“[Yung Lean] makes me feel like I’m not in a reality. Like I’m floating in space with all the gravity of Io, like there’s nothing holding me down to this earth except my inclination not to take LSD.”
Recently I’ve been questioning how exactly I critique an album. What characteristics does an album or artist have that appeals to me, that makes me play their music on repeat. Since discovering Yung Lean I’ve been listening to a ton of his work. Unknown Death 2002 is such a ridiculously great mixtape. You’re right when you talk about the production. Yung Gud and the other Sadboy producers are amazing at what they do.
In your write up, though, you mentioned that, “Lean is not necessarily the strongest wordsmith to me”. Well, I think that’s the point. With lyrics like: “Catch me in a Hummer with your mother and Macy Gray” from “Gatorade”; “Pokemon lotion” from “Emails”; “Optimus Prime / Do her from behind” from “Lightsaber // Saviour”; “I got money like Obama, Internet Explorer” and “Wake up in the morning and I’m married to a dinosaur / Her vagina’s sore” from Oceans 2001, it’s all kind of absurd. Again I think this is the point, and you’re right, Lean knows what he’s doing.
In cloud rap, the lyrics take on a much larger role than one might expect. You’re right, Lean may not be a great lyricist, but that’s the point–he’s not trying to be. Lean is using his words to help aid the picture the music is painting. You bring up LSD in that wonderful quote and so does Lean in a couple of his tracks. The point is that the music is supposed to be trippy. The lyrics help to add to the elevated level of the surreal.
Imagine for a second tripping balls to Yung Lean. The spacey production already has you out there. Add on top of that engaging, captivating beats and deeper into the rabbit hole you go. The cherry on top is Lean’s lyrics. His seemingly random lyrical lexicon places thoughts into your head that further your trip. You might catch the lyric “dinosaur” and have a thought about prehistoric beasts. You might catch “I’m Wario when I’m in Mario Kart” and trail off down Rainbow Road. You might catch “Living life like we in Baltimore” and be transported to the image of the hood that The Wire paints. It’s all about guiding your trip.
Now, not all cloud rap is this way. Lil B is regarded as cloud rap to an extent, with Rain in England is quite clearly his best example. Cloud rap differers from artist to artist. Lean has said that he’s the Based God not being there with him is the reason he’s sad. #sadboys. Lean is one of the best cloud rap artists out there today.
For some further listening, because I don’t think I’ll touch too much on more cloud rap, at least not in the near future:
Viper – “You’ll Cowards Don’t Even Smoke Crack” a pioneer of the cloud rap genre and often regarded as the first cloud rap artist.
Main Attrakionz – “Cloud Body”
Ethel Wulf & Bones – “Bochi Nibuku (Cemetery Blunts) from their ダサい project.
SpaceGhostPurrp – Tha Black God
Isn’t it amazing how much Lil B has inspired? He is responsible for a lot of what this genre has become. He truly is a pioneer. TYBG!