Bass. Funky beats. Low croons. Laughter.
The crowd sways as Khalif Diouf, better known by his moniker Le1f, paces the stage, spitting game with the audience and joking between verses from Tree House. Le1f’s prolific output (Tree House is his third EP in 10 months, can I get a dayummm?) and unconventional production was reflected in a relatively big turnout for an early Wednesday night show at U Street Music Hall. The crowd matches Le1f’s murmurs to the chorus of “Hush Bb”, creating a slightly spooky and very wavy aura. He drops down to eye level with the crowd, grooving to his own beats as he gets closer to the front row, pouring his soul into their adoring eyes.
Feeling at ease with the crowd, he asks, “Yo, does anyone have a drink?” The crowd looks around and chuckles. No one hands him a drink. Audience members look around uncomfortably until an intoxicated man in plaid screams, “Yo, someone hand this man a damn drink!” Another man in a thin, ripped, white tank gingerly hands Le1f a cup full of amber liquid and Le1f quickly gulps it down before tossing the cup back in the crowd, launching into the next track. Tank Man has now been graced with the fabulosity that is uniquely Le1f.
Aside from Le1f’s impressive number of releases and intriguing production quality, something must be said about his commanding stage presence. Immediately following tracks from Dark York and Fly Zone, Le1f pauses and takes in the crowd of clearly dedicated fans. He slowly shimmies his hips, sliding his sweat-soaked HBA t-shirt off his body. The crowd jeers, with occasional shouts of “Take it all off!” In response, Le1f smiles seductively at the audience, wiggling his torso to incite more cheers. The crowd gets louder as his moves become more frenetic, before he bursts into one of his well-known dance sequences, dipping to the floor, tutting, shaking his hips, and then sliding and slithering all over the stage, equal parts graceful and sensual, entrancing the crowd, and bringing the energy to a high beyond. He even treats stage left to some luxurious body rolling on the speakers. Post-dance solo, the crowd loosens up, dancing, gyrating, and partying harder.
A brief pause akin to a drop in this performance of a song, the unmistakable chuckle, and the “Yo, yo, yo, yo, eyo!” hook of “Wut” from his previous EP, Dark York revs up the crowd as they chant back. The energy in the room peaks as everyone starts to dance in earnest. He follows with “Damn Son” and “Emulator” as he wraps up his set. Finishing up, he thanks the audience for coming out to support him. The hopeful crowd lingers for an encore but disperses as the set up crew climbs onto the stage. All in all, it was a great way to close out hump day and was a positive reception of his newest EP, Tree House, that can be streamed here.
Helen Jiang & Audrey Lee