There was a time that when you thought of the future, talking robots and flying cars came to mind. But when Grand Hustle recording artist Yung LA opens his mouth, talking slick with flying colors, you know that the future is staring you in the face.
“Its all about individuality with me,” says the 22-year old rapper born Leland Austin. “I’m a trendsetter expressing my uniqueness. At the end of the day I know who I am and I’m doing something different, too many rappers these days conform.”
That’s probably the only time you’ll ever hear the word “conform” come out of the rappers mouth. Coming with a style all his own, don’t expect to see Yung LA trying to blend in with his contemporaries. When they go right, he’ll go left. When they go left, he’ll go up. When they go up, he’ll already be gone.
Even in his humble beginnings bouncing between the notorious East Lake Meadows and Thomasville Heights communities in Southeast Atlanta, LA has always been in a different lane. While his childhood friends aimed to look like each other, LA literally flipped things wearing his clothes backwards like his favorite rappers growing up, Kris Kross. So it comes as no surprise to see him rocking a mohawk haircut with accompanying cameo designs today.
“Its the White Boy, Black Boy swag,” he brags, mentioning that he doesn’t hire a stylist to pick out his attention getting outfits either, he does that himself. “We’ve always had flavor in the inner city, the world just gets to see it now. It’s a new day and a new trend. Folks are tired of seeing the same thing.”
Being tired of seeing, hearing and even saying the same thing is what birthed the artist you’re being introduced to now. True to his moniker, LA got his start rapping at the very “yung” age of six. Encouraged by his aunt who was in a rap group herself at the time, LA became the toast of the family rapping a custom made rhyme she wrote just for him. When he grew tired of that rhyme, he started mimicking whatever he heard on the radio.
Through his teenage years Yung LA balanced his new love of rapping with his first love of sports. When he wasn’t hooping with the junior varsity squad in 8th grade he was learning how to record music. But when he made the football team in high school but couldn’t play because of subpar grades, LA focused full time on tackling the microphone. It didn’t take long to get some hits.
Coming from a city whose rap spectrum ranged from Outkast to Lil Jon, LA had to create a style that stood out. The melody driven one he came up with drew attention almost instantly. His humble demeanor attracted people from all over who wanted to help him win. Among them were producer/rapper tandem Zaytoven and Gucci Mane. With them he grew a penchant for freestyling all of his rhymes, hardly, if ever, using a pen and pad. After working in their shadows, performing at numerous open mics and appearing on local mixtapes, as well as dropping his very own, Crush The Block in 2006, LA’s improvisational flow caught the hear of Grand Hustle recording artist Young Dro.
“Dro pulled up on me in Thomasville,” LA remembers about the fateful day in 2006. “I didn’t want to, but my friends convinced me to rap for him. So I just sat down next to him and started ripping. He said he was going to come back for me, and he did.”
After meeting the rest of the Grand Hustle family, LA landed a deal with the powerhouse label in May 2007. The first shot “Ain’t I” featuring labelmate Big Kuntry King became an instant anthem on Atlanta’s underground. The song, originally a neighborhood chant, turned into an even bigger hit when Dro and Grand Hustle honcho T.I. hoped onto the remix. Now, with his buzz growing and a thirst for a new star in Hip Hop, Yung LA’s debut Futuristic Leland is poised to become your new favorite album.
“It’s what we do in Atlanta, but I’m putting the Hip Hop in it,” says LA about his album. “The beats are going to be futuristic, each song will be different.”
Promising to mesh his swag rap talents with lyrical dexterity, Yung LA is ushering in a new sound and look to Atlanta Hip Hop if not Hip Hop in general. Tracks like self-explanatory “Mohawk” gives listeners and step-by-step walk through LA need to stick out in a crowd. The semi-autobiographical “Caught My Daddy Wit It” has him opening up about the adversity he and so many other youths in Inner City, USA when it comes to losing fathers to the street life via death or jail.
“There’s different ways you can come off and let people know about your struggles,” he says. “You didn’t always have to be the one doing it, its your surroundings that make you think about things differently, so that’s what I do in all my songs, try to present something differently.
He supports that philosophy with songs like “Elroy You,” a soft-tempo track that initially sounds like a typical “for the ladies” record but has enough left-field language to turn into something new.
“You’ve got to brand your language,” says LA who explains “Elroy You” as “futuristic loving.” “Its all about being new, that’s what keeps the music interesting.”
Then, with tracks like lyrical exercise “Crush,” LA shows that while he’s good at “swag rap,” he’s still an MC at the end of the day.
“I’m not boxed into one genre, I like to spread,” he says. “That’s what’s gonna help me, I have a universal sound.”
Whether it’s his dress, hairstyles or his E-40-esque way of coming up with new slang, LA’s swag and flavor, or “swavor” as he likes to call it, will be taking the music world back to the future.