Music is always post-something, especially hip-hop. Post-NWA, post-Public Enemy, post-A Tribe Called Quest, post-2Pac and Biggie, post-Kanye, post-Kanye again, post-Lil Wayne and then post-Drake. Now music, hip-hop included, finds itself in probably its most interesting post-x form: post-internet.
On reading Pitchfork’s review of Yung Lean’s Unknown Memory it became abundantly clear: this music is beyond the realms of classical critical analysis. A new way to digest these odd, but refreshing, characters must be like the music now being made, totally new.
When Pitchfork says that Yung Lean’s cries of being a “lonely cloud” are “like the performative sadness that’s been explored with much more sophistication by artists like Lana Del Rey” and that Yung Lean’s “expression sounds empty” in contrast, they overlook one simple thing; Yung Lean is 18-years-old, is speaking in his second language and, most importantly, he grew up on the internet.
That there is a white, Swedish, teenage rapper with millions of views on YouTube speaks strongly enough about the power of the internet, but the influence it has had on those of us born during its advent has often been overlooked. In an era where it’s more accepted to tweet “v sad rn” with a sad emoji than to speak in Kierkegaardian terms about the weight of life itself, it’s no surprise that all Yung Lean can muster is that he’s a “lonely cloud”.
That is not to say that one is better than the other; simply put, this it is how it is. The effect that Twitter, and to a lesser extent, Facebook, has had on us all cannot be overstated. Social media, especially Twitter, is essentially an exercise in stream-of-consciousness writing, simply publishing every thought we have in 140 characters or less. This mixed with the often eclectic tastes of those of us who grew up on the internet leads someone to say something like: “I’m Warhol; I’m Wario when I’m in Mario Kart”. This means nothing, right? That’s exactly the point.
The music doesn’t need to be liked; nothing needs to be liked, but the way in which it’s covered needs to evolve, just like the world and our ways of speaking have because of the internet. People like Yung Lean or Lil B have been decried for their simple, yet emotional lyrics, but this is the point that we have reached. An inability to properly articulate your sadness or any other emotion comes from what we’ve been doing for the last number of years on social media, where even if we do express emotion, we do so in a succinct and short way.
Kierkegaard himself said that “our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts”, and if Yung Lean says that he’s a lonely cloud, or Lil B says he looks like J.K. Rowling, who’s to say otherwise?
Odrán de Bhaldraithe
Image credit: acclaimmag.com