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Yung Lean, Hipsters & The Rise of Meme Rap


Hipsters are the fucking worst.

Hipsters fucking love Yung Lean.

Yung Lean is the fucking worst.

For the record, I have no particular problem with 16-year-old Swedish rappers "rapping" about depression and the Smurfs and Arizona Ice Tea. The whole SadBoys/EmotionalBoys thing kind of feels like the coming of the apocalypse, but still.. Sweet baby yeezus knows a lot of people have rapped about a lot weirder stuff:

What I do have a problem with though, and is a much larger problem than just Yung Lean, is the growing glorification of meme rap; call it Lil B 2.0. Meme rap - which I'm going to loosely define as rap that seems purposefully constructed to produce as many GIFs, and therefore as much internet presence - instead of any actual musical quality, is slowly but surely beginning to dominate headlines.

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For hipsters irony is everything, which is exactly why they've fallen so deeply in love with meme rap (and trap rap, but that's a discussion for another time). What could possibly be more ironic than a Scandanavian teenager rhyming about Arizona Ice Tea in videos heavily featuring '90s clip art? I'd be hard pressed to think of much:

Now, the hipster-driven popularity of Yung Lean doesn't mean that hip-hop is dead, or on life support, or whatever else the alarmists like to say. There's no need to panic, no need to

call Nas

, hip-hop is still doing just fine. But I think there is a real potential danger here. Much like the ringtone rap era, the rise of meme rap threatens to strip down hip-hop into its most basic components, to value irony over music that genuinely makes you feel something, to turn hip-hop into an absurdist internet joke.

And yes, I recognize that in some ways I'm only adding fuel to the fire with this post - I just gave Yung Lean a few more YouTube views, and in meme rap YouTube views are essentially everything. But only be confronting the problem head on can we ensure that the world spends more time listening to Kendrick Lamar and less time listening to Yung Lean. Otherwise, the hipsters win.

And if the hipsters win, we all lose.