His crew, Sad Boys, have now become a staple of 21st-century youth culture. They consist of fellow artists and beatmakers GUD and Yung Sherman – both friends with Yung Lean since high school – and respected artists in their own right. As a trio, they have crafted out the visual and sonic aesthetic that has kept Sad Boys so universally appealing. The atmospheric instrumentals they create are always transformative affairs, the kind of blissed out beats that can induce a hypnagogic hallucination. And over these come Yung Lean’s lyrics; ghostly and hook-laden raps about anything from mental health to Gatorade.
When I ask Lean to describe his music, he says, “Hard to say. Plastic bubble future pop, maybe? There’s no name for it.” It’s a fair statement. Every release brings a new flavour. Earlier this year, he reminded the world of his creative diversity by dropping Nectar, an album from his side project, Jonatan Leandoer127. Spanning across nine compact tracks, the record is a mesmerising collection of lo-fi art rock that captures Lean at his most lyrically poignant, crystallising vivid recollections, dreams and nightmares into flowing poetic verses.
But the charm of Sad Boys is also visual. Since they first exploded onto the internet wearing pristine white bucket hats and luxury sportswear, the Sad Boys crew have used fashion and visual art in ever more inventive ways. Their artwork is always intense and evocative, and their music videos range from sci-fi noir to meme-crazed surrealism – perfect bite-sized slices of cinema for the internet age. Across the messageboard, Reddit, each individual member has a cult following, dissecting their abstract fashion choices as if they were Louis Vuitton models. Since 2017, Sad Boys has also operated their fashion brand Sadboys Gear, creating clothing and accessories that sell out in the blink of an eye.