She hails from NYC, counts Missy Elliot and Coco Chanel among her heroes, and dropped her debut album ‘Trinity’ at the age of 21 in the Fall of 2016. Rapper Leaf is one artist to watch, especially because her music and her personal mantra embody the type of feminism and female empowerment we need to see more of in hip hop. She’s been signed to Fool’s Gold Record since 2015, and the music she has already released packs a punch.
In an interview with Nylon magazine, Leaf talks about her thoughts on feminism, intersectionality and women embracing their sexuality away from the shaming messages often targeted at them. Before she even knew what the movement was about, Leaf says feminism was ingrained in her life from a young age, dealing with girl-on-girl bullying at school.
“I’ve always been a strong-willed woman, someone who’s highly opinionated and not a pushover. I’ve always loved to stand up for other people because I feel like if we don’t stand up for each other, then no one is going to stand up for you. No one ever stood up for me, so I always wanted that back,” she said.
She started a female collective called MBM, which stands for “Magnet Bitch Movement” as well as “Money Before Men”, and says it was designed to empower girls to be entrepreneurs, chasing careers and success instead of guys. She tells Nylon’s Sydney Gore that she started reading feminist literature since she was 16, and is on a continual journey to define what the movement is to her.
Having a music platform to share her thoughts with the world, she says now is a more important time than ever for women to raise their voices, especially in light of the recent US presidential election.
“I believe in equality of humanity, equality of all things on this earth, animal rights. It’s very important for women to have a voice, to feel comfortable, to feel safe, to feel like their needs are being met at a minimal base. Even in the most minimal way, women still feel like they are in jeopardy every single day,” she said.
“I think that all segregation is bad segregation, whether it’s segregation of sexes, segregation of race, segregation of identity, whatever you identify as. I think that sometimes as humans we categorize ourselves for comfort. It’s probably a nice thing to feel like you’re around people who are just like you. But to cast out people who aren’t like you is 100 percent wrong,” she said.
One of the reasons feminism became such a focus for her early on in life was because of a bad sexual experience. It made her realize the importance of affirming women’s sexuality and standing against harmful messages related to sex and women’s bodies.
“It made me want to educate myself on what sex meant for me as a young woman [and] other young women. I read this one feminist book on sex and how being sexually pleased is not a bad thing, how women deserve pleasure as much as men do, and how women are constantly shamed from sexual pleasure in many religions, traditions, and parts of the world,” she said.
It helped her recognize the value in a movement that is a deliberate counter-message to what the rest of society tells women.
“It’s empowering women to feel good about themselves because we’re in a society that is constantly saying, ‘You’re too this and you’re too that, and this is not good and this is ugly, and that makes you ugly, and if you’re a woman, then you have to do these things’,” she said.
Part of her stance on sexuality also helped shape her perspective on the commercialization of feminism, which we are seeing a lot of well-known brands co-opt for their own capitalistic gain.
“I think that it’s beautiful when anything is commercialized because it means that it’s gotten to the masses. However, I think that there needs to be a little bit of reform in the messages that we’re giving young girls. I don’t think that ‘don’t slut-shame’ means walk around naked…I think that the message is ‘be who you authentically are.’ I think that’s the only message we should give to girls,” she said.
Naturally, she was asked a question about the Nicki Minaj-Remy Ma beef, and Leaf says its a shame that the underlying message of there only being enough room for one woman to claim a seat at the table is dominant.
“I think what they’re fighting about is so idiotic. There can be more than one rap queen. There can be more than one rap king, and I think that that’s been proven. Why is it possible for so many men to coexist in hip-hop, but it’s so difficult for women to coexist in hip-hop? Why are women always compared to each other rather than just being themselves in their own lane?” she pondered.
The MBM side of Leaf certainly is on display when she talks about the rapper feud, as her own experience has shown it is more important for women to stick together and stand up for each other.
“It makes me so angry when I see other girls hate on each other, whether it’s about their eyebrows not being on fleek or their bodies aren’t cute enough. Stop slut-shaming, because regardless of what you think a woman should be doing with her body, it’s not yours,” she said.
Also, we love her DGAF reasons for citing Coco Chanel as one of her heroes: “To be in the 1920’s and decide that you’re going to cut your hair off and wear f—ing pants and mini dresses, and you don’t give a f— about what anybody says, and you don’t need a man, and everything should be black. She just didn’t give a f—! That’s my motto: less f—s, more art.”
Less rap feuds, more sisterhood and women dominating the genre, we say! Her track ‘Nada’ is a female anthem, she told W Magazine when it was released.
“I want to encourage girls to start their own businesses and be entrepreneurs,” she continued. “Like, f— the haters. You can do shit because you’re poppin’. Everything is on fleek, you feel me? I just wanted to make a song that you could put on and feel… dope,” she said. You can watch the music video below.