Q&A: Le1f Talks The Influence Of Ballroom And Working With Das Racist, Spank Rock, And Nguzunguzu


Le1f, "Mind Body"

That being said, how much do you think that ball culture does influence your music? Is it "&Gommorah" that samples "The Ha"?

Yeah, and there are some other things that are rhythmically that—maybe two or three examples across the entire mixtapes—and there's a lot of slang from gay black and latino New York culture. I wrote my undergraduate thesis—I got my degree in dance—and my thesis was on alternative performances that were specifically reactionary things, like butoh, voguing and radical performance art from the Fluxus time, and it's definitely something that informs my music and how I want it to feel. I want it to feel cathartic for gay people and black people and combinations and everyone else, to some extent. I want it to feel like being at a ball, but it's not necessarily something you'd vogue to.

Beyond the balls, I'm also curious—and I don't think the article really got into this—is how you see this New York Queer Rap scene overlapping with the broader New York Queer Nightlife scene? Are they distinct at this point or are they a bit looser?

No, they're amorphous, and they're not really scenes. I mean, me and House of Ladosha, we've all known each other for years, and we all go to the same parties and have a lot of mutual friends in general. And we've booked a lot of shows together along with a lot of other people that may not be so obviously in the "genre." Then there's Ghe20 Gothik and P.S.1 who have played an integral part in the New York underground culture that exists.

It's really post-genre, you know? There's specific influences and trends that happen, but rap and hip-hop are just an element of what's going on. By definition we are rapping, but it's really all related and interconnected. Like, Zebra Katz used to be in House of Ladosha.

You work with Nguzunguzu a lot on the tape—how did that partnership come about?

I accosted them. They'd been playing Ghe20 Gothik forever, since before it was a thing. Like, the first time I went there it was definitely to see Nguzu play. I knew Kingdom in my high school years, before he moved to L.A., and I found about them through him, so when I finally got back to New York and they were DJing I accosted them, basically.

Daniel [Pineda, of Nguzunguzu] had this MySpace that wasn't promoted. It was just on the top friends of Nguzunguzu, and it just had the beat for "hate2wait" and I asked him if he could send it to me, and he was really down.

Have you visited them in L.A. at all?

No! I played a Total Freedom party in L.A., but they weren't there. And I missed them when they were here last.

So wrapping this up, besides those that we've already mentioned, what are some of your favorite parties or nights?

Could it be, like, Spank? Ghe20 Goth1k? Greedhead parties? It's more crews at this point who have one-offs whenever they can.

And what have you been listening to lately?

I've been listening to House of Ladosha. I've been listening to lounge music, for some reason. Like actual, '90s lounge music.

Any lounge bands in particular?

I don't know the names, just a lot of mixes. Physical Therapy has some really good, loungey mixes. So I've been listening to that, a lot of Mykki Blanco, Lakutis (another Greedhead rapper), obviously A$AP and Spaceghost, and C¥bergiga and Boody. And a lot of lounge mixes.

Le1f plays Dirtywerk tonight at Littlefield, with Venus X, Malaria, Vly House, and Peewee.

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