Post-internet rap is increasingly enigmatic. Those who regularly check music blogs and scroll Tumblr have seen the strange cranked to “based” and beyond. Rappers still considered leftfield are generally elevated above the digital fray for YouTube-video-length analysis, ironic (and probably fleeting) fascination, and/or sincere adoration by a cultish fan base. Though the lyrical tropes are markedly splintered, the production has essentially followed a common sonic roadmap, arriving at the ever-shrinking interstice between electronic music and hip hop.
Bay Area rapper Lil B and producers such as Clams Casino essentially laid the foundation for the electronic-meets-rap sound on the Internet, the ethereal yet banging production of the latter combatting the abrasive and often half-baked bars of the former (see “I’m God”). Their rise precipitated acts such as Oakland’s Main Attrakionz, labeled “cloud rap” for their celestial beats, and A$AP Rocky, who merged slowed and sometimes menacing southern rap with the electronic while residing in Harlem.
Lil B, Main Attrakionz, and A$AP Rocky undoubtedly begat the latest Internet rap curio: Sweden’s Yung Lean. A white rapper in his late teens, Lean’s music is as divisive as it is indicative of its time. Lean and his “Sad Boys” crew have quickly gained a sizeable following while rapping about everything from lean to cocaine to Oreo milkshakes.
Regardless of his merits as a rapper, the production Lean flows over can be very good. The beatmaker responsible for some of his most sonically rich suites is 18 year-old, Sad Boy producer/DJ Micke Berlander, AKA Yung Gud. His solo material operates within the sphere of atmospheric and low-end heavy hip hop, some of which fits alongside the music coming out of L.A.’s beat scene. Many songs have play counts in the hundreds of thousands, and his latest collaboration with Yung Lean, the swirling, trap-inflected “Kyoto,” has over a million plays on SoundCloud. With over 25,000 SoundCloud followers of his own, it’s fair to say that Gud is the architect behind the best of the Sad Boys’ sonic aesthetic.
We recently spoke with the Stockholm-based producer via Skype for his very first interview. On the verge of releasing his debut EP, Gud opened up about comparisons to Clams Casino, his love for Lex Luger, why he hates Swedish rap (and sandals), people rapping over his music without permission, and more.
Are you still in high school or did you just graduate?
I was supposed to graduate, but I fucked everything up. So I’m not going to graduate, I’m just going to leave. But I’m okay with that. I’ve never been good at school anyway.
What does your dad think about your decision to pursue music?
He doesn’t know much. He’s like, “You can’t make music without a guitar.” He doesn’t really understand that concept yet, but he’s getting to it. He’s starting to be more supportive now that things are popping here and there. He’s getting a bit more interested, but he’s been kind of indifferent so far. He’s been more like, “Just go to school and be a good person.”
Have you lived in Stockholm your whole life?
Pretty much. I moved for a couple of years to a small countryside place called Gnesta. It’s like Kentucky, but in Sweden. Stupid people and alcohol problems, I don’t know. It sucks of over there. It’s so boring.
Have you ever been to the US?
No, I’ve never been to the US I’m going there with the boys this summer though.
What are you most looking forward to about coming here?
I don’t know. Maybe getting a picture of what people are like over there; the culture in the big cities; talking to really high people, because I get the feeling that Americans are really high energy and hyped up. [And] I’m looking forward to meeting people and being rude to them. I like being rude to people.
Are there any specific American products you want to try or places you want to visit?
I really want to get some Promethazine cough syrup. I want to try that. And maybe Kentucky Fried Chicken, I’ve heard it’s really good and I’ve heard it’s really disgusting. I want to try it for myself and see what it’s like.
There aren’t any KFCs in Sweden?
No. They are opening the first one this year, this fall or something. But I want the real American, tortured chickens dipped in death and shit. That’s what I want.
What’s the music scene like in Stockholm?
It’s kind of small, kind of politically correct, and basically pretty boring except for the more pop/dance acts. They can be pretty good – like The Knife or The Embassy or more pop-oriented bands. But the hip hop scene is pure shit. I hate everyone here.
Every hip hop act or rapper I want to... I don’t want to hurt them because they would hurt me back worse, but I want to say mean things. I want to be really, really rude.
What were some of your earliest experiences with music?
The first musical choice I made – I used to listen to Slipknot and Korn when I was eight or nine because my sister was into that shit. So nu-metal and death metal when I was really tiny – like Deftones and shit... Then I started with electronic music. When I was 12 I got into psychedelic trance. I liked trance music overall, my sister being a raver at that point. Hip hop was fairly late for me; it was like a couple of years ago.
Who are some of your early influences with regard to production?
I don’t know. I’ve been all over the place. I started producing psychedelic trance when I was like 12 or 13 and then it was trance DJs. I guess they will always have an influence on what I do. It depends on what I’m making, really. I think I’m really good with selecting influences since I’ve been doing this for seven years or so.
Who are some of your favorite producers working right now, in any genre?
I mean Lex Luger will always be a favorite because he really made this trap thing big with his production. Actress is like my favorite right now. I’ve been listening to only his discography for the last month, going through it over and over. I really like Headhunterz, the hard-style guy. He’s always going to be a favorite for me. There are so many, I could make a list of 1,000 people. Shout out to Yung Sherman and Haydn though. They are really good producers and my friends. I have to shout them out.
What software did you use when you first started producing?
I started with GarageBand. Or maybe I should say phones, like the Sony Ericsson. Back then they had this music maker application where you could put together loops. I started with that. Then I got a really expensive computer from my mom because she liked to spoil me. So I started really making shit in GarageBand. Then Fruity Loops – I’ve been through all of the software, every program there is, basically.
What do you use now?
Ableton Live 9. It stuck with me, or I stuck with it. I’m updated as fuck.
How do you discover new music, or at least music that’s new to you?
Either friends or the internet – the internet mostly. I’ve been an Internet nerd for so long. I’ve been going on blogs since I was 12. Discovering music through the Internet is not a new thing for me. I’ve been doing that... [But] I hate blogs, man.
I think they’re necessary, at least to a certain extent.
Of course. But school is too and I hate school – more than blogs. And [I hate] the pirate pants with a lot of pockets that German tourists wear. They fucking suck. And sandals too.
Why do you hate sandals?
It’s the most ridiculous thing to wear, [especially] with shorts. 50 year-olds with shorts and sandals? Oh fuck. I hate all German old people.
How often do you work on music?
It depends. Sometimes I don’t do it for months; sometimes I do it all day every day. But it’s been the only thing I can think about for six years. I don’t care about anything else.
I care about a lot of things, but I wouldn’t care about all of the other things if I didn’t make music. All of the other things are based on me doing music in some shape or form. Everything else in life becomes okay or fun if I can do this. If I couldn’t do this I’d lay down forever, put a pillow over my head and just lay there. I’d eat and shower maybe once a week, but I’d be posted in one spot forever.
I often listen to your music at night. Do you think your music is best for a certain time of day?
I’ve never really thought about it like that, actually. But I guess at night. It’s fairly dark, people say, so maybe at night. But it really depends, man. It’s up to the listener. I just don’t like people to say my music sounds good when they’re high. I don’t want people to listen to my music high.
Why is that?
Well, I do want them to listen to it high, but I don’t like – everything sounds good when you’re high. Everything is basically pretty okay when you’re high. Shit things are alright and fun things are really fun. Being high makes everything sound good, basically.
Do you smoke weed in Stockholm?
I don’t do drugs at all. I hate drugs. Drugs are for bad people. But I know people. The other people, they smoke their weed or whatever they need to do. But I don’t. I’m sober all the time.
What happened to trying promethazine?
That was a lie. I lied about that, man. No, I want to try that though because it’s medicine. But the weeds and the speeds – no, not that.
Who are some of your favorite rappers?
Lil Wayne is a legend for me. Tha Carter III is one of the best albums ever. Young Thug is a melodic genius. Andre 3000 is really good too. And some old school rappers like Nas. I like Illmatic, everyone does. You can’t not like that album. Lil Ugly Mane though, he’s the best of them all.
So it’s fair to say Lil Ugly Mane is your favorite?
Yeah, forever. Except Yung Lean, but he’s not a rapper he’s my stupid friend. I don’t consider him a rapper really.
Why do you think you and Sad Boys – or maybe even rap fans in Sweden – have gravitated towards Southern rap?
I don’t know. I have to admit that, at least for me, it started with A$AP Rocky. And I think it did for everyone. He brought it out there to the Internet for people to see and experience. For me, the fascination with Southern rap started with him. And I think for all the white kids over here and all over the world it’s the same. Late 2010 to early summer 2011 it was all Odd Future and Tyler, the Creator, then everyone switched to A$AP Rocky. You could just see it. [People] went from wearing Supreme, five panel hats, and box logo hoodies and screaming, “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school,” to reciting A$AP Rocky lyrics, talking about promethazine, like myself, and wearing Black Scale.
Did you or do you wear any of the clothing you just mentioned?
I was never able to afford [it], or I never invested in clothing. I wanted the Supreme shit at that period of time, then I wanted the A$AP Rocky looking shit at that period of time, and then I wanted something else after that. But now that I have a reasonable amount of money I buy whatever. Right now I don’t have a shirt on. I just have these Chippendale stripper pants on, button-ups – they look so good on me – and high socks. I love high socks.
How did you meet Yung Lean?
My friend was fucking his friend at the moment. And she introduced him to my friend and me and basically that’s how I met him. We’d drank some beer in a park and were like, “We like the same music, we should do something sometime.”
Was he already rapping at this point?
Yeah, he had been rapping. Nothing serious. That idea didn’t come to our heads until half a year later. We wanted to try it, we did, and it was fun so we kept doing it. But we hung out from the beginning. We never thought of doing music together from the beginning.
When did you start producing for him?
Like October. I think we were drunk in his basement and we made “Oreomilkshake.” Then I just made some beats when I had the time… I forgot the question.
Do you think Yung Lean is a good rapper? Opinions are pretty divisive.
Yeah. He makes people feel some type of way. I’ve always thought he was a decent rapper. I think he’s evolved a huge amount over the last year. In the beginning I thought he was just okay, and now he’s more secure in what he’s doing.
But there is always something wrong about him. It’s like something wrong about the whole Sad Boys thing. People get really, really angry or really happy when they hear it. That’s his main attraction. He’s going to make people feel some type of way.
Do you think he sounds like Lil B?
I don’t. I can understand the comparison. But for me it’s like light years away. You can’t hear a single similarity now. I’ve never really listened to Lil B. I thought the based thing and the memes and shit were pretty funny, but I never listened to Lil B. Now that I have listened to Lil B I can see why people compare them.
It’s the same for me. People, at least in the beginning, compared me to Clams Casino all the time. But the thing is that I’ve been listening to all types of music for so long, so for me Clams Casino isn’t the first person to do something slow and dark and ambient. And Lil B isn’t the first one to rap weird and not rhyme and shit like that. It makes sense, but it doesn’t make sense at the same time.
It’s their only reference because everything else they listen to is straight hip hop. They don’t know all the shit that I hear in Clams Casino. They don’t hear what he’s influenced by. For me, it’s like he’s just one of them all.
Have any other rappers reached out to you to collaborate?
There have been a lot of SoundCloud rappers. There have been a couple of bigger rappers. But with them, they reach out, I respond, they respond back, I send something, and then they disappear. So not really… I haven’t started making anything with anyone.
I’m more focused on making shit with Yung Lean and Sad Boys, producing my own songs as an artist. It would be lovely to collaborate with whoever, but I can definitely do my own thing. I want to collab with singers. Singers are more fun.
Who would be your dream collaboration?
Right now, I think it would be like Drake, PartyNextDoor, or FKA twigs.
What does it mean to be a Sad Boy? Are there certain criteria?
No, there are no criteria. You can be as happy as you want. Just be open-minded, I guess. Manipulate yourself into acceptance. If you don’t like something, tell yourself that you like it until you accept that other people like it, basically. I really suck at that, so I guess I’m not a Sad Boy.
It’s a genre and there is only one song in that genre. It’s called “Crushed” and I made it. So people won’t call it post-witchhouse-chill-step or dub-core with emo influences. Or they won’t say, “This track is cool, but can you make it more based?” It’s like, “This is crushcore. Fuck off.”
Will there be more crushcore tracks?
If I make another song called “Crushed” or “Crushed 2” there may be some more crushed coming up. But I don’t think so.
What is “chavcore”?
That is extremely funny. My friend linked me to this thread about how Sad Boys and our friends dress. We dress a certain type of way and apparently there are these 13 year-old boys that say, “Check out my Yung Lean-core outfit.” Someone called it post-chavcore. That was really funny because chavs are really hilarious.
How often do you find people rapping over your music without your permission?
All the time. I got really mad in the beginning. Now they’re going to do it anyway so I leave it alone. They do what they have to do. I think I would do the same if I was a rapper, so they can do it. Go ahead. But I hate them for it. They should know that. I hate what they’re doing. I don’t appreciate it at all. They do what they have to do.
Are there any rappers who have done a good job of rapping over your music?
No. They are all shitty. I might’ve lied and said someone’s was good, but they are all bad. Really, really bad.
Is your debut EP finished?
Yeah, I finished it last week.
What’s it called?
I actually don’t have a name for it yet. I’m thinking of calling it Wonderful or Beautiful or something. But I’m not sure. I always name my songs when I upload them or send them to someone. I never think of an appropriate title.
It’s just a spur of the moment thing?
Yeah. I have more important things to worry about, like what I’m going to eat in an hour.
Have you decided on a release date?
No. I’m in the process of talking to labels, so I don’t have a release date yet. I really want one though. I don’t want to keep people waiting anymore. I don’t want to keep myself waiting.
Is this the first time you’ve talked to labels?
Yeah, this is my first interview too. It’s my first everything all the time, this last three months or so.
Why should people listen to Yung Gud?
Because I really want them to. My music is relatively awesome and I’m the next Mariah Carey. But I really don’t know why people should listen to me. I would like them to because I like when people give me attention.
Images: Märta Thisner