The Rapper and Hedi Slimane Muse Leikeli47 Eats Interview for Breakfast
You may not recognize Leikeli47 on the street—in fact, nobody would. But you’ve likely heard her music. The rapper and producer, who wears a mask during public appearances, has maintained a low profile that has allowed her music—joyful, genre-bending hip-hop—to speak for itself. After spending years posting tracks online and subsisting on SoundCloud likes, the Brooklyn-based musician’s no-fucks-given exuberance caught the attention of Jay-Z in 2015 (the track in question, a warm weather anthem titled “Fuck the Summer Up,” was the namesake of his inaugural Tidal playlist). In 2017, Leikeli47 released her debut album, a hip-hop rule breaker titled Wash & Set, and quickly followed up with 2018’s critically-acclaimed Acrylic, which included the Issa Rae-approved banger “Girl Blunt.” This year, hot off the release of her new single “Chitty Bang,” Leikeli47 crossed paths with Celine’s creative director, Hedi Slimane. The photographer and designer was so captivated by the rapper’s sound and mystique that he couldn’t resist the urge to photograph her. To learn more about Celine’s latest muse, we sat down with Leikeli47 to discuss her journey from SoundCloud to festival stage, working with Hedi, and eating Interview for breakfast.
INTERVIEW: Where are you right now, Leikeli?
LEIKELI47: I’m in Los Angeles.
INTERVIEW: And what are you doing?
LEIKELI47: I am creating, creating, creating. Non-stop. I’m having fun with the fact that I just released “Chitty Bang,” and I just did this amazing shoot with none other than Hedi Slimane. It’s all been such a whirlwind. Now it’s all about mentally preparing.
INTERVIEW: What was the shoot like?
LEIKELI47: Working with Hedi was so eye-opening. I couldn’t believe I was even on his radar to begin with, given the megastars that he usually photographs. Knowing that I’m in company with that is still sinking in. We talked about everything from Foxy Brown to the Beach Boys, and the clothes were beautiful.
INTERVIEW: How do you unwind when you’re not working?
LEIKELI47: I’m always working, but that’s okay for me. Music is the entire purpose of my life, that’s just the truth of it. Anywhere that I turn, there’s some kind of inspiration that seeps into my art. That’s the beautiful part about art. Music is my hobby, it’s my job, it’s my breakfast, it’s my dinner. The fact that I live and breathe it is the reason I got here in the first place, and I always try to remember that.
INTERVIEW: I was going to ask you what you ate for breakfast today, but it sounds like you already told me.
LEIKELI47: I’m having you for breakfast. We’re having each other for breakfast. That’s a beautiful thing.
INTERVIEW: What’s one surprising place you’ve looked to for inspiration?
LEIKELI47: I once left a meeting with an inspiring woman, and on the way out, I noticed she had this beautiful colorful vase. I don’t know what it was about it, but it made me want to write a song, and that’s exactly what I did. I found so much inspiration in this still thing. It was just sitting there, but for some reason it just kept calling to me. We were having this weird conversation. I mean, I was having a moment with this vase! The song I wrote about it is called “Two Times a Charm,” and it’s one of my earlier songs. It was one of those songs that first drew the people to me.
INTERVIEW: What are three words you would use to describe your sound, your music?
LEIKELI47: I would say it’s bold. It’s brash. It knows how to be exactly what it is. It represents individuality. It’s time to really shuffle the cards a bit and just have some fun. That’s what I hope my music brings to the table.
INTERVIEW: Tell us where you grew up.
LEIKELI47: I am originally a Virginia girl, but I also grew up in Brooklyn. I was one of those kids that never stayed in one place very long. I’m glad that I grew up that way, because traveling up and down highway 95 introduced me to so much—from house music to club music. Growing up in the South, and then being thrust into big city life during the summers, that journey built my sound.
INTERVIEW: What are some of your favorite Brooklyn spots?
LEIKELI47: The Williamsburg Bridge is definitely one of my favorite places, because I’m a BMXer. I ride bikes. That bridge was always sweet for me, because it dropped me right into my friends’ neighborhoods on the Lower East Side.
INTERVIEW: How did you get discovered?
LEIKELI47: No one has ever asked me that. My story starts in 2009, when SoundCloud was just starting to pop off. I started putting things out there, and would immediately take them down, because I couldn’t bear when they’d only get a few likes. One day I just decided to leave it all up, and the streaming numbers grew. This was my first mixtape, LK-47 Part I. From there, I dropped my first album, and the buzz really picked up. It was out of nowhere—suddenly I was getting knocks on my studio door. I built such a dope relationship with my fans, and it’s been on and popping ever since.
INTERVIEW: What is your relationship to fashion?
LEIKELI47: Knowing who I am and what I bring to the clothes, that’s always been my approach to fashion. When I was growing up, I thought fashion was basically all this shiny stuff that was out of my reach. I grew into myself, I began to understand that fashion was about discovering some sense of individual style. The masks I wear are inspired by these balaclavas I used to make with my brothers and neighbors growing up. For the shoot, Hedi and I cut up shirts and silk scarves. We had so much fun on that set.
INTERVIEW: How do you think you ended up on Hedi’s radar?
LEIKELI47: I would guess that it’s because—and I don’t mean this in a cocky way—but we speak the same language. I think there’s a rebel spirit in us both, that middle finger here and there, that speaks to his taste. His favorite song is “Girl Blunt.” He was very adamant about us playing it on set.
INTERVIEW: What do you think is the first impression that you give to people?
LEIKELI47: I probably freak people out. They see this person in this mask, I’m sure their first impression is, “Ahh!”
INTERVIEW: What was the last dance floor that you were on?
LEIKELI47: Last dance floor that I was on was at my very first show in New York City, on October 31st, 2021. That was my first and only show since the pandemic, and we had a ball. We packed it out.
INTERVIEW: What’s the biggest perk of becoming famous?
LEIKELI47: I don’t feel famous, but I would definitely say the biggest perk is protecting my privacy. I can be in that mask on stage, and then we can be side-by-side at Coachella and you’ve got no idea who I am. The mask is a bold choice, I know. My friends laugh at me, but I get to live life just how I want to because of it. I’m completely free.