Leikeli47

Music

NY

Leikeli47’s stunning new album, Shape Up, is both an ending and a beginning. Quite literally, it is the finale of the trilogy she’s been working on since her career took off. It began in 2017 with her debut album, Wash & Set. The second of the three-album run, Acrylic, was released just a year later. But between that project and Shape Up, Leikeli took her foot off the gas and instead focused on personal growth, health, and refining a positive mental makeup. The result is her strongest album to date, a stunning proclamation of individual self-love and general Black love, an exclamation point on one of the strongest three-album runs in modern rap. It’s bound to usher in a new era for the cerebral, whimsical artist. “Shape Up truly feels like my first album. It's the craziest feeling,” says Leikeli on the new project. “I feel like this is my first time out and no one knows me. I'm finally about to embark on a journey where I'm diving into my fans and they’re diving into me. It’s a fun process.” This is the origin story that serves as an antithesis to wrapping up her trilogy. With Shape Up, Leikeli is bursting at the seams with creativity, like a newly unfrozen faucet beginning to flow with water. Sure, Shape Up is the last album in Leikeli’s Beauty series, one fans have come to know and love as an intimate document of a girl growing up, but it’s also a brand new beginning. It’s sparkling, shining, and fresh, which is something Leikeli brings to everything she makes. This confidence was hard earned, though. After Acrylic, Leikeli had lost her way, and couldn’t see where she belonged both in her community and within the music industry. Self-reflection is hard, and the work wore on her, but Leikeli emerged from this hibernation with a newfound joy that bounces off every note of Shape Up. “When you're going through it, you don't have the mindset to just look up and appreciate the work. It took me a while to realize this, but Acrylic was my celebration of the struggle, but I only know that now,” explains the LA-based MC. “Shape Up is the defining moment where it just all made sense. I looked at the things that didn't fold me and I just said, ‘I'm here.’” Shape Up is a celebration of the work while the work is still happening. It’s what makes the album so tremendous. There’s a passion for struggle that is never exploitative. Leikeli made it out of the shit, and she knows you can too. Take “LL Cool J,” which marries her love of Black culture with her deep knowledge as a rap historian. She sings, “When I walk by, tell me what do you see? You see a young LL Cool J.” The minimal beat kicks in, giving Leikeli plenty of space to showcase her one-of-a-kind flow that she performs in a knowing half-whisper. It’s playful but unendingly serious at the same time, a balancing act that confirms Leikeli as a technically brilliant MC. Then there’s “Carry Anne,” which is a defiant, raunchy feminist anthem destined to be the song of the summer. Over electro synths, handclaps, and bouncy bass, Leikeli sounds like she’s creating a manifesto for radical self-love in real time as she unfurls quintessential aphorisms like, “Baby make ‘em play by your rules.” It’s simple, but all good truths are. Shape Up is a reflection of Leikeli47 becoming great. She’s proud of the work and has no problem celebrating the grind. Confidence isn’t egoism. Leikeli is loud about her success because she knows what it took to get there. “I wanted to be better than anything you saw me do, anything you heard me do. I just wanted to be better. I wanted to be better sonically. I wanted to be a better human being,” she says. Shape Up is better, yes, but it’s also her best. Lyrically, musically, rhythmically, and more, Shape Up is Leikeli47 at an absolute peak. There are bound to be more summits on the horizon.
Leikeli47