“Being Black, we gotta learn how to wear a mask early,” Lekeli47 says as she directs her audiences to her skills. In truth, the bandana-wearing emcee is more of supershero.
“The West” carries a fascination of privileging experience and the highest forms of acquiring knowledge through what is seen.
When Europeans came into contact with people’s of the East and South who veiled themselves, they exoticized and even demonized those who practiced covering.
So, when Brooklyn bombshell, Lekeli47 launched her career wearing a balaclava, a veil she stills wears today, the occidental orientation kicks into high gear for some. Perhaps that’s why she is in some ways, situated as invisible by the mainstream. However, for her, she made a clear decision upon entering the arena—to be respected for her spit game rather than assessed by her looks.
While people focus on her multiple interpretations of a hybrid between a ski mask and the partial piece of a niqãb, Lekeli 47, with her signature gold teeth and Belizean-dirty South, gold caps, swerves through gender fluidity, feministic principles and bravado cleverly rolled into wordplay and metaphors.
In her delivery, Lekeli47 plays with switching dialects from urban Black vernacular to the hyperlocal, West Indian patois born in Brooklyn due to the many mixtures of Caribbean immigrants and their descendants. Her mystery is her superpower that she uses very well.
Playing hardball with the occidental eye, Lekeli’s videos provide representation of often maligned images of the mainstream. Like the voguing style of dance and performance that sprung out of Black gay-and-drag balls in New York to strip club voyeurism, she re-presents the veil far from Western stereotypes.
Now two full-length studio albums in with several appearances on soundtracks such as HBO comedy, “Insecure,” Lekeli47, ensures that the oft-hypersexual trope directed towards women who are emcees will never overshadow her works of art.
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