I found myself wondering aloud why Leikeli47 isn’t more of a star yet, so taken was I with the first spin of the Brooklyn MC’s second LP Acrylic, her second in a planned self care activity-themed trilogy following last year’s tightly executed Wash & Set. There are admittedly some marketing challenges: her name could go multiple ways (say “luh-KAY-lee”), and several years into her career, she is still only ever photographed wearing a mask.
But she’s quickly building up a prolific body of work. After 3 high-energy mixtapes, a memorable and highly co-signed breakout single in the MIA-reminiscent “Fuck the Summer Up,” and a strong reception for Wash & Set (led by winning singles “Miss Me” and “Money”), Acrylic finds 47 firmly coming into her own. A daring producer with lots of ideas, she’s able to match a deep toolkit of flows to the variances of her beats, slipping in and out of cadences, perhaps further fueling her public anonymity. But shifts in tones and styles make for renewably interesting listening, as a run of potential favorites unspool. The banging dancehall of “Tic Boom,” trappish goodness of “No Reload,” and hypnotic workaholic anthem “Iron Mike” are all sticky and hard as the substance the album’s named after. Her seeming mastery of multiple club styles could make her beloved like Missy, provider of feel-good but still tough partyist energy, and fulfill the promise of a multi-talented vocalist with omnivorous tastes that Azaelia Banks has thus far been distracted from achieving.
As a rapper, she’s got this year’s most cool and drily confident flow this side of Vince Staples, but some of the LP’s brightest joys and biggest surprises come when she sings. “Top Down” is an undeniably fun slo-mo hips mover with Prince and D’Angelo accents, while “Hoyt and Schermerhorn” finds her belting a loved-up melodic hook on an easy skankin’ tribute to her favorite BK train station. She impressivey ends the album with “In My Eyes,” inspirational gospel-funk that goes full-blown epic but then is over in just over two minutes, encouraging an immediate dip back in to the top of the tracklist.
Since I’ve already done a shameless amount of comparing Leikeli47 to other artists, I do want to note that in this year of Cardi vs. Nicki, Acrylic handily takes the tiara for 2018’s queen-bee MC LP (with apologies to Tierra Whack—I need more than 16 minutes, I’m sorry!). How quickly media focus adapts to her expectation-defying style may well depend on the word getting spread by fans, due to her limitations in being easily presented visually, and not yet having established herself as a live act.
But she’s coming from a strong foundation as a producer and concept-driven artist, tailoring her sound (“minimal, but still has that boom to it”) for maximum moveability, and instilling it with social consciousness (as on “CIAA” here) and relatable on-mike charisma. How anyone could come in contact with the level of talent on display on Acrylic, with its array of smart, fun colorful styles, and still rank Invasion of Privacy ahead of it is a head-slapper to me.