Yung Lean Credit: Anton Mak

In the early 2010s, Yung Lean arrived as an oddity: a white Swedish rapper who blurred together a clutch of hip-hop sounds made by black musicians from the U.S. As with any case of an artist taking inspiration from a foreign culture wholesale, it seemed like something was lost in Yung Lean’s translation—a fact that hasn’t been lost on Lean. The MC has since taken full ownership of his tumid flow, and though in the early days of his career his awkwardness was part of his charm, it’s hard now not to feel like the deeper resonance of referencing luxury fashion brands is missing from some of his older material. On his third album, November’s The Stranger (Year0001), he makes a strong case as an earnest contributor to global hip-hop, with a sound that doesn’t rely on its sources of inspiration to have an effect. On “Red Bottom Sky” Lean’s voice leisurely coasts along with a sullen, sedate instrumental like he’s tubing along a lazy river; his half-sung performance evokes a deep wistfulness while further expanding hip-hop’s boundaries.   v