Le1f: Young, Gifted, Black and Gay
“It’s like rats and roaches running all over the hood in the daytime/ But I still don’t see none of that in their raps, their rhymes or their headlines.”
That’s how New York rapper Le1f kicked off this year’s, Riot Boi, his first full-length album. The man behind infectious single “Wut” and the producer of the hilarious “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” definitely appreciates good times. There’s substance behind his bangers though, especially on Riot Boi; the album’s title being a major tip-off to its intention.
On the video for the album’s first single, “Koi,” the Wesleyan-trained dancer vogues expertly as a group of white men move awkwardly, some staring at the cameras with sunscreen on their noses — it feels like a riff on Gwen Stefani’s use of Japanese “Harajuku Girls” as human accessories. In the “Wut” video (over 3 million views and climbing), Le1f gyrates around an oiled-up white stud wearing a cartoon mask.
“I know that I was putting a hot white guy in a Pikachu mask and that was going to be a big deal in terms of opening up other discussions about homosexuality and rap,” Le1f told Vice’s Noisey blog.
Proudly an artist, Le1f is still a person, rapping relatable stories of bar life, hooking up, and partying that are familiar to most 26-year-olds. Single “Rage” describes both the catharsis of a night on the town, as well as the fury felt by the oppressed, especially double-minorities like the artist.
“It’s a song where I wanted to play with that whole idea of the angry black man and present it in this punk situation that maybe people can relate to more easily,” he told Noisey. “I think that my voice and the beats are just the same; it’s just that I’m talking about politics.”
Le1f’s loud and proud embrace of all his identities is on beautiful display in “Grace Alek Naomi,” where he compares himself to black actresses and models like Grace Jones and Alek Wek. “The blacker the berry, the sweetest juiciest only,” he purrs.
Le1f ends the song by putting homophobes on blast: “I’m the bati, the banjee, the banjee, the carry, I’m the carrier dandy, the dad of the family / I’m the faggot they stan or they don’t understand it.”