Jonatan Leandoer Håstad, better known as Yung Lean, is something of a mystery. Breaking onto the rap scene in 2013 with slurred vocals, charmingly ridiculous content, and top-level production, he has evolved from exaggerated self-parody to the unabashed baring of his soul. Stranger melds the quirkiness of debut mixtape Unknown Death 2002 with uncharacteristically introspective lyrics, without losing Lean’s refreshingly unique style.
Lean doesn’t disappoint when it comes to rapping about his favourite subjects: drugs, women, and money on ‘Iceman’ and ‘Skimask.’ In the past, it may have seemed ironic that Lean, a member of the Sad Boys collective, rarely makes truly emotional music, but on Stranger, he takes some time to reflect. ‘Agony’ presents us with one of his best songs to date. A stripped-back piano melody, a half-mumbled musing: ‘‘When I’m afraid I lose my mind / It’s fine, it happens all the time.” The incorporation of a children’s choir on this track adds to the creation of something beautiful.
Lean’s production team, comprised of Whitearmor, Yung Gud, and Yung Sherman, show a musical evolution that is just as notable as Lean’s himself. ‘Yellowman’ is another standout offering for its fantastic production. The track is underscored by bass, synth and a nagging snare, while the use of a siren is a pleasing callback to ‘Hoover,’ from Lean’s 2016 album Warlord. Lean seems comfortable in his sound, and everything on Stranger suggests that he has found his niche.
In a nutshell: An excellently produced album that is a treat for long-term fans, while remaining accessible to the uninitiated.