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As we approach the quintessential American holiday of Thanksgiving, we want to explore this question: What is American music? That’s what we’ve been asking musicians as part of our occasional series exploring the great American soundscape. Today, rapper and producer Le1f shares his list of what “American music” means to him.
“The thread between all these songs is that there is a sense of the black American dream,” he told Here & Now. “That’s what really makes these songs American to me, and what makes them folk songs – that they speak to these relatable struggles and they’re from the voices of African-American people that I can really relate to.”
Le1f grew up in Manhattan studying ballet. While attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut, he began producing hip hop with the group Das Racist. His most recent album, called “Riot Boi,” has been called “forward thinking” with wordplay and writing that explores what it means to be a rapper, a New Yorker and an African-American gay man.
“He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)” by The Crystals (1962, written by Gerry Goffin, Carol King, Phil Spector)
“Unpretty” by TLC (1999, FanMail)
“Bad Religion” by Frank Ocean (2012, Channel Orange)
“Taxi” by Le1f (2015, Riot Boi)