LE1F, real name Khalif Diouf, is the type of artist that wants to treads vital waters, unafraid of affirming his stance on minority issues. Far from being a novice, LE1F has steadily released mixtapes from his inception in 2008, negating them now as "experiments". Evidently they are mere precursors, 'Riot Boi' is a trailblazing record very much in the now. It's bombastic, and transgressive.
The club roots are still very much a feature, but don't be fooled, this LP is dark and whiplash-inducing, take the Balam Acab-produced 'Rage' featuring a bleak industrial drop and mechanical clangs, a bipolar protest against adversity. From the very beginning, it's apparent that LE1F has something to proclaim, and the icy, FadetoMind-esque production juxtaposes nicely with Diouf's satirical lyricism.
'Riot Boi' alludes to the punk-rock sentiments of the Riot Grrrl Movement, it's an important foundation when navigating the LP. More fittingly LE1F's creations cut deep with social commentary encased in experimental hip-hop and dance, akin to MIA's 'Arular'. It's clear LE1F's own struggles are diametrically bound to the the subjugation of the female, than straight-laced, male-dominated rap or trip-hop. For example, on 'Grace, Alec or Naomi' he namechecks the female pioneers of avant-garde fashion - a celebration of their black excellence, LE1F scathingly spewing rhymes over erratic trills and horns.
His own observations, and the droll way he approaches them, is in itself singular. The brilliantly abrasive and filthy 'Swirl', with guest verses from perennially underrated MCs - Junglepussy and House of LaDosha - has LE1F swaggering about his credentials, him and his posse boasting in prideful ways about their black goodness, and the beauty of interracial relationships. "I'm a mystery flavour, you want to taste it? It's not basic" is just one of many standout lines that LE1F weaves in his guttural, cutting way, not caring one bit about the response. LE1F delves deeper, exploring the exoticness of his black body, usurping common tropes so that he assumes a position of supremacy, not the white male gazing from across the club.
The themes on 'Riot Boi' are wide-ranging and socio-political in nature, the key is the way LE1F playfully denigrates these injustices so as to not alienate the listener. LE1F refuses to play the victim, to be drowned under the weight of cumbersome rhetoric. 'Riot Boi' is a middle finger up to society's flawed understanding of queer, black identity, and it's refreshing that LE1F's stance is celebratory and not hedonistic. By that virtue, the anthemic 'Riot Boi' proves a timely offering for the disenfranchised youth of today.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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