At some point on April 7, 2015, Barron left Bladee and Lean in the condo. Lean's nose started bleeding, and he checked in on Snapchat; his girlfriend, back home in Sweden, happened to have a nosebleed, too. High and overcome by feelings of connectedness, Lean became detached from reality. He started to destroy the condo, throwing furniture and breaking glass. He was bleeding from the debris when Bladee called 911.
In the hospital, Lean became paranoid that he'd been separated from his hard drive. After midnight, in the early hours of April 8, Lean says he managed to call Barron and beg him to bring him his files.
It was a typically pleasant Miami spring night, with a clear sky and a comfortable temperature of 75 degrees, when Barron set out, with a 21-year-old producer from L.A. named Hunter Karman in the passenger seat. According to the police report, he was driving about 60 miles per hour when he veered out of his lane and ran into a traffic signal post. The car twisted into the intersection, and the engine caught on fire. According to Lean and Steven Machat, Barron had taken Xanax. Strangers rushed in and managed to help Hunter from the flaming wreck, but Barron was stuck. Fire engulfed him, and he burned to death in the car.
Heartfelt tributes posted online remembered his good taste and generosity — how he'd keep places just so acquaintances could stay in them, and scramble to encourage his artists' most out-there ideas, like a dubstep magic show. "He was the most high-minded, cosmic person anyone ever met," said d'Eon, once signed to Hippos in Tanks. "He constantly spoke enthusiastically about how culture was at a tipping point, that we can do whatever we want musically and in business, because we were living in the cultural Wild West."
At the same time, Lean's father was flying to visit Lean in the hospital, where he stayed for four days. Lean says he didn't recognize him at first, but they returned to Sweden together. For about two months, Lean's father tended to him while he recovered in the countryside, in relative isolation, before moving back into his parents' place in Stockholm. Lean was then and is now under what he says is "heavy medication."
Back in Sweden, Lean's other main producer, Yung Gud, set about finishing the album. The files that came back from Miami were a total mess, with missing stems and distorted vocal takes. Working with Sherman, Gud spent months reconstituting incomplete tracks, restructuring unsatisfactory ones, and calling in Lean to re-do vocal parts. In November 2015, the album's first single, "Hoover," debuted with a music video featuring a dirt-bike rider jumping over a cemetery and a medic shining a light into Lean's vacant eyes. The single went up for sale on January 20, 2016, and Lean announced that Warlord would be released the following month, to be supported by an international tour that would bring him back to America.
But just five days after the announcement, a different version of Warlord appeared on Spotify, and for preorder on Amazon and iTunes. Its full title was Warlord (This Record is Dedicated to the Memory of Barron Alexander Machat (6/25/1987 – 4/8/2015)). Instead of the abstract cover art Lean had teased on Instagram, it featured a crude pencil drawing of a Lean-like character giving the finger. Fans who listened said the songs sounded unfinished, and expressed confusion over the small-print copyright, which seemed to attribute the release to the label of a man who had passed away: "Hippos in Tanks A division of the Machat Co," it said on Spotify.
The person who uploaded that album was Barron's father. According to business documents filed with the state of Florida, but unbeknownst to many, Steven Machat was an equal managing partner in Hippos in Tanks.
Reached by a phone number listed on his Senate campaign's filing papers, Steven says he believed he was within his rights to release the Warlord demos because he helped fund their creation. "I wanted that album out to remember Barron," he explains, expressing frustration that Lean had flown home before Barron was buried. Lean's team was predictably unhappy about the release: "They went nuts, 'How can you put this out?'" Steven says. "And I said, 'Well, fuck you.' But then I heard God talk to me: 'Steven, they're evil. If you reverse evil, you live.' I analyzed [the music] and realized what they were doing, and I took it off."
"There's nothing good about Lean," he adds. "Yung Lean worshipped the darkness."