Yung Lean’s Influence is Much More than a Tiktok Trend


Jonatan Leandoer Håstad, better known by his stage name “Yung Lean,” is a Swedish rapper that has recently risen to the spotlight due to the popularity of one of his songs on TikTok. The use of the song “Ginseng Strip 2002” has skyrocketed, with the track being played over many different types of videos, ranging from memes, outfit edits, lip syncs, and more. 

Despite Lean’s surge in popularity, many people are unaware of the influence he has had on modern rap by inspiring and collaborating with mainstream artists.

Lean – only 16 years old at the time – burst onto the scene in 2013 with his three-song EP, Lavender, and his debut mixtape Unknown Death 2002. While the projects found plenty of local success, the biggest hit at the time was coincidentally “Ginseng Strip 2002,”. The popularity of his earlier projects can be accredited to their cloudy production, crass lyricism, and monotonous delivery. While many discredited Lean’s work as “meme rap” for these same reasons, the zany nature of the tracks appealed to a younger audience and a variety of subcultures of the internet. Lean’s unique sound mixed with his abstract music video visuals built himself a dedicated fanbase.

As Lean’s popularity grew, so did his style and the scale of his influence. In 2014, Lean dropped his debut album Unknown Memory, revealing a more mature version of himself by straying away from his quirky lyricism. He began to primarily focus his lyricism on his newfound wealth, relationships, and his substance abuse. With this shift towards more common themes in rap, his work took a more serious tone and critics began to favor his new style over his previous work. 

The growth on this album helped Lean reach a larger audience than he initially had, with the reach of his influence becoming more apparent. 

One of Lean’s largest influences on mainstream rap comes from the track “Ghosttown” off of Unknown Memory, as it garners a feature from Travis Scott from the earlier stages of his career. Although both artists were small at the time, Travis was a fan of Lean’s work and reached out, eventually landing a feature on Lean’s album. This was a big deal for both of them, as Lean would often forgo features as he desired to remain independent. Today, Travis Scott is one of the most popular artists in the world with stylistic roots linked to Yung Lean.

  Another one of his most notable collaborations that is less known about is his contributions to Frank Ocean’s critically acclaimed album Blonde. Lean is credited on tracks “Self Control” and “Godspeed,” contributing to the chorus and background vocals respectively.  Lean revealed in an interview with MTV that he had received a call from an unknown number while he was meeting his drug dealer. The caller asked, “Hello Yung Lean, do you know who this is?” to which he replied no. The caller revealed himself, saying, “[This is] Frank Ocean, I would love for you to come to London and record with me.” Lean accepted to meet with him and made the contributions mentioned earlier. 

Since these events, Lean has released several albums and mixtapes, experimenting with different styles and production with each installment.  Lean also developed other projects under the name “jonatan leandoer96”, using the different persona as a way to branch out from the rap genre. Regardless of which name he released music under, Lean continues to demonstrate his creative visions while also being a cornerstone to modern rap. Although many may know of him as a tiktok trend, there is more than meets the eye with Yung Lean. Whether it be through his bizarre lyricism and cloudy beats or collaborating with the likes of Travis Scott or Frank Ocean, there is undeniable evidence of Lean’s impact on music today.