Yung Lean has had a jam-packed, rollicking few years. After making a splash in the blogosphere in 2013, the 21-year-old Swedish rapper went on to collaborate with some of hip-hop’s biggest stars. In between, there has been some tragedy – his manager, Barron Machat, died in a car crash, and Yung Lean did a brief stint in a mental hospital.
In a recent interview with MTV News, the Swede sat down to discuss his work with Frank Ocean and the recently deceased Fredo Santana, and some of the events leading up to Yung Lean’s massive success.
He may have started out as an outlier, rapping about randomness like Arizona iced tea and anime, but he managed to create meaningful work with some of the biggest names in the industry. When Lean was just a teenager, he was already working with Frank Ocean.
Lean told MTV News that, when he was only 17, Frank Ocean called him up out of the blue. Lean was at a subway station, buying drug, then he got the call. Lean said he was “very, very surprised.” Ocean asked Lean if he knew who was calling, and the rest is history.
Frank Ocean called to ask Lean to work with him on his 2016 album, Blonde. Lean also told MTV News that Kid Cudi worked with them on the album. But the experience was more laidback than glamorous. The three had dinner – spicy Indian food – and watched the Sacha Baron Cohen film The Dictator. Lean was “drinking lean and smoking weed.” As he and Kid Cudi were working through a song, Lean said, “Frank was telling me like… ‘Yes, keep on singing like that Jonathan, Lean. That’s perfect.'”
Although Lean only briefly knew the late Fredo Santana, he says he was “blessed to have met Fredo before he passed.” In January, Santana was found dead in his L.A. apartment after a fatal seizure.
“I met Fredo Santana three days before he passed,” Lean told MTV News. The pair hung out, listening to Get Rich or Die Tryin’, the 2003 50 Cent album. Lean described Santana as “a great human being” and “a super nice guy.” As they recorded together, Lean says Santana fell asleep as he went to record his part of the track.
Most rappers these days are into showing how much wealth they have by showing off their fancy cars, stacks of dollars, and gigantic homes. They tease the average person without a thought of sharing all that wealth. Drake chose another route. In his recent video “God’s Plan”, he actually gave his money away and in no small sum. He spent, as he shows in a clip in the opening of the video, $996,631.90 to be exact. This upbeat, head-bopping tune plays in the video as we watch him give away cars, pay off tuition bills, and help struggling families by giving them actual stacks of dollar bills. At one point in the video, he even goes into a grocery store and tells all the patrons to get whatever they want as he’ll be paying for all of their grocery bills.
His altruism has apparently paid off in more ways than one. “God’s Plan” has stayed on the top of Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts for six weeks now. Whether people have been drawn to the song for its catchy rhythm or are streaming the video to see what all the hype is about, it’s definitely working in Drake’s favor. Many have criticized Drake for being so public with his charitable efforts in an attempt to gain publicity for his own profit, which seems counter-intuitive to charity. Regardless of his true intent, people still have profited from the massive outpouring of wealth due to this video. If he reaps the benefits of being a chart-topper because of his giving, then that’s good for him. Maybe that will lead others to do the same, and perhaps that was God’s plan.
Younger music fans may not know much about Grammy and Academy Award-winning keyboardist and composer Herbie Hancock, but that may change now that the 77 year old jazz legend has grabbed Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and a host of other contemporary artists to contribute to his new album.
Rolling Stone recently revealed that Hancock has brought in a who’s who of modern hip-hop and jazz artists to keep his sound fresh, saying that he “never wants to stop learning” and that he’s excited about bringing his music to an audience of “global citizens.” In addition to having the vocal work of Lamar and the ever-prolific Snoop Dogg, Hancock has also enlisted the help of multi-genre bassist Thundercat, hip-hop and electronic producer Flying Lotus, jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, among others. Many of these artists were major contributors to the direction and sound of Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album, “To Pimp A Butterfly”, a critically acclaimed album that brought experimental jazz and unconventionally dark production to the forefront of hip-hop.
The admiration between these groups is not just a one-way street – Hancock has also appeared on several of his contributors’ albums over the years, including Thundercat’s 2015 “The Beyond / Where Giants Roam” and Flying Lotus’s 2014 “You’re Dead!”. Likewise, Hancock’s classic instrumental hit “Rockit” has been a massive influence in hip-hop, with the song being sampled more than 70 times since its release in 1983.
With so much love and respect between the two generations, it makes sense that the music community is starting to get excited for the release of this project. There’s no word on the release date yet, but here’s to hoping we can get our hands on it soon.
As her hit song “Bodak Yellow” states, rapper Cardi B is certainly making money moves. She’s a native of the Bronx and has just made musical history by becoming the first female to simultaneously have all three of her singles in the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs list.
During the week of November 18, “Bodak Yellow” was in the No. 2 spot and her song “Motorsport” with Nicki Minaj and Migos made the list at No. 5, according to Billboard. “No Limit” by G-Eazy, which also features Cardi B and A$AP Rocky, was also bumped up one spot to become the No. 10 song on the Billboard list.
Cardi B is also the first artist to have three of her singles made the top 10 on Billboard all at the same time since 2015 when Fetty Wap accomplished this. Cardi is also only the sixth woman to have three simultaneous top 10 hits any any time in her career, but she’s in good company: Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, Rihanna, Ashanti and Beyonce have all had the honor of achieving this musical milestone.
Cardi took to Instagram to thank her supporters after finding out the great news. She shared that her accomplishment was all because of the fans and said that a new single was on the way. A few months prior to this, Cardi B became the first female rapper in two decades to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart without featured artists.
For more information on Cardi B’s musical journey, visit www.huffingtonpost.com.
Rap superstar Kendrick Lamar is enthusiastic about having produced the soundtrack to the upcoming movie Black Panther, which premiers in the US on February 16th. It is the first time Lamar has produced a movie soundtrack, or any album or project other than his own music.
The 30 year old musician is fresh off a 2018 Grammy win for Best Rap Album, along with a slew of nominations, and now turns his sights to the movie industry. Lamar curated or produced the entirety of the Black Panther soundtrack, while also contributing music of his own.
In addition to Lamar’s own work, the soundtrack features music by Vince Staples, SZA, Schoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, The Weeknd, Future, and a number of other popular current performers. Lamar himself features on six of the soundtrack album’s 14 tracks, and takes a producer credit on six of the 14 as well, although not the same six songs in each case.
Lamar took to Twitter to express his gratitude and appreciation for the people he worked with and the process of creating the soundtrack, saying that the idea of creating a project of other than his own work was something that had always been a dream of his.
The soundtrack is a highly anticipated part of the Black Panther movie, itself an anticipated event in the calendar of new releases. It marks the next installment in the wildly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, based on the Marvel Comics. This will be the first movie featuring the superhero Black Panther.
Lamar has been prolific over the past several years, having put out four studio albums since 2011, the last three in particular having garnered near-universal acclaim and award show recognition. If the Black Panther soundtrack is well-received, perhaps it opens up another creative avenue for future projects for Lamar going forward.
One of the most popular and critically-acclaimed album albums in hip-hop history, “The Score”, was released 22 years ago today. The 1996 album was the sophomore effort from the Fugees, a legendary group that featured Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras Michael, who all went on to highly successful solo careers after the group’s break up. “The Score” followed the Fugees’ debut album, “Blunted on Reality”.
While their first album did come some with some success, the groups sophomore effort catapulted them to unforeseen stardom. Some say the success was too much to handle to the group, leading to tensions between the three that led to their break up. The album’s lyricism really stuck out in the genre of hip-hop during a time when “gangsta rap” ruled the airwaves. It was a starkly East Coast sounding album in a period where the Billboard charts were dominated by artists from the West Coast.
Wyclef and Lauryn certainly saw more post-group success than their counterpart, Pras Michael. “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” was Hill’s solo debut. The album was released in 1999 and came with both industry and critical success. Some of the songs on the album are still in rotation today. Wyclef released some very popular solo albums on his own and has even taken a stab at the political realm with an unsuccessful bid to be president of Haiti in 2010.
“The Score” is certainly one of the most important hip-hop albums in history. Unfortunately, it would prove to the be group’s last release. There have been rumors that the group will one day reunite, but none have come to fruition thus far.
“Black Panther” is the latest movie from Marvel Studios and will officially hit theaters on February 16th, and has received enough hype from audiences that rival that of the Star Wars franchise.
The movie itself isn’t the only thing involving Marvel that’s been heavily anticipated by people, as the soundtrack itself has also been receiving a ton of hype. The main reason for the hype is because it’s been helmed by A-list hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar, who also is a Black Lives Matter-era poet.
The first track on the album, aptly named “Black Panther,” starts with Lamar rapping in the voice of T’Challa, Black Panther’s real identity and king of the fictional nation of Wakanda. The lyrics bring in a mix of politics in comic books and historical African diasporic sayings and visions.
Lamar is responsible for being the co-executive producer for the album, as well as writing for all fourteen credits and having some cameos and appearances of his own. He’s brought on voices such as Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul, southern artists like Future and Travis Scott and even some neo-soul names like the Weeknd.
There are also some feminist tones present with the Black Panther movie. In both the comics and movie, the Black Panther is supported by the Dora Milaje, a recruitment of all female warriors. Some of this feminist touch is present in the song “All The Stars,” where Lamar partners with artist SZA to give some spotlight on women. Jorja Smith also provides some lyrics in a ballad song called “I Am,” and overall some of the best bars and flows come from South African MC Yugen Blakrok.
Overall, the album by Lamar brings in a vibrant mix of soul and flow that keeps it uplifting.
The Atlanta rap group ‘Migos’ have chronicled the wild times that accompanied the success of their debut album, ‘Culture’, in a documentary that was released on Tidal.
In the film, the album, which reached number one on Billboard charts, is identified as the catalyst for what would become known as ‘Migos Mania.’ Kevin Lee, who runs the label started by the rap trio along with partner Pierre Thomas explains that the documentary was actually released exactly one year ago. Lee goes on to say that he, his partner, and the group were well aware of the quality of music they were producing but are admittedly a little shocked at the hysteria surrounding them since the release of ‘Culture.’
The album to date has sold two million copies in addition to the sale of five million singles from the album.
A large part of the filming of the documentary took place during a promotional tour in New York in 2017. The group visited Hot 97 while in New York and were christened by radio host Peter Rosenberg as the ‘hottest In the game.’
The group was later filmed while being honored by New York University. During their talk at the university, the group discussed the origin of their careers and gave insight into the cadences that have become the group’s signatures in their raps.
The evening ended with the group giving a performance before a sold-out crowd in Manhattan at the Highline Ballroom.
Thomas hints on the documentary that the group will not necessarily confine themselves to the rap game and are looking to expand their scope in future projects. Music from the Migos is not ‘for one group,’ Thomas explains before teasing with the prospects of the Migos making a rock album in the future.
As for now, the group released Culture II at the end of January and it seems that ‘Migo Mania’ will continue for the foreseeable future.
Sunday’s Grammy Awards were a big win for Bruno Mars and Kendrick Lamar, who carried home a combined total of 12 awards. The Hawaiian R&B vocalist snagged almost all of the coveted top awards at the Grammys, with the exception of Best New Artist, which was awarded to Alessia Cara. Meanwhile, Lamar carried home five trophies, including all four awards in the rap category.
Bruno Mars was a surprise winner this year, beating out Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z and Childish Gambino for the prestigious General awards. Mars’ “24K Magic” ultimately earned more votes from members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) than Lamar’s “Humble” and last year’s ubiquitous hit, “Despacito”. 24K Magic won both Album of the Year and best R&B Album. Additionally, the title track won Record of the Year. Mars also carried home the Song of the Year, Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance for “That’s What I Like”, the album’s catchy ode to strawberry champagne and romance.
Jay-Z was projected to win big at the 60th Grammy Awards, but ended up falling short. Despite receiving eight nominations for his critically acclaimed 4:44 album, he failed to win in any categories. Kendrick Lamar’s Damn was widely expected to carry home Album of the Year, but was eclipsed by 24K Magic. He wasn’t the only artist to lose out. Khalid, No I.D. and SZA received five Grammy nominations apiece, but were also snubbed by Grammy voters. Childish Gambino was up for Album of the Year and Record of the Year, but only received one trophy for Best Traditional R&B Performance for his “Redbone”.
The Grammys battled low ratings this year and faced some criticism for giving top awards to pop music produced mainly by men. Despite critical acclaim, hip-hop albums by Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z were largely snubbed. Also, while the performances at the Grammys focused on the Time’s Up movement, Alessia Cara was the only woman to win a major award.
Hip-hop duo Run the Jewels has recently risen to prominence with a focus on politically charged lyrics and energetic instrumentals. Their unique call-and-response style and lively shows have garnered a large audience. The duo has been explicit in their criticism of President Trump’s administration and the state of the American government in general. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, they went so far as to support Jay Z after the rapper was attacked by the President on Twitter.
Specifically, Trump criticized Jay after the latter asserted that Mr. Trump was ignoring the lived reality of Black American poverty. Trump argued that black unemployment is at the lowest levels ever recorded, claiming that Jay-Z was ignorant of his policies. President Trump’s short tenure has been plagued by dismally low approval ratings. The former reality star and real estate mogul has frequently used social media to call out pop culture figures who have doubted his leadership as head of the executive branch.
El-P of Run the Jewels contested that Donald Trump is weaponizing statistics and sidestepping the real issues. His creative partner Killer Mike complimented Jay, calling him “the coolest rapper alive” and pointing to the severe socioeconomic issues that still exist for African-Americans living in the Trump era.
In a genre infamous for its Hatfield-and-McCoy-style feuds, it is still bizarre for a sitting president to openly address the comments of a hip-hop artist. It appears that Jay Z and Run the Jewels have become new components of the ongoing culture wars.