Khalif Diouf, better known by his stage name Le1f, blew away crowds of fans at the Bryn Mawr Campus last Friday, March 21st. He performed to an audience hailing from the entire Tri-co and further out, in a double act with Betty Who. This was the only show the Bryn Mawr Concert Series will put on this semester.
Early in his career, Diouf worked as a producer for Das Racist, whose members he met in class at Wesleyan. He told Respect magazine, “I dropped music theory like, three times at Wesleyan. I was going to be a music major but after that I was like, ‘I’m just going to be a rapper.’”
His first few mixes met modest success. In these early tracks, vocals take the backseat to wet beats and otherworldly tonality. Diouf earned his first major audience with 2012’s “Wut.” The music video, which has two million views on YouTube, features dance moves that he may have picked up during his days as a dance major.
Mainstream popularity is on the horizon for Le1f: last month, XL released the five song EP, “Hey.” Diouf shares the label with acts like Vampire Weekend, the XX, Sigur Ros, and Thom Yorke’s project with Flea, Atoms for Peace. The single, “Boom,” is poppier and more danceable than previous tracks. Still, it maintains his signature combination of darkness and wit.
Diouf may be as well known for his controversies as he is for his music. He accused Macklemore of taking the beat from “Wut” for “Thrift Shop,” and called him out on the politics of “Same Love.” And while cited as “make ‘em all say ooh,” the opening lines of “Boom” sound an awful lot like “Macklemore say ooh.”
He also tangled with conservative rapper Lord Jamar, who accused him of undermining the masculinity of black hip hop culture. Diouf responded articulately, tweeting “If you think being gay is the same as being white, you are as ignorant as your enemies…Rap started out as a creative response to oppression, and no matter my outfit, I know oppressions you will never understand.”
One thing that transpires from this comment is Le1f’s commitment to being honest and true to himself in his rap. This was obvious, in to Pat Walsh ’14, who loved the concert. He said, “You could tell that he was very much into performing, making a really good show for people.” The importance of the audience to him was also very apparent, and Walsh described him cutting a song for to “do one that’s actually, like, more fun.”
His dancing abilities were also remarkable to most of the audience. Walsh described his act as “a bodily performance as well as a musical one” and Natalie Gainer ’15 concurred, adding that his dancing abilities “made you want to dance along with the music” which contributed to the overall quality of the show in her eyes. Overall, his stage presence and performativity electrified the audience, that was gagging for more.