Leikeli47 Celebrates Black Feminism and Empowerment From Behind a Mask on 'Wash & Set'

Leikeli47 Celebrates Black Feminism and Empowerment From Behind a Mask on 'Wash & Set'
Photo: Nikko Lamere
There's a lot to be said about Brooklyn-born artist Leikeli47, but for fans, it may not all be said at once. Since her first single, "Miss America," in 2012, Leikeli (pronounced Leh-kay-lee) has spent the past five years making music, avoiding press, and wearing a balaclava to hide her identity.
 
This cloak of anonymity centres on her determination to have people fall in love with her music above anything else. "I like to reveal a lot about myself in my music," she tells Exclaim! "It's just something I really want you guys to grow with me, get to know me through my music [because] to be honest with you, that's all I have."
 
Leikeli47's entire career has taken pages from both modern-day and traditional feminism, balancing positive outlooks with everyday frustrations, while plotting to take over the world. Whatever smorgasbord of emotions that entails can be found throughout Wash & Set, her 14-track debut, released September 8 on Hardcover/RCA.
 
"Wash & Set is a celebration of new growth," she explains. "It's a celebration of the new growth to come and the new growth that I've already experienced as an artist. Every day I feel like we get a chance to wash and set in our lives. We go through so much where there's love, hurt, pain, confusion, and that's all it's about, just washing and setting, and keeping it moving."
 
From speaking of box braids, bundles, baby hairs and edges, Wash & Set also serves as a celebratory diary entry of women, specifically their hair, a physical characteristic that has long been chastised by mainstream society depending on its texture. "[It's about] celebrating you, celebrating your kinks, celebrating your straightness, celebrating your braids — just celebrating a woman. The black woman, the Puerto Rican woman, the white woman, the Asian woman — us celebrating us and our hair. Our hair has so many stories and so much depth behind it in all areas, in all households, and that's just what it is."
 
In the same breath, Leikeli also recognizes the power of music for black women in particular, saying, "We go through a lot, and with that, you gotta [find] that positive side of it, that positive aspect, and celebrate that, and within that, you find yourself being carefree and not giving a damn. I'm grateful that I've had women before me to help me embrace that and to witness that happening, because it also helps you and encourages you as a black woman."
 
Leikeli's music doesn't just push positivity, but also mirrors her own daily mantras. "One thing I don't let myself do is sit and sulk in any kind of negativity or anything that will hinder me flourishing or climbing," she notes. "I'm glad that I'm at a place where I can brush a lot off, and am able to put that in the music, and hopefully have that message and that energy sit on someone else so they can start practicing their muscle."
 
Despite being physically masked, it's clear that Leikeli47 has never been more visible. "Wherever it is that I end up, I just know that I'm gonna happy, I'm gonna be grateful and I'm gonna work my ass off doing it."