WebHeader_Grove.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Join as a $13-a-month sustainer and get the retro NHPR t-shirt!

Rapper Le1f Finds Struggle And Moral Diversity In American Music

Le1f is a hip-hop producer and rapper from New York. His latest album is "Riot Boi." (le1f.com)
Le1f is a hip-hop producer and rapper from New York. His latest album is "Riot Boi." (le1f.com)

As we approach the quintessential American holiday of Thanksgiving, we want to explore this question: What is American music? That’s what we’ve been asking musicians as part of our occasional series exploring the great American soundscape. Today, rapper and producer Le1f shares his list of what “American music” means to him.

“The thread between all these songs is that there is a sense of the black American dream,” he told Here & Now. “That’s what really makes these songs American to me, and what makes them folk songs – that they speak to these relatable struggles and they’re from the voices of African-American people that I can really relate to.”

Le1f grew up in Manhattan studying ballet. While attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut, he began producing hip hop with the group Das Racist. His most recent album, called “Riot Boi,” has been called “forward thinking” with wordplay and writing that explores what it means to be a rapper, a New Yorker and an African-American gay man.

Le1f’s American Music Playlist

“He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)” by The Crystals (1962, written by Gerry Goffin, Carol King, Phil Spector)

[Youtube]

“Unpretty” by TLC (1999, FanMail)

[Youtube]

“Bad Religion” by Frank Ocean (2012, Channel Orange)

“Taxi” by Le1f (2015, Riot Boi)

[Youtube]

Guest

  • Khalif Diouf, known by his stage name Le1f, is a hip-hop producer and rapper from New York. His latest album is Riot Boi. He tweets @le1f.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.