Proud Wiradjuri artist YNG Martyr says releasing his debut album, Lovesick, is a “giant weight off the shoulders.” Since his first official release six years ago, the Naarm / Melbourne based performer has amassed millions of streams and views from across the globe, most notably for the meme-fuelled success of ‘Nike Ticks’ in 2019. 

Having dropped singles consistently for a number of years, it’s hard to fathom how well he’s done by independently funding the process and marketing. He started out experimenting at the beginning of his career, and was unsure how he would gain an audience as an artist. So, he started testing the waters of internet virality by inserting himself into meme subcultures he was already a part of, allowing his music to succeed in niche online communities across different social media platforms. 

Over a million monthly listeners, a recent Warner Music label deal, and countless streams later, it’s safe to say his experimentation worked. But a debut album was the only way to know for certain. Finally, a project he’d been working on since 2018 was ready to be released. After undergoing numerous track-listing changes and receiving multiple facelifts, the 12-track project Lovesick released on 11 August. 

Produced by Tasker (Ivan Ooze, Huskii, Nooky) and close collaborator Logan M, YNG Martyr delivers his brand of melodic hip-hop, and balances personal relationships and individual aspirations across the 26 minute runtime. Lovesick starts off with his emotional letter to an ex in ‘Black Hearted’, an upfront and abrupt face-slap of an introduction. It’s an emotionally heavier intro that encapsulates why the album is so personal to him and addresses all the emotions that brought this project together.

The album follows with its first lead single ’Overthinking’, and ‘As I Should’, the alt-pop rap cut with Allday, one of the early pioneers of melodic rap in the country’s commercial success. By the fourth track, the punky ‘Hate U’ featuring YNG ONE, his international success makes complete sense. Two things are obvious: he’s capable of making good music across a plethora of genres, and his engineer most definitely earns his wage. Through years of delicate craftsmanship, and developing his introspective and melodic sound, YNG Martyr proves he can pull his weight in gold.

“I feel like in the past people have been able to discount me and say ‘Oh, ‘Nike Ticks’ is an internet song. Oh, it’s for TikTok.’ This album just silences all of that noise.”

YNG Martyr (2023)

Today, the internet and social media allows for a variety of avenues for artists to get their music heard. And while it’s not as easy as it may sound, YNG Martyr excelled –check the streams. It’s his marketing creativity that’s played a big part in his success thus far, but if you break it down, his true success can be attributed to his self-belief. He believed his music was good enough, and was experimental and relentless from its creation to its distribution. Now he wants to show other artists they can do the same. 

From the elements of punk to the pop ballads throughout, YNG Martyr is all over the place on Lovesick in the best way. From Earl Sweatshirt and Mac Miller (the GOATS of this generation if you ask him), he credits his diverse palette to a wide interest of music growing up –something evident the deeper you dive into Lovesick. Almost every song is something that sounds completely different to the last, something that he’s perfected over time. 

The journey towards his debut album hasn’t all been smooth sailing, as you can probably tell from the heavy nature of its content. He’s mastered the viral hit lane but self doubt takes its toll, as most artists can attest to. For him, it took courage to step out of the comfort zone of releasing singles, and offer his global fan base his first full-length effort.

“It’s hard to plant an idea and then water that idea and stick true to that idea until it comes to fruition, but that’s what I’ve done. I’m a f***ing gardener now.”

YNG Martyr (2023)

Otherwise though, Lovesick isn’t the end all be all for YNG Martyr. Evident in the vicious verse on Triple j’s ‘Bars Of Steel’, he’s still got a chip on his shoulder with something to prove –captioning the freestyle with “I just dropped an entire album of melodic music, so this one is for you. Rapping my face off.”

Going forward, he’s leaning in on what made him successful. Like Genesis Owusu, who, according to YNG Martyr, is the “complete opposite of what you’d expect from Australian rap”, he’s carved a lane out for himself, and made it work. He’s himself, so despite any local criticisms or murmurs behind the scenes, YNG Martyr’s place within the musical universe both internationally and locally is forever cemented. 

What started as a gap in the market turned into an opportunity, and YNG Martyr seized it, helping to set a new blueprint for up-and-coming artists. While the traditional industry route was always an option, he and his legion of fans resonated with an alternative avenue. His tactic of meme marketing, unwavering self-belief, and genuinely great music has made his recent rise one of the more impressive stories of success from the scene.

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