Staying true to one’s original narratives can be tricky in a game that constantly threatens to change you for everything you are. Stockholm’s Yung Lean has gone from being a somewhat obscure underground figure to a burgeoning global star in a matter of a few years. Bursting onto the rap scene with his Sad Boys in 2013, the last three years have seen a deep period of strife and personal development. Sitting down with Yung Lean, we talked about his influences, growing up, fame and staying true.
The 19-year-old star is no stranger to the lifestyle that seems to compel youths to express themselves through rapping. “I grew up in Belarus, in Russia, but spent most of my time in Stockholm. Stockholm is kind of crazy. I went to normal public schools – a lot of bad kids and a lot of hooligans.” Lean characterizes his transformation from high school to a three year period of running around the world as just a progression of life. “It’s nice, it’s fine. It doesn’t make any sense, really, but I guess you can really do anything if you put your mind to it. Like, I worked at McDonald’s and I tried to be the best at it. But I wasn’t the best, so I went on to rapping.”
Well acquainted with fame at this point, Lean reflects: “I don’t love the fame, I love making music and hanging out with my friends, like on the tour bus. But I don’t really like people taking photos or stuff like that. I don’t fuck with that. My life’s the same – I just have more money for clothes.”
If you’re a fan of the Sad Boys sound, you’ll realize that on the Warlord record there is definitely a show of introspection on tracks like “Eye Contact” and “Highway Patrol”. “Life sort of hit me,” explains Lean. “My manager died. I went to the hospital for a drug overdose. A lot of stuff happened. While recording Warlord a lot of things went down, so I grew as a person.” Regardless of this, the sound stays true to the roots. Lean says the consistency comes down to having the same people around. “Ever since I was 16, I worked with Sherman, White Armor and Gud. I’m still working with the same people. So the only person that’s really new is Mike Dean, but he’s only on two songs. It’s always about hanging out and working with the same people you grew up with and started making music with. You can hear with some people – they’re real when they start out but when they’re famous, they just get fake. It’s not like that if you keep the same people around you.”
It’s fun to have haters. They need something to do. They donít have enough positivity in their life. They need someone to hate. So I don’t care about them.
Lean draws influences from various sources that range from southern heavy bass trap to some weird pop, and is no stranger to varying critical reception. Undeterred by his critics, Lean welcomes the hate. “It’s fun to have haters. They need something to do. They’re just filled with hate,” he says with a chuckle. “They don’t have enough positivity in their life. They need someone to hate. So I don’t care about them.”
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad
Since his 2005 breakthrough, Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon has been an artist to watch. The two-time Polaris Music Prize nominee, writer, producer and rapper is known for his innovative musical style and has made waves worldwide. Following a five year hiatus – which included a move from Montreal to Toronto and a stint as Edmonton’s poet laureate – Cadence Weapon returns with a new self-titled album. Cadence Weapon is armed with furious flows, big collaborations and themes that include dance-party politics and dystopian futures. For his latest effort, the rapper is noticeably more focused and is reintroducing himself in a big way. Georgie caught up with Cadence Weapon to talk about the new album, his musical journey, and the L-word: legacy. G—Your new self-titled album is being called a “reintroduction to Cadence Weapon.” What does that mean? Cadence Weapon—I feel like I’ve matured a lot more and the music really reflects that. There is a reason why this album is self-titled. It feels like a rebirth for me; it feels like my first album in a lot of ways. I feel like the creative process for this album is what I’ve always wanted to do in my career. I was
Using his life experiences growing up in downtown Toronto as a source of inspiration, Langston Francis is on his grind as a young artist discovering himself and the world of music around him. We caught up with Francis on the heels of his debut single release to talk about his foray into music, early influences and his direction as an artist. G—You are still in high school. Do you find it hard to juggle your new music career with school? Langston Francis—It’s challenging. For example, I had two exams in one day, then a show at night and I was feeling under the weather. I have school every day, so it definitely gets hard to juggle things sometimes, but it’s sort of something I just have to take in stride. I’m just so grateful for all the opportunities I have. G—Can you tell us a little about your first single, “FCKD IT UP”? LF—I wrote the song and beat when I was 14. At the time, the song had a certain meaning to me. We ended up finishing the song about 12 months later, after that it took on a whole new meaning. As I grow up and change