By: Ryan Lizotte
Is 17-year-old Yung Lean, of Sweden, and his eccentric rap collective, Sad Boys, the future of Internet rap? These kids have a serious knack for writing obscure, grim music, indebted to Internet rap heroes of the recent past. Sad Boys struck success after Yung Lean’s video for “Kyoto” went viral, amassing a couple million views. Eyes were immediately glued on the unorthodox rapping style of Lean, the “Sad Boys” moniker, and the offbeat subject matter of the group. But what is it about Yung Lean, and Sad Boys, that warrants mass appeal? And what stake does the Internet have in it all?
Comparisons can be immediately drawn between the musical styling of Yung Lean and the Sad Boys movement and Los Angeles’ Odd Future rap collective. Odd Future rose to fame after two viral videos drew mainstream attention to the over-the-top, vulgar nature of the group, which was comprised of artistic and creative adolescents, mostly under 21. After music videos were released for Earl Sweatshirt’s “EARL,” and Tyler, the Creator’s “Yonkers,” conversation began regarding the group’s musical experience, and lyrical subject matter. In a similar matter to fellow California-based rapper Lil B, Odd Future inched closer to fame due to their viral entertainment techniques, attacking the Internet with every resource they had to gain viewer intrigue.
“Because of the Internet, a person like me can rap and manage to have a career. Long live the Internet,” Yung Lean remarked in an interview with Vice. Lean, and Sad Boys, have continued to grow their brand with more music videos, notably Yung Lean’s “Gatorade” and “Hurt.” With odd color schemes, and props such as Arizona cans and Nintendo 64 controllers, it’s sometimes tough to tell what Sad Boys’ aim is, as a brand. Compared to Internet sensation Lil B, who is infamous for his stream-of-consciousness, non-serious raps, Sad Boys are not so different. Amidst slow, bass-heavy beats, Yung Lean and his cohorts rap about everything from Louis Vuitton and Oreo milkshakes, to bitcoins and bucket hats. Simply put, Yung Lean and Sad Boys represent Internet rap for the Internet generation.
It’s hard to tell whether one should take the music of Yung Lean seriously, especially after one viewing of “Kyoto” or “Gatorade,” and even more so after he reported listening to “a lot of Young Thug and Joy Division” on his last trip. Internet rappers like Yung Lean, Lil B and Odd Future, and their DIY ethic, truly represent a paradigm shift in the entire music industry, not just hip-hop. The reality is that Sad Boys are benefiting from their laid-back, hazy rhymes, and Auto-Tuned raps. The collective recently announced a collaboration with Spanish clothing label, Shallowww, for the upcoming Sad Boys tour gear. There’s a soon-to-be tour. There is money to be made for them, for sure.
As Sad Boys continues to find its way in today’s digital/DIY climate, it’s important to see that artists like Lil B and Odd Future have turned their trendy brands into full-on careers. Tyler, the Creator has released three studio albums, owns his own record label, Odd Future Records, and his own clothing line, Golf Wang. Lil B is still as enigmatic as ever, hiding behind the word “swag,” and his self-initiated beefs with Kevin Durant and Joe Budden. But as for Sad Boys? Let’s just say, when asked about the name, Lean responded, “I’m not sad. We just thought Sad Boys was a good name.”
So, who really knows?