Pretty much since the first five minutes of Kool Herc's first party, rappers have been describing the urban decay of New York. But on experimental rapper LE1F's self-released (and self-packaged!) debut “Dark York,” he makes music that sounds the way urban decay looks. The young openly gay rapper (self-described gayngsta) has been kicking around on mixes and mash-ups for a while. He notably collaborated with Spank Rock and Das Racist, but on 'Dark York' he really comes into his own. The dense production borrows ideas from DJ Screw, Aphex Twin, Timbaland, and Prefuse 73. It's built from broken parts; a soup of warped beats, glitching machines, and synths powering down. It's the sound of the L Train breaking down again, and the terrifying sound your laptop makes just before it refuses to turn back on forever.
His lyrics are just as dense as the production. “Straight rappers about to hate me cuz I'm so good at this / Got 'em looking like a 404 page error glitch / Mad cuz I writing tough raps with my limp wrist.,” LE1F rhymes on the standout 'Bubbles.' It's a probably unintentional but long overdue response to Bad Brains' notoriously ugly 'Don't Blow Bubbles.' Equally comfortable making geek references as throwing down, the l33t rapper has a whole track based around comparing critics to a Gameboy emulator (Cause they're fake. Though I take issue with him comparing himself to both Mario and Donkey Kong in the same line. Pick one, man. This ain't Double Dash.)
Don't be fooled: his music may be steeped in troll culture, but this isn't the novelty nerdcore of Optimus Rhyme or Mega Ran. LE1F doesn't make music exclusively for the Comic Con set, he's just one of the few rappers who acknowledges the technology assisted daily life of the 21st century. Though peppered with geek references, the majority of his rhymes are about homophobes and being stereotyped. “Most shit doesn't show my POV / Just sequined sidekicks up on the TV / 'Cause the word faggot's OK with the FCC / Yo, say it to my face and get pimp slapped please.” The track '&Gommorah' is a face-melting ode to banjee culture.
At 21 tracks, the tape sometimes feels like too much of a good thing, but man, what a good thing. It's available now as a free download from LE1F's Soundcloud page. Definitely check this out, before he takes over the world.
Words by Nathan Leigh