My favorite songs on Yung Lean’s 2014 album, Unknown Memory—the last major thing we’ve heard from the Swedish rapper—were the cute ones. “Yoshi City” and “Leanworld,” in particular, felt alone in a happy way. The beats were like pretty cocoons.
“Hoover,” the A-side of a new, self-released Yung Lean single coming out next month, is the complete opposite, and all the more captivating because of it. The song opens with a ghastly sample of tornado sirens and the first image in the video, produced by Onirim and directed by Leo Siboni, is of a graveyard. It’s the bleakest-sounding thing Lean’s ever released—I take the word “Hoover” to mean sucking up drugs like you’re a vacuum. Seeing him face-down in mud, or with a doctor peering into his eye, takes any sense of fun out of it. When Lean raps Wake up with some liquor on me/ Wake up with some liquor in me, it sounds for a second like 2 Chainz’s “I’m Different,” but Yung Gud’s bass line reminds me of something less triumphant: the electric feedback when a ripping-out aux cord scrapes against its plug.
When Yung Lean emerged in 2013 as a young teenager wearing bucket hats and flashing Arizona iced tea cans, there was a sense of irony to him. Sad Boys, his group, had an unserious-seeming name. But his music caught on, and he’s spent much of the time since on international tours—Russia earlier this fall, and Australia coming up. In practical terms, the now 19-year-old has grown up a lot in that time, and “Hoover” marks a crucial moment in his career where, I think, his sound has grown as well—emptied out of any bright parts that could make you think he wasn't being serious. There’s nothing especially cute about any of it. It's just really good.
This also bears mentioning: while Yung Lean was in Miami earlier this year working on “Hoover” and the songs that’ll make up his forthcoming sophomore LP, his manager and one of the underground music’s brightest lights, Barron Machat, passed away in a car accident. It's unclear where the recording of “Hoover” falls into this timeline, but hearing it today, it’s hard for me to totally separate the song from the tragedy, or from Machat's role in pushing Lean into his own an artist.
Below, watch FADER's video of Yung Lean, Sad Boys, and Gravity Boys let loose in downtown Brooklyn.