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Soaked in sweat on one of Chicago’s lately typical too humid to breathe days, 200 of the saddest boys and girls packed into Reggie’s Rock Club to witness someone only recently crowed a young prince of the ever evolving rap game. Yung Lean, Sweden’s 18 year old rapper only recently stepped foot in America, but to a tidal wave of fans fully embraced in his “sad boy” movement. Until recently, not much was known about the young rapper besides his virtually stimulating videos and abstract hip-hop style accompanied by SuicideYear and Yung Gud beats. Aside from a handful of appearances around the globe including stops in New York City, London, and a small European tour that took place last spring, the rapper has hardly ventured out into the touring world. When Lean dropped the dates for his American summer tour, I jumped on them immediately, not entirely sure what to expect, but excited to see what the young artist had to bring to the table. (I also counted bucket hats at this show: there were 17-bucket hats I noticed.)
Lean’s tracks vary in style, ranging from slow and emotional with airy production and slow, drowning vocals to hype tracks reminiscent of Gucci Mane, if anyone. What I was almost equally as excited to see we’re the fans that came to hour the Internet kingpin. “I’m going to burst into tears when he gets on stage”, claimed one young fan waiting to get into the venue before the show along with “I’m so sad!”, all ironic jokes in support of Yung Lean and his Sad Boys crew of stylish but sad young personalities. Mostly under the legal age to drink, the fans surely did come out in numbers and sold out the all ages show just a few days after tickets were put up for sale. I had initially heard of Yung Lean from several people, my younger brother being one of them but also several other friends. I absolutely loved his aesthetic and what he was going for but couldn’t believe it would become much of anything, at first. With the release of his first mixtape, Unknown Death 2002, Lean grasped onto a hearty group of young hip-hop fans looking for something oddly relatable. Quickly, a near cult-like appreciation for the young MC has cultivated involving people of all ages has evolved, embracing his emotional ways and youth hero image.
The show began with a DJ set by Total Freedom, whom I had just seen Pitchfork weekend at the Them Flavor’s after party for Pitchfork artist Kelela (Total Freedom is also her DJ.) Strange mashing’s of popular and throw back raps with new wave, abstract beats behind them had the crowd swaying, making them increasingly excited for Lean to hit the stage next. In a strange way, the paring of the out-there sounds from Total Freedom in preparation for Yung Lean was a great one. The intimate DJ set, which included Total Freedom munching from a giant bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos throughout, gave the crowd a down to earth sway (a calm before the storm feeling of sorts.) Soon, Yung Gud and Yung Sherm, Lean’s DJ’s and producers, were beginning their set up which allowed the crowd a much needed last breath before the headlining set.
As the bass began to build and the volume of the music increased, fans started to push together, all trying to get as close to the stage as possible. In a flash, Lean jumped out from behind the curtain of back stage and began jumping around, screaming the verse of Gatorade, one of the stand out tracks off Unknown Death. Immediately, hands flew up as the crowd of mostly young people began screaming every lyric. My immediate response was to join in on the jumping and bouncing, which is what I remained doing for most of the set. The smiles on the faces of everyone finally experiencing some of their favorite music in the last year gave me a warm feeling. These kids and fans weren’t here because there wasn’t anything better to do on this Tuesday night. They were there because of a genuine love for music not many have begun to understand. As Lean kept barreling through his set, it was clear that he could barely talk, much less rap. Normally, that would derail a hip-hop show, but no one really seemed to care. With collaborator Bladee hyping Lean and taking over much of the vocal performance, Lean was left to jump around on stage, shaking fans hands and occasionally jumping in the crowd. When “Hurt” dropped, one of Lean’s most popular songs with production from Suicideyear, a girls scream actually peaked over the pounding instrumental pouring out of the Reggie’s sound system. In essence, that occurrence properly defined the Yung Lean show as whole: total fandom and love for Yung Lean.
One bloody nose later after an unfortunate catch of a shoulder to my face, I burst out of Reggie’s, gasping for air, completely soaked in sweat. However, none of it mattered after getting to express total sadness and joy at the same time with one of the Internets hottest young rappers.
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to one of Chicago’s fastest rising young rappers, Saba. A fellow Columbia student, Saba has been hard at work for as long as he can remember on his second mixtape, ComfortZone, which drops today. Caught in a tidal wave of good, new Chicago hip-hop coming out, Saba is invested in getting ComfortZone out to the rap fans supporting Chicago hip-hop around the city, country, and even the world. His tone sounded confident and ready, with a fire in his voice of someone ready to let out a secret he’s been keeping for too long. We can only wait and see what Saba has in store for us eager fans waiting for ComfortZone, but for now, check out his thoughts and opinions on ComfortZone, AEMMP Records, and the state of music in Chicago in general below.
As you gear up for the release of ComfortZone, what is your biggest goal with dropping this project?
My biggest goal is to establish myself as one of the leading members of (the Chicago rap) scene. I have no expectations or anything like that, it’s more like I know that I’ve been putting everything I have into this project for a while. I just want people to get something out of it and as long as they feel something when listening to it, I’m satisfied. If it changes how they do certain things or even if it’s just changes their appreciation for music, I’d be happy.
What has changed most about your musical and recording styles since “get COMFORTable”, your last project?
The biggest difference you’ll here is my writing ability. I focused a lot of writing and what I was writing about and ways to make it more special to the listener. I also have access to more in terms of recording than I did with “getCOMFORTable”. I did that all in my basement and ComfortZone was recorded mostly all in professional studios. You’ll also hear the musical elements have increased because now I have access to a bunch of great musicians. Everything is more musical, the project is realer, and I think it’s a good example of what’s to come from here.
You’ve been involved with AEMMP Records for a while and are a student at Columbia College Chicago.
Columbia, just by being a student, has helped me with networking and making me become more social, because I was a super shy kid. So going there made me really have to step out of my comfort zone, so to say, and speak up and shit like that. AEMMP on the other hand; all of the stuff I have done for AEMMP doesn’t sound like any of my other stuff. The song “Cursive” in particular, especially. It has just been beneficial to me to help me spread out and meet people worth meeting. A real good vibe.
What was it like working with Noname Gypsy and C-Sick on “La Collection”, our release from this last spring?
Noname is one of my favorite people to work. That’s like damn near one of my best friends so it’s like hella easy for us to work together. It was just easy. She just sent me the song and “Lay a verse down” and it was like, alright word! That was my first time working with C-Sick and we had spoke about working together before but had never, so it was cool to finally do that. Most of it was rather simple; it was just getting the takes down. Everything else came naturally.
Who would you site out of Chicago in music that has influenced your style and music over the years?
Crucial Conflict has had a big influence on me. Kanye, I guess? Haha, as far as big sounding, soulful shit. Lupe had a nice influence on me my freshman year of high school. But Common’s “Be” is one of the greatest albums, I think. Yeah, haha.
Most star striking moment?
January 11th at this show with Mick Jenkins, Noname, and Dally Auston did at Reggie’s Rock Club. That was probably the best show I’ve been apart of. It was a sold out show but none of us had projects out at the time. It was just a real loving crowd, singing everyone’s songs and shit.
What is the song of the Summer of 2014?
No Flex Zone by Rae Sremmurd
Last question, what is your message to listeners of ComfortZone?
I’m just like you is the real message. Anybody can do this. A lot of artists are put on these giant pedestals and I don’t know, I just feel like everyone is accessible and anyone can accomplish anything they put their mind to. All the songs that made the track list are real universal and the project’s appeal could help them accomplish anything they set their mind to. A gotdamn near self-help album, haha.
Over the past year, BitTorrent Bundle has experimented as a platform for artists to release media content to their viewers through a “bundle”, consisting “free and ‘gated’ content”. Artists such as Modonna, G-Eazy and public enemy are noted for utilizing the new method of distribution, each artist reaching vast numbers of downloads, upward of 100 million. The content includes photos, unreleased material or videos. As of right now the method is completely free, BitTorrent itself is not even taking cuts. With the escalating popularity and excellent distribution numbers the company now plans on instituting a 10% cut from digital distribution usage. Even still with the fee, it seems as though BitTorrent could be a VERY smart and new tactic for any developing artists or bands to reach their fans across the world and give them a little bundle of happiness. Is it worth it? We suggest you guys check it out..
Lately, there has been some news swirling around the music industry that YouTube is messing with Indie Labels. It is said that there is a contract that YouTube is requiring these labels to sign in order for their music to remain on the video streaming site. Apparently this contract is extremely unattractive to the labels, and they would end up losing a lot of money if the deal was to go through. So these labels are teaming up to fight against the unfair contract stipulations, but it is yet to be seen what kind of action will be taken by either side. We here at AEMMP agree that all labels need fair representation and compensation for the hard work that we put in as well as all the various artists we have worked with. Hit the link at the bottom of post to read more about why these labels are upset, and why we agree with them here at AEMMP.
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