The first fruits of his new deal with Terrible/XL Recordings, Le1f’s sizzling Hey EP offers a sampler of songs that revisit familiar sounds from his trio of independent mixtapes — Dark York, Fly Zone and Tree House — while also venturing into new ground. Even this short collection bears evidence of the signature sound Le1f has developed: his deep, unchanging voice, danceable electronic beats and his unique style of bragging. The title track and opener “Hey” is filled with sexual innuendo that double as ’90s cartoon references: “Purple panther, he’s using all his pokeballs but no capture.” Also, plenty of fun quips like, “You can call me carnitas, cause my meat is the sweetest.”
Le1f is a gay rapper, and while his fans tend to scream, “It doesn’t matter,” I find this to be particularly important. His sexuality influences his music and the vernacular he uses to express himself: His beat selection is rooted in black gay vogue culture, and he shouts out his LGBTQ cuties on “Boom” while also taking the word “battyboy,” an anti-gay slur prevalent in dancehall music, and flipping it on his head. “How many battyboys can you fit in the jeep?” he raps mischievously over a dancehall-style breakdown.
However, his sexual identity shouldn’t confine him. Part of his appeal is that he’s fun as well: Le1f can be radical while still churning out club-friendly dance tracks. Nothing’s too serious, but he can still rap circles around your favorite rapper, using odd wordplay and adjectives to get his points across. His bragging is genuine and an assertion of self love. “Skin color Pepsi/ Dark skin, eski/ Team Cocoa Butter, baby. I feel sexy.” Whether it’s about his “tapioca bubble butt” or not taking anyone’s order at “banjee burger,” Le1f’s comfort in his own skin is inspiring.
“Boom” might be the best song on Hey, up against Le1f’s biggest hit, “Wut.” Included here it packs just as much punch as it did when it came out on Dark York in 2012, and hopefully with its re-release it can be the smash it deserves to be. Overall, what this EP definitely solidifies is that Le1f is in his own respective lane; he has an image rooted in his identity and refuses to compromise any of it. With this EP being pushed by a record label, his vision has the potential to reach wider audience, and it’ll possibly pave the way for his contemporaries to get their own opportunities as well.