leikeli47 - accidental fashionista, intentional lexicon

Dominated by the boys for decades, finally a new wave of fresh females are making their voices heard Loud-N-Clear in the land of hip hop. For the first in our new series on female rhymers, we meet the Chanel-masked mystery woman Leikeli47, who gives i...

by Kathy Iandoli and i-D Team
17 June 2014, 9:00pm

leikeli47 by Bibi Borthwick

There's an unofficial credo in neo-hip-hop that overexposure takes you places. It's the reason why rappers flip MP3's in bulk like a new release of Nikes or show up and show out both on and offline. Leikeli47 is extra different. The Brooklyn-bred rapper popped up out of nowhere, starting with her video for the amped up C&C, where Leikeli had her legs cloaked in ABRAHAMSSON leggings accented with Barron Claiborne's infamous Notorious B.I.G. photo. Brooklyn lives on Leikeli47's tongue, spitting rhymes reminiscent of her legendary lyrical predecessors. Her face? Completely covered by a ski mask. Ghostface tried it circa 94, though a panty hose to the mug only looked like he was mimicking a bank robbery. Somehow Leikeli47 makes it a fashion statement, while simultaneously delivering a message on the status of women in rap. She's not here for her face; she's here for her bars, and that anonymity has garnered her visibility. We don't know her face, we don't know her age, we don't even know her name. Even while walking the streets of Brooklyn she's masked, waving to children who stare like she's some sort of ninja. The less that's known about her, the more intriguing she becomes. Leikeli47 gave her first interview ever to i-D. Get to know her a little bit. 

Let's talk about your personal style.
To be honest, there's not much there. I'm very regular. I'm not the fashion chick. I mean, I like clothes, but I don't think I'm that fashiony. I just think I'm cool. I think I'm ok. 

Do you style yourself?
Yeah, however I'm feeling I just go with it. For the most part I wear Nike slippers, sweats, some average kicks. I'll just say this: the reason why I never thought I was fashionable is because I'm still the chick who lives up the block. I'm at swap meets and marts in downtown Brooklyn. I'm that chick. I do love fashion though and how certain clothes fall on certain people. I have designers that I love, but to come out the gate and be like, "I'm running fashion," is not me. I'm not killin' the fashion game. 

You always have a nod to New York on you. In the C&C video you had the Biggie leggings. Right now you've got Wu on your finger [points to Leikeli's ring with the Wu-Tang Clan logo].
The crazy thing is it's very unconscious. I don't realise what's going on. Like I didn't even realise that until you said it. I love Biggie though. Biggie is the king. 

Yeah you sampled him on Ski Mask Way, and plus you're from Bed-Stuy.
Yeah I guess Brooklyn's in my blood. It's a part of me. One thing I can't do is just do something to do it. What you hear is what you get. What you see is what you get. I'm proud of where I'm from. I wouldn't be getting interviewed if it wasn't for the lights and the cameras on Biggie. Hopefully he's proud of me. I'm that newbie. 

Don't worry about if I'm light-skinned, dark skinned, cute, not cute, if I got a buck-50 on my face. Don't worry about none of that. Worry about the passion and the heart I put into my music.

A lot of women in hip hop struggle with getting their buzz, but with you making it a point to be so concealed yet talented, it's actually given you more exposure.
Yeah, the point of it all is to focus on my music. Shout out to everybody — man, woman, child, beast — anyone doing it. As for me, I do what I do for the music. I have fun doing my music. I work hard doing my music. So my main thing is to reach the people through my music, and not my aesthetic. Don't worry about if I'm light-skinned, dark skinned, cute, not cute, if I got a buck-50 on my face. Don't worry about none of that. Worry about the passion and the heart I put into my music. I produce, I write, I live this. I'm a complete loner. I'm about my music and the people, and I'm sure for those whose faces are out there, it's not to say that they're not like that either. But for me, that's what it is. If you want to know anything about me, you go to the music. If you get into my music, you can decode who I am. On my first mixtape [LK-47], I told you everything about me: "I dress like a boy, I talk like a girl" [off the track Miss America]. That's my style. I'm a tomboy, but I'm a girly girl. I just like boys' clothes sometimes. Well, most of the time. 

You also have that line 'See I wasn't born royal / I don't give an eff about a crown or a throne', on F*ck the Summer Up
My thing with that is…that's me saying I'm here to have fun. A lot people, they wanna be the best, and that's their thing. They go for each other's necks, they want the crown, to be king or whatever. Shout out to them; most of them are dope enough for it. But me? Consider me the friend at the party. I'm not coming for nobody's jugular, I'm not claiming to be the best - the princess, the king, the queen. None of that. I'll leave that to you guys who want that. And I wish you well. I'm here to have some fun with this, and to make you think while you dance. That's just what I do. 

And you produce all of your stuff, right?
Yeah, I produce. Sometimes I co-produce with people, but I have a very select few. There's only two and a possible three that I co-produce with, and that's very rare. For the most part what you're hearing is just me. 

When did you realise you were musically inclined?
All my life. I could always see music. It's nothing I had to fight to do.

What about lyrically? The way you phrase your lines…did you write poems as a kid or something?
[laughs] I can't even sit up here and try to make it seem like I was that deep of a kid. I do know that I've always liked doing this. It's something I just see or it gets in my head and it just has to get out.

Are you planning on doing shows?
Eh. We'll see. We'll see.

You have the LK-47 Part 1 and Part 2 mixtapes. Is an album next?
We'll see where God takes me from here. For now I'm just working, bouncing around here, there and everywhere. But you can always find me in Brooklyn. 

Listen here and follow here.


Text Kathy Iandoli
Photography Bibi Borthwick

Kathy Iandoli
music interview
bibi borthwick