Leikeli47’s Wash & Set has finally arrived and it goes hard. The masked rapper from New York City released her debut today after a buildup including standout singles “Miss Me,” “OMC,” and “2nd Fiddle,” putting out a video for “M I L K” as well today to celebrate the momnt.
Leikeli’s strategy of concealing her facial features to focus attention squarely on her music where it belongs is hardy novel — after all, MF Doom’s been doing something similar (albeit for entirely different reasons) for nearly twenty years now. But her rationale for doing so highlights the struggles that women have had breaking into hip-hop on the strength of their skills since the turn of the century.
Even Cardi B, who is currently blowing up so much that she’s been positioned by fans and industry insiders as a direct rival to predecessor Nicki Minaj (who also uses sex appeal as a selling point), started her early career as an exotic dancer and prominently appears in clothes designed to attract attention to her physical attributes as much as her lyrical ones. She even raps about her past as a stripper and her latest guest verse alongside G-Eazy is filled with raunchy allusions to her sexual prowess.
Leikeli47’s approach is refreshing because, by redirecting the focus away from her physical features, she allows herself the creative room to explore topics like friendships/relationships (“2nd Fiddle”), or brushing off haters (“Miss Me”) without having to reference her looks. It forces her to be more witty, and it gives listener pause to consider her words more than her gender. She can only really be judged on the quality of her music — which is really good. Besides, cultivating an air of mystery to drive speculation has worked for a number of artists in the past, like The Weeknd, Your Old Droog, and Jay Electronica. Leikeli47 may not be for everybody, but at least listeners have to give her an unbiased chance before writing her off based on her looks, and many will do so simply out of curiosity.
Check out Wash & Set for yourself below, and let us know what you think.