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In November of 2014, Yung Lean did an interview with The Miami New Times. Up until that moment, Lean had just recently dropped his first official album called, “Unknown Memory” in September of 2014. This would be his follow up to his debut mixtape, “Unknown Death 2002.” His debut album would be the proof that he wasn’t a passing trend. That he wasn’t some meme rapper from Sweden following in the likes of Lil B and Riff Raff. Because when he came out in 2013, that’s all that people were calling him. From articles in DJ Booth and other major publications, Lean’s success from his viral hit, “Ginseng Strip 2002” was met with disdain.
And Lean knew It and didn’t care. He had a plan. In his song “Monster” from his debut album, there’s a lyric that goes, “Shock first so they listen, now that’s my faith.” And people were really starting to listen. In 2014, he had an interview with The Guardian where he reflected back on 2013 and said, “When I first broke out, everyone was like: ‘OK, so is this a joke?'” he said. “They had to wait until I sold out shows before newspapers started writing about it. It’s the same in Sweden. They’re scared to say it’s good. They say it’s a joke until I prove them wrong.” And proved them wrong he did.
After successfully touring in Europe in the later part of 2013 in the White Marble Tour, Lean brought his tour to North America in 2014 in the form of the White Marbel Tour, which had shows across North America. His first show was in New York City’s Webster Hall venue. Writer Drew Millard wrote of the show for Noisey, “Watching him before the show, he was clearly nervous, as any kid would before they played inarguably the biggest show of their career. But once he was performing, he was a star in the making, becoming something larger than life.”
And from “Ginseng Strip 2002″ to New York City” it was clear Lean has got his listeners and the rise was truly coming and along with Lean’s ascension in the music world, came along the rise of Sweden’s other group, “Shield Gang” with him.
Now even though Sad Boys and Shield Gang all work together musically, there is a difference between the two groups. In Sad Boys, there’s Yung Lean and two producers Yung Sherman and Yung Gud. In Shield Gang, there’s Bladee, Thaiboy Digital, Ecco2k and producers Whitearmor and Yung Sherman. And with Lean’s rise as an artist, all of these artists rose together. And over the years, Bladee, Thaiboy Digital and Ecco2k have started to become big artists as members of Shield Gang.
Now when it comes to Bladee, he was first heard on Lean’s “Unknown Death 2002” mixtape on the song, “Nitevision.” My first impression of Bladee was that he was way too heavy on the aututone. As much as I really liked his feature on “Nitevision” it was a bit too much of autotune for me. When he released his first official tape, “Gluee” It had a lot of autotune as well and I was turned off by it.
In the Sad Boys and Shield Gang fan community, a lot of people who really like Bladee, loved and still love “Gluee” but it just wasn’t’ for me, so I didn’t care to listen to Bladee. The tape did numbers on Soundcloud though and was a success. And slowly, but surely though since dropping “Gluee” Bladee started releasing an amazing track after amazing track in my eyes.
Songs like “Into Dust” and “Butterfly” showed Bladee’s sound was maturing, in my eyes, at least. There was less autotune which meant you can really hear his vocals, and after a string of Soundcloud releases and guest features for Lean and other artists like Adamn Killa, Bladee released his debut album,”Eversince.” To me, it’s one of the best albums of 2016 and really set Bladee apart from Lean. With production on the album, almost solely from Shield Gang member Whitearmor, the album is incredible and for me, was a massive step up from “Gluee.”
Now when it comes to the other artists in this supergroup, Thaiboy Digital released two successful mixtapes in 2014 called, “Lord of the jewels” and “Tiger.” His song “Diamond” featuring Lean on his “Tiger” mixtape has garnered millions of plays on both Soundcloud and YouTube and in late 2016, Digital released a collaborative project with Bladee called, “AVP.” Additionally, just last month he released his debut four track EP called, “S.O.S.” After Lean and Bladee, it’s clear Thaiboy Digital is up next and has got the numbers to prove that, but then there’s the ever elusive Ecco2k.
Ecco2k has yet to drop an official body of work, like his counter parts have. He’s been featured on many songs with Bladee, Thaiboy Digital and Lean, but by himself, he’s only released a handful of singles. Now as much as Thaiboy Digital, Ecco2k and Bladee may still be relatively unknown to the masses, oppose to Lean, whose known, the three of them still release music to great success, garnering major plays on YouTube and Soundcloud and truly make Shield Gang a top group besides Sad Boys.
Now back to Lean, in 2016, he released his second studio album, “Warlord” with a producer credit from legendary producer Mike Dean on the song “Highway Patrol” featuring Bladee and went on a successful tour in support of the album. Lean additionally was featured on Frank Ocean’ “Blonde” album with vocals on the song, “Godspeed.” If not for Ocean’s Grammy boycott, Lean would have definitely received a Grammy for work on “Blonde.” Recently Yung Lean released his second mixtape called, “Frost God” with a notable feature coming from A$AP Ferg on the song, “Crystal City” and this September, he is on the bill to perform at Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival.
Now coming back to the Miami New Times interview in 2014, Lean was asked about the Swedish hip-hop scene. Lean’s reply to that was there is none, not really. Three years after saying that, in 2017, it’s clear that Sad Boys and Shield Gang is Sweden’s hip-hop scene and through all of what they’ve accomplished over the years, rightfully so. Even if they might not think of themselves as apart of the hip-hop scene.
MY MOTTO IS: IF YOU WANNA WIN THE LOTTERY, YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE MONEY TO BUY A TICKET!
From The 6ix,With Love
Thank You For Reading
Sincerely, Kid From The 6ix
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