Last Friday night, the long-awaited rap phenomenon known as Le1f arrived in Grinnell. Hailing from New York, Le1f recently burst onto the music scene to great acclaim. Following November’s panel on queerness and gender-nonconformity in hip-hop and House of Ladosha’s Gardner performance two weeks ago, Le1f arrived as the anticipated continuation of Grinnell’s focus on what some deem as “queer rap.”
Le1f’s rap music is filled with hard-hitting, witty lyrics alongside inventive beats rich with urban rhythm. He has the flow of Busta Rhymes, the wit of Missy Elliot, and the sexual braggadocio of Nicki Minaj.
Friday’s crowd was massive. Gardner hasn’t seen an audience of this size since the days of Dan Deacon, one of last year’s Gardner performances. His head shaved, but for the top, closely-cropped purple den of hair, Le1f took to the stage in a Naomi Campbell strut, basking in the crowd’s attentive enthusiasm. People whispered in anticipation. Le1f could walk the walk, but could he talk the talk?
Delving into his first song, Le1f instantly made the stage his lion’s den of sensuality and superstardom. On stage, Le1f adopts a too-hot-for-real-life persona: every time he drew near to the crowd, it bloomed into a sea of reaching hands. He flashed a coy smile and teased the crowd, without once losing the beat of the song.
“Le1f is so hot. It took all my willpower to stop myself from leaping on stage and grinding with him. Wish I had, though,” said Linnea Hurst ’15.
On stage, Le1f is brimming with sexuality, his confidence shimmering on his skin. During his performance of the song “Gag”, Le1f’s inner playboy bunny came out. He didn’t rap the lyrics so much as make love to the mic and the crowd:
“B*tch, I’mma make you gag. Make you make you go oooooh, make you make you go aaaaah.”
As he delivered the lines, Le1f let out trembling moans that dripped with honey lovin’. It was as if a musical muse had possessed his body in a fit of pure ecstasy. It was heavy, it was sexy; it was Le1f.
After the song, the crowd grew more and more frantic, as Le1f fed off their energy. He rolled up his long-sleeved shirt until he had tucked it into a crop top, displaying his ebony body.
“I don’t know what came over me but I had to be as close to him as possible,” said Jermaine Stewart-Webb ’16. “Nobody was going to get in my way.”
Near the end of his set, Le1f performed “Wut,” the song that introduced many of his listeners to his music. The crowd roared as they went from jostling rowdiness to unified enthrallment.
“I’m da bomb diggity, got ya moms feelin me, tell ya man chill on me, hang loose like literally,” Le1f rapped.
Midway through the song, Le1f turned around to give the crowd a good look at his behind and shook what his momma gave him. The crowd went wild for his theatrics, causing the floor to shake like his derriere. When the chorus arrived, the crowd chanted along, bumping to the saxophone hook and infectious beat:
“Wut it is, wut is up, wut is wut? Wut it do, wut it don’t?”
This was Le1f in all his glory: sick flow, star presence, and wildly entertaining. After the show, Le1f thanked the crowd and departed the stage, but with no intention of leaving.
He stuck around the crowd for the second act, even taking to the dance floor to dance amongst Grinnellians well into the night. He also talked with fans, wooing them with his coy charm and wowing them with his fierce dance moves.
“He is such an inspiration, I could watch him vogue all night,” said Eva Dawson ’14.
With hard-hitting rhymes and masterful stage presence, Le1f blew the last Gardner show of the semester out of the water.