|Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen|
with Antwon and Mess Kid
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
October 3, 2013
New York rapper Le1f hit 7th Street Entry last night with an especially innovative sound and stage performance, captivating the packed crowd with his unique handle on futurist hip-hop. As he ran through some strong tracks from each of his three mixtapes, it cemented his place as one the most exciting rappers to make their name over the past few years.
Before San Jose rapper Antwon took stage to open, I glanced at his shirts at the merch table, of which he had four different styles that included black-and-white heavy metal styles and illustrations of himself surrounded by white women. He took the stage and ran through some material from In Dark Denim and his previous mixtapes, in between some slightly awkward stage banter. A strange mixture of Def Jux brood, sex-centric raunch, and Kool Kieth goofiness, he ran through a number of distinct songs that won the audience over.
|Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen|
Commotion murmured as Le1f arrived shortly after, dressed in a GoDaddy.com emblazoned Nascar jacket. Le1f understands the importance of his fashion sense, how the physicality and appearance of a performer is a necessary component to the music itself. Nearly every point where a song contained no rapping, he would begin to dance more pointedly, twisting and writhing with a studied dexterity. He's earned a degree in dance from Wesleyan and you can tell; the stage presence took on a new dimension. He twerked his way around the stage, clearly having a lot of fun an encouraging the floor to do the same. "You guys are so slutty!" he told the audience, complimentary of course. At one point local DJ and producer Neuport hopped on stage during a track he produced, "Breezy," and the two danced on each other for a wonderful moment of stage interaction. Le1f is an incredible live presence.
|Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen|
It's certainly not all a distraction either, as Le1f's music is darkly innovative and he's got the live skills to pull it off. The combination of sly, cocky come-hither flows with clever lines and quick rhythms over syrupy electronic washes is not an easy task. Watching the lightning-fast second verse of "Wut" or the shifting cadences of "Mind Body" unfurled in front of me made me fully realize how complex Le1f's music is on a technical level. But the strongest skill is to make it all seem effortless, and everything during the set was remarkably fluid. The set was packed with dark and erotic tracks and the audience seemed almost hypnotized. Le1f had them in the palm of his hand and took full advantage. It was a smokey club show and a gritty rap show simultaneously, and easily one of the best rap acts I've ever witnessed.
The Crowd: Some hip-hop and club crowd crossover.
Overheard In The Crowd: While most were screaming "One more song!" before Le1f came out with the encore, some were screaming "Free T-shirts!" instead. Worth a shot I suppose.
Personal Bias: Anyone with a quality visual and audio component to their live stage presence immediately jumps up a few notches with me.
Cloud So Loud