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Brooklyn rapper Leikeli47 wears a signature ski mask to keep the focus on her infectious, and sometimes experimentally raucous, rhyme and production styles. Drawing from hip-hop, R&B, and house, she shares her empowering, funny, sad, and thought-provoking experiences as a Black woman on her mixtapes, EPs, and trilogy of "Beauty Series" albums -- 2017's Wash & Set, 2018's Acrylic, and 2022's Shape Up -- all of which showcase her vibrance and versatility. Born in Virginia and raised there and in Brooklyn, Leikeli grew up shy, lonely, and bullied, but she knew she wanted to make music at an early age. Inspired by N.E.R.D, Lauryn Hill, Lil' Kim, Wu-Tang, and Jay-Z, she began creating songs in the early 2000s, using whatever she could to make beats (she once forged a rhythm by tapping on a microphone's pop filter). In 2009, she posted her songs online, eventually issuing 2010's self-produced mixtape LK-47, Pt. I and following it with 2013's EP The Flower Shop as Told by Brett Elway. By the time she delivered LK-47, Pt. II in 2014, she was opening for Skrillex and Diplo at Madison Square Garden. After signing to RCA, Leikeli47 released a self-titled EP on the label. Along with guesting on tracks by Baauer ("Day Ones"), AlunaGeorge ("Mean What I Mean"), and Pussy Riot ("Straight Outta Vagina"), in 2015 Jay-Z featured her single "Fuck the Summer Up" on a streaming playlist of the same name. That year also saw the release of LK-47, Pt. III. Leikeli47's music appeared multiple times on the soundtrack to HBO's series Insecure in 2017, the same year she issued her debut album for RCA, that September's Wash & Set. The first release in a trilogy exploring beauty, empowerment, and identity, the record won praise for its brash wordplay and eclectic sounds. Also in 2017, Leikeli performed with Pharrell at ComplexCon. Leikeli47 returned with November 2018's Acrylic, a harder-edged set of tracks featuring production by Clyde N Harry, Charlie Burrill, Mike Barney, and Gavin Williams. She supported the album with her first headlining tour, and offered the first taste of her third album with August 2020's single "Zoom." Shape Up, the final installment of the "Beauty Series" trilogy, appeared in May 2022. Executive produced by Harold Lilly and featuring production work by Barney, Bah, and others alongside Leikeli, the album ranged from brash, celebratory tracks to tender ballads and featured a cameo from fashion runway coach Miss J. Alexander.
© Heather Phares & Fred Thomas /TiVo


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