Elusive Brooklyn-based rapper Leikeli47 seemingly appeared onto the scene out of nowhere, exactly the way she intended: incognito, indefinable and intangible. Her 2012 self-produced mixtape Lk-47, and 2014 follow-up Lk-47 pt. II, grabbed the attention of fans and musical heavyweights alike, whose gritty beats and heated delivery were communicated only by a masked enigma. After a string of arresting SXSW performances, the faceless musician has published her newest project, a self-titled LP that features both previously released material, as well as brand new tracks.
In an industry that unashamedly sexualises the female form and experience, Leikeli47 is devoted to her mask, a gesture that forces the listener to measure her musical artistry independent of her appearance. Leikeli47 makes another statement about the oxymora of the music industry in the project’s introduction; a disgruntled neighbour, discouraging the young musical alchemist, disturbs scattered percussion and gentle gospel. The rapper delivers a triumphant counterattack against a society that values artistic expression while simultaneously devaluing its young practitioners in opening track Two Times A Charm. Trigger-happy percussion and stomping bass accompanies Leikeli47’s hard-hitting, machine-gun delivery (“I came here to talk back”), while halfway through the track an R&B interlude joins the party for 30 seconds of soothing inspiration.
She continues the smackdown with the retributive wrath of Drums II Clean. She snaps self-proclaimed compliments over grimy drum and bass with an aggressive confidence (“You a lot mo’ wrong / I’m a lot mo’ right… I’m a lot mo’ Biggie / I’m a lot mo’ Pac / I’m a lot mo’ Diddy ‘cause I ain’t gon’ stop…). She revisits fan favourite Heard Em Say, replacing Curt@in$ verse with another of her own, never letting up on her self-reliant offensive (“When I get up in the morning, guess who I answer to, me Nigga”).
In the appropriately bass-heavy Elian’s Theme, Based on a True Story Leikeli47 reveals her living arrangements with the Devil, while the audibly fascinating I’m Through, expertly layered over a pentatonic string motif, features a gospel-kissed interlude and preaching pastor. The rapper abandons her enduringly forceful flow for the unexpected tenderness of R&B/Gospel ballad Kit Kat. Stunning gospel harmonies and keys reveal a softer side and beautiful singing voice that is equally as impressive. Offering a quirky, sugary metaphor, the artist maintains an enviable confidence even in romantic endeavours.
The dreamy haze of Kit Kat is swept aside by Fuck The Summer Up, whose relatively simple structure, based on several repeated themes, breeds a gritty intensity that underpins the entire LP. The thumping closer summarises the Leikeli47 paradox, by which the artist is entirely and assertively present, whilst maintaining tangible anonymity: “Y’all looking for me / well here I am”.