New York rapper and producer Le1f burst from hip-hop and dance music scenes with his avant-garde brews of velvet- and acid-tinged textures, laced with forward reflections on queerness and blackness and his delicious roasts of would-be enemies. With a background in ballet and modern dance, Khalif Diouf returned to his hometown scenes, building a portfolio of barbed wire beats warped with lush dance music and carving out a scene among queer hip-hop artists, along with Mykki Blanco, Princess Nokia, and others, with acclaimed mixtapes like “Dark York” and debut EP “Hey.”
On his 2015 full-length debut “Riot Boi,” featuring production from Junglepussy and SOPHIE, among others, Le1f subverts hip-hop’s heteronormative escapades, weaving his experience with racism in the clubs and dating pools into an addictive, pleasure-seeking self-confidence. On breakthrough single “Koi,” his playful flow wraps itself into perfect burns (“I wish you'd go away, abracadabra / Princess Kitana, Kamekameha / You can't get up on my radar / I think you need to go to a swag seminar”). But he relies on that self-defense for his survival; on “Taxi,” he addresses those “silent slurs” from denied cab rides and potential partners with his own “love, no compromise.” Those expressions twist into visceral meditations on exploitation and racist policing; on album closer “Change,” featuring Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, Le1f challenges a higher power’s allowance of the deaths of unarmed black boys and men: “So I don’t really know who should make that call / To say who is and who is not safe for work / To remove anyone’s life from this Earth / Uniforms got you thinking you a athlete / But it’s not a competition, if you ask me.”
On 2018’s “Blue Dream” EP, Le1f bends familiar sticky trap beats into his world, flexing 8-bit video game blips into bounce music (“Fatty Acid”) and spiking rap’s sonic mainstream with his inclusive vision, whether or not the rest of the world is ready to tune in.
Tickets $16 in advance, $18 day of the show. Le1f opens for neo-pop-punk duo The Garden, and Machine Girl also performs at 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9 at Republic NOLA, 828 S. Peters St., (504) 528-8282; www.republicnola.com.