Unlike his stage name’s homonym, Le1f, aka Khalif Diouf, does not float gracefully in the music world, but rather arrives fluttering in a storm. The rising New York rapper has become one of this year’s most buzzed-about musicians thanks to his Dark York mixtape and the video for the mixtape’s single “Wut,” both of which contain content that make Le1f’s homosexuality more than obvious to the average listener. Undaunted by some rap fans’ harsh criticisms towards his sexual orientation, Le1f has dismissed the Twitter-feeding hate-waves by collaborating once again with his friend, New York producer Boody, to record their newest release, Liquid.
While many of the beats on Dark York seemed more like a scattershot collection of styles and genres, possibly due to the extraneous number of producers for the mixtape, Boody manages the production in its entirety for Liquid, delivering a focused thematic idea and a consistent aesthetic. Taking the listener on an adventure through as many forms and sensations that could possibly be associated with liquids, Boody’s production manages to evoke everything from a flowing river to heavy, murky swamp water.
The opening instrumental track “Jellyfish” floods the listener with high pitched, fluid synth samples that emulate the movement of jellyfish swarms as the creatures flash across a moonlit ocean, while the following track “Buoy” builds on hollow, ghostly howls and soulless, metallic percussive clanks, transporting the listener to an icy catacomb deep within the Siberian tundra. Amidst these darker tones, however, the album still maintains Le1f’s musical playfulness, the thing that hooked so many of his fans in the first place. Soda fizzes and cans pop alongside a chopped breakdowns of Masters At Work’s “The Ha Dance” on “Soda,” proving Boody and Le1f still have their sass in tact.
Although only appearing in the last minute of “Buoy,” Le1f complements the track’s haunting ambience with quick-paced, monotoned vocals. Lacking inflection in his voice, discerning the lyrics can be a difficult task. Regardless, the rapper truly shows off his flair and lyricism on the more up-beat “Soda.” Le1f pushes the track forward, spitting each innuendo-charged line aggressively until the brain-worm lyrics emerge: “She thinks she’s a cool cat but she don’t like the water/Step up to my ocean/And dip it with the daughters.” The following track, “Sweet Tea,” contrasts its predecessor with mellow, auto-tuned vocals that float alongside bass-heavy waves and water-drop-emulating synths. Although much slower than “Soda,” “Sweet Tea” rivals its catchiness.
Closing the record with Cedaa’s remix of “Sweet Tea” and MikeQ and Divoli S’vere Daughter take on “Soda,” the two remix tracks offer club-popping twists to Boody and LE1F’s original tracks. Punching up the drum and bass levels while throwing in Le1f’s stronger (but mainly just more audible) verses to keep the melodies alive, the remixes provide a fun ending to the EP. By combining Le1f’s light-hearted side with Boody’s dense beats, Liquid lets the two musicians’ versatility shine through.