Ever since last year, music review/hipster rant/legitimate journalism website Pitchfork has been all over Le1f aka Khalif Diouf ’11. They gave a solid review to his 2012 mixtape Dark York, saying “there’s a lot of fun to be had listening to Diouf take on rap taboos with a glint of mischief.” Because, of course, no conversation can be had without somewhere mentioning Le1f’s sexual preferences. And, yes, those sort of themes and jokes pop up throughout his videos and mixtapes, but underneath all of the discussion about “queer rap” are some high-quality club-ready tracks— and more and more, that’s becoming the focus of all this hype.
Le1f, receiving much love and coverage from this blog, just dropped another mixtape, and not surprisingly, the Internet is all over it. Fly Zone is 13 tracks produced by 13 different producers, but Le1f is always the star of the show. “Spa Day” feels like Le1f is having the most fun, and he dodges in and out of quick, sharp-tongued rapping, even slipping in a “mazel tov.” On “Coins,” he laughs, messes with rhythms, and drops references to the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sex Pistols. But throughout Fly Zone, Le1f and his lyrics are in charge: “My jokes are funny, but my money’s not.”
After the jump, read a few critics’ words on the mixtape, and then listen to the whole thing yourself—Fly Zone is streaming on Soundcloud and free to download.
Duncan Cooper, for The Fader:
On first listen, with LE1F’s unusual gargle of a voice sitting clearer and higher in the mix than on his mind-boggling debut mixtape, Dark York, Fly Zone is just a hair more straightforwardly hip-hop.
Miles Raymer, for Pitchfork:
All in all, Fly Zone is an epically audacious record, boiling down to essentially a 13-track demand from Le1f to be allowed access to a mainstream audience without sacrificing a shred of the identity that sets him apart from nearly every rapper a mainstream audience has been drawn to.
Tom Brelhan, for Stereogum:
I guess I should probably acknowledge that I have zero vogue-ball experience, that I’ve spent a ton of my life listening to snarlingly heteronormative rap music, and that an aesthetic like his probably required a level of ear-adjustment that I just wasn’t ready to give it. I have none of those issues with Fly Zone; Le1f has effectively met me halfway. His rap voice is sharper and more defined, further out to the front of the mix. And the beats are more straightforward — catchy, even.