The Evolution of Le1f in 5 Videos

By Spooxsie

Riot Boi. The title of Khalif Diouf’s debut album (released under his soon-to-be retired pseudonym, Le1f) invokes the power of ‘riot grrrl’, a female empowerment and feminist consciousness movement that started in the punk scene in the ‘90s. Sounds like he has something to say. The first song further sets the tone: “‘I’ma be me, who are you bein’?” he asks as the track ends, suggesting we are about to find out who he is.

Khalif Diouf is a rapper from Manhattan, a producer who runs the label Camp and Street, and a Wesleyan-trained ballet and modern dancer and choreographer. He is a performer who challenges gender norms and homophobia, and advocates for transgender rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. He is an artist who is constantly evolving.

We trace Khalif’s evolution as Le1f in five videos, from his first mixtape, Dark York, to his politically-charged album, Riot Boi.

“Wut”

Dark York, 2012

The song is catchy. The dancefloor hit that went viral has a video that will draw you in with Le1f’s personality alone. When you finally manage to move your eyes away from him, you might notice he’s included both male and female dancers. You’ll definitely notice Le1f sitting on the lap of an oiled-up white man wearing a Pikachu mask. Le1f has arrived.

“Boom”

Hey, 2014

And boom. Like a camp homage to Kelis, the video features dancing in a diner, overt sexual references, and hot boxing a Jeep. It’s loud. It’s unapologetic. It’s Le1f doing his own thing.

“Koi”

Riot Boi, 2015

Released just before the album, the video screams summertime insanity. It has giant, disembodied sparkly lips; floating googly eyes; rolling and bouncing eye balls; oversized seaweed. The colour-changing spots on the koi fish swimming in the sky are witty abstractions to the song’s hook, “you should watch what you’re saying / because your mouth is crazy / got me acting shady / and feeling really coy”. This video presents Le1f as anything but coy.

“Rage”

Riot Boi, 2015

Sometimes music needs to stand alone in a simplistic video. Following “Hi”, the first song on the album in which he asks, “I’ma be me, who are you bein’?”, “Rage” hits your senses with a politically-charged missive. It switches between the light and poppy sounds of someone who just wants to have a good time to the angry and hard sounds of someone who’s had enough. It’s supposed to be unsettling. Le1f is commanding the room.  

“Umami / Water”

Riot Boi, 2015

The choreography. The clothes. The beauty. Like the title, the song has two parts, with the video starting in an airport hangar before it transitions into its sensual and dreamy sounds and visuals. The colours. The freshness. The mystery. This is the final video he will release as Le1f, and it has us captivated. What’s next?