Since 2010, Young L, a member of Bay-Area group The Pack and producer of “Vans,” has released three mostly self-produced solo mixtapes, growing consistently as a producer and lyricist on each release. The up and comer has referred to his latest, As I Float: The Great John Nash, as a free album, but it could even be called a concept mixtape; it’s a tour through the brain of someone who feels like a paranoid-schizophrenic genius, not unlike John Nash, portrayed in the biopic A Beautiful Mind (Young L uses audio from the movie as skits).
On “Angels,” the mixtape’s opener, Young L raps, “I plan to body y’all asses and make mink up out of it/I’m really just tired of y’all asses I never think about it.” Though the irony of rapping about haters while claiming “I never think about it” is not lost, eventually, it feels like Young L thinks about nearly everything. He even thinks about thinking on “Dark Shades Almighty,” and on the Swizz Beatz style rave-up “Same Reason,” he concedes “I was always a loner/Irrational persona.” Later, “Fluorescent Lightings” pops up as an but fantastic collaboration with Freeway.
Known previously for stellar, minimalist beats, on As I Float, Young L bounces off the well-worn, self-described “Martian Slap” aesthetic. Every track except “What Yo Mind Do” features a sample, and every sample is ripped from British singer-songwriter Imogen Heap. Imogen Heap’s growing presence is surprising, but her strange earnestness seems appropriate inspiration for fellow oddballs Lil B and Young L. As a producer, L doesn’t distort his samples. Instead, he lets the British songbird sing her lonely, introspective heart out, adding texture to his slaps and emotional cohesion to his mixtape.
For some of the tape, L brags about mobbing through clubs and beat-downs; in A Beautiful Mind, John Nash thinks he works for the CIA; Young L’s John Nash thinks he’s a hustler. On “Daylight,” he raps over Royce the Producer’s washed-out beat, “But who am I really/underneath the real me/cause the real me/is what I let myself see.” He believes in a scattered collage, full of everything from revealing vulnerability to violent chauvinism. And it slaps, too. —Henry Greenfield