Le1f // Dark York // April 24 // Greenhead
The revolution might not getting televised but it’s all over the internet and it’s too big to ignore anymore. Hip hop is homophobic and that’s that, old story is old. Luckily for all of us, this year the gears are turning and were getting some acts that are getting appreciated for who they are. Frank Ocean is the biggest success story. Coming out has never been so tasteful before and hey, it helps that his debut LP is some of the best story telling R&B released in recent memory. New York’s Le1f on the other hand is much less subtle.
Dark York came out a couple of months and caused a stir in some circles. Partly due to Pitchfork running a report on New York’s queer hip hop scene a month beforehand, partly because his new mixtape that drops on Heems’ of Das Racist Fame label Greenhead. Mostly because of the video to his recent single Wut, which can’t really be described, just watch it, well worth your time. Dark York is just like the video then, extroverted, proud of who it is and lacking in anything that can be described as tasteful. In a way it feels like a more ADD version of that recent Azealia Banks tape. It features hip hop beats and rhythms but other than that it aims for the internet era dancefloor where anything goes. Good number of tracks and their titles here aim for that seapunk aesthetic but aside from little similarities to others, Dark York is really one of a kind when it comes to hip hop this year.
One would expect Le1f to be as flamboyant and in your face as he can. His rapping style is reminiscent of Danny Brown in the sense of rapping with a low voice just to break into yelps and rated R screams. It’s quite underwhelming that, good production from a number of different producers aside, Le1f’s vocals are altered by effects which sometimes makes it quite difficult to understand what he is ranting about. Luckily the clearer moments on here are glorious. Snacks is one of the highlights on here. Le1f delivers a DGAF rant that sounds like something Kitty Pryde would come up with if she actually had any rapping skills. Even if Le1f doesn’t hit as hard as you’d like him too sometimes, he’s still the best when he relies on the power of the word. There’s a good number of tracks that feature a hook which is made up from his vocals cut up and looped over and over again. This takes away from the possible climax on tracks like Go In. Dark York couldn’t be further away from trap or mainstream hip hop while still using keyboards. It’s just as colourful though. Wut is the highlight here sounding like a track that M.I.A. would die for while the follow up Yup is not that different to the stuff that Diplo used to produce back in the 00s. Dark York is both colouful and dark, warped but so much fun too.
For everyone that is still out there in denial, it’s time to face that queer rap is coming over and won’t be an underground phenomenon for much longer. And why not? Le1f’s Dark York might feel like many colours of the rainbow trying to overpower each other but the man behind the mic is much more interesting and funny than your average Young Money or Maybach drone. It’s a good thing when your early mixtapes have enough good ideas to fill an album. Dark York might be overstuffed but it has those weird qualities that you rarely find on free mixtapes: disregard for boundaries and extended shelf life.