LE1F is always looking toward the future. Since the release of his debut mixtape Dark York in 2012, the Manhattan-raised rapper born Khalif Diouf has been renowned his circles and across the media for pushing boundaries with everything from lyrics, the technicalities of his flow and his beat choices. Producers are only now catching up to the sound of its first single “Wut.” LE1F has an almost-lifelong background in ballet and modern dance, as well as a degree in dance from Wesleyan University. Drawing inspiration from the Riot Grrl Movement and artists like M.I.A. and Missy Elliott, the album is both a celebration of marginalized identities but without slipping into the divisive territory of “conscious rap.” In his own words, he’s “somewhere between an activist and an antagonist.” BEAU Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with LE1F, one of the headlining performers for this years Charleston Pride Festival.
(BEAU) Your unique and fearless musical creations have influenced youth in many positive ways including encouraging them to be their true gender-bending, creative selves. When you first began your career, what/who influenced or encouraged you to create so fearlessly?
(LE1F) My inspiration is my mother. When I was an infant, she started me in dance training because I apparently never stopped dancing as a baby. I grew up in a family of singers and, as I was a dancer, was always jealous about it. I knew I was going to be a performer. When I came out, my mother said, as a black gay man, I’d have to work four times as hard as my peers for the same results. She said I could be whatever I wanted to be as long as it was legal and that I was the best at it.
(BEAU) We are so excited to have you in our little town! What do you plan to bring to Charleston Pride this year?
(LE1F) Half of my family is Gullah, and from Hilton Head, so it’s very exciting for me to have my first show in South Carolina. So, I’ll be coming with my whole family and my dancers.