the dubstep culture vulture his most fierce critics label him as. Honouring UKG and broken beat on ‘Lips’ will come as no surprise to people that have followed his output with Four Tet, but he also lends Lean his more mainstream sensibilities. ‘SummerTime Blood’ is a blissful EDM banger, which features fellow Stockholm stalwarts Bladee and Ecco2k. Along with FKA Twigs, the vocalists do their best to lift the album’s spirits from complete gloom, providing a rare moment of optimism not only on the album, but in the rapper’s discography.
Yung Lean’s ability to juxtapose braggadocios bars with sadboy aesthetics is another area where the album flourishes. ‘Trip’, with its 8-bit trap production and vhs-style video, features this in abundance: ‘Counting them Benjamins, stars made of cinnamon // I feel like 50 Cent, I’m hated, yes, by many men’. It’s a level of candour we have come to expect from Lean, who hasn’t looked back artistically since he attacked the mainstream conscience all those years ago.