This Le1f article was written by Alistair Ryder, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Hazel Webster.
The problem with ghettoising LGBT rappers in a genre of their own, as many music critics do by using the woeful “queer rap” shorthand, is that it is clearly limiting artists’ success by reducing them to be part of a genre that doesn’t even exist, that they are only a part of for reasons that could never be classified as artistic. No artist associated with this pseudo-genre wants to be a part of it, which is exactly the reason why the weakest moments of Le1f’s debut LP ‘Riot Boi’ are of the socially-conscious variety, the ones that feel more like Huffington Post think pieces put to music than songs that truly represent him as an artist.
It is in songs like the closing duo of ‘Tell’ and ‘Change’ (the latter a collaboration with Devonte Hynes) where it feels like he is striving to be a part of an ill-defined “queer rap” scene, with lyrics about coming out and demanding society sit up and take notice that even without the overbearingly mawkish sentimentality are little different to those presented in Macklemore’s ‘Same Love’- which Le1f himself has openly derided.
The most effective moments on the album are the ones that are the most trashy from a musical perspective; the EDM-lite synthesisers and trap beats that populate ‘Koi’ help to make it the biggest musical ear worm to be found here, as its lyrics alternate between sexually explicit and aw-shucks innocence make it feel like something you feel embarrassed for having lodged so firmly in your brain.
As a producer, Le1f is undeniably familiar with getting songs that are irritating in their catchiness stuck inside your head; he produced Das Racist’s debut single ‘Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell’, a stoner-novelty single that has the rare distinction of being a song so simplistic you don’t even need to hear the whole thing for you to be singing it for days in spite of your clear irritation with it. His breakout 2012 track ‘Wut’, the lead single from his debut mixtape ‘Dark York’, was so catchy he later claimed it had been plagiarised in one of the biggest hit singles that year- Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’.
‘Riot Boi’ is an album that isn’t for the faint of heart, in that its best moments are its most transcendentally trashy- there is something weirdly insincere about ending the album on a note of socially conscious hand-wringing considering the blatant disregard towards respectability that has come before.