Leikeli47 has a way of making you feel like her best friend, even over the phone from over 3,000 miles away. Somewhat ironically for someone who cloaks herself in an air of mystery the way she does, there’s a charming openness to her conversation. While some may consider her many masks a distraction, it was clear to me on first sight that they were absolutely essential to 47’s entire presentation, obscuring her physical features to focus attention squarely on her music.
To that end, it’s best to avoid the question of the mask almost altogether — although I did have one or two queries about them, myself. What I, and more importantly, Lekeili (pronounced Leh-KAY-lee) wanted to talk about was her album, Wash & Set, her first full-length project since signing to RCA Records in 2014.
The basics of her story are hazy, but graspable, if you do enough research. She grew up in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, with roots in Virginia. She came onto the blog scene in 2012, with her first two, self-produced mixtapes, LK-47, and LK-47 Pt. II. She rocks a mask, not just to force listeners to engage with her music without the customary visual component usually expected of women in rap, but also out of feelings of stage fright and shyness.
In 2014, EDM superstars Diplo and Skrillex, fans of her mixtapes, invited her to play her first real show with them on New Year’s Eve at Madison Square Garden. In 2015, Jay-Z made her infectious jam, “F**k The Summer Up,” the number one song on his Tidal playlist. She’s gone from simple ski masks, to a wide array of customized masks to continue to obscure her features, but that hasn’t stopped her star from steadily rising, leading to her inclusion on the Insecure soundtrack, culminating in the release of her debut album.
Wash & Set, supported by singles “Milk,” “OMC,” “2nd Fiddle,” and “Miss Me,” explores themes of relationships, and communication. In fact, Leikeli47 calls herself a “communicator,” rather than a rapper. Don’t get it twisted, she can spit too, but the album is much more than just fourteen songs of battle raps, as much as it’s a departure from the sometimes watered-down bubblegum rap that mainstream rappers are forced to deliver by their labels. It’s unique and eclectic, and 100% Leikeli, and there’s nothing else like out today.
But before we got into breaking down her colorful, pop-inspired beats, or digging in the crates-influenced, hard-edge raps, we discovered we had one thing in common.