Release Date: Nov 13, 2015
Record label: Terrible
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Left-Field Hip-Hop
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Riot Boi, Le1f's full-length debut following a string of experimental mixtapes, is arguably the most cohesive record he's produced. It might flirt with different styles and sounds, but from the title to the lyrics there is an incredible focus which takes in sex, homophobia, trans-rights and racism. The title alludes to the album's duality - on the one hand it's a frequently angry record railing at the injustices that still plague people every day due to the expectations of race, sexuality and gender; on the other it's an extension of the Riot Grrrl movement, where socially and politically conscious lyrics were packaged with infectious, liberating melodies.
Queer rap is this era's Riot Grrrl - a "genre" as much as a cultural movement of previously muted voices-and while Hole translated Riot Grrrl into noise within the grasp of Entertainment Weekly's attention, queer rap still awaits its pop culture avatar. Le1f has long seemed poised to cross-over into the mainstream, and he could still become that pop burglar-but not with his debut album Riot Boi. Although lead single "Koi" may sound like a strategic aim at a buzzworthy radio single comparable to the FM accessibility of Le1f's breakthrough track "Wut," Riot Boi is most immediately an album about not being seen.
There are few artists in rap (or any genre, for that matter) more forward-thinking than Le1f, who has been delving deep into avant-garde sound for years now. He is a seismic force of energy, a furiously kinetic artist. Not only is his music constantly moving, it’s movements are uniquely animated — like a model strutting down a catwalk, the flashes from photogs forging a sort of temporal field that gives off its own life.
Le1f was on the cusp of something close to trailblazer status on his debut, Riot Boi (Terrible Records). Making no secret of his sexuality, he could exist purely as a niche gay artist, and yet he doesn't cater exclusively to the queer community: he spreads positivity and love for all. He's here to spit about gender, sexuality, race politics, and social justice.
Over 20 years after the inception of the feminist punk wave known as riot grrrl, New York rapper Le1f has adopted the same radically confessional ethos for somewhere it's desperately needed: outside the well-documented complex of the alt white girl, and into the spectrum of the black, gay experience. Le1f traverses this rocky political terrain with gusto on Riot Boi, rollicking against a backdrop of industrial and electro-pop sounds that develop his style from buzzy mixtapes like 2012's Dark York. On "Rage," he straps a stick of dynamite to his usual silken purr, spiraling into window-smashing fury – a musical litmus test to determine those who either can, or cannot, get down with his right to emotional complexity.
Somewhere between the cuteness of Shamir and the scariness of Mykki Blanco you will find New York’s Le1f, a ballet dancer-turned-producer-turned rapper. Although his out-ness is a big part of the appeal of this warped and edgy party album (“Fuck you, nigga, I fuck boys,” Le1f raps on Grace, Alek, Naomi, a tribute to black supermodels), the nod to riot grrrl in its title hints at far wider-ranging agendas within. The beauty of dark skin tones recurs on Swirl, an ode to interracial curiosity featuring Brazilian air horns, icy digitals and guest verses.