Interview: Leaf on being timeless, female-empowerment and “Slick” single

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orn and raised in New York City, Leaf is self-described as someone who lays R&B and Rap vocals and produces from time to time. When she’s not making music, she’s running and designing for a clothing line called “MBM,” which is a female-empowerment brand. It stands for Magnet Bitch Movement, and as long as you’re an intelligent, young female, you can join the team. Which brought me to my first question about the top she’s wearing in the picture below.


Is it available? Like, is it on sale?

This one? No, but I literally just cut this up. Like, sewed it together at the top. And just, this is all just a t-shirt. All I did was sew right here. It’s nothing else. You can see right here from the back.

Wild.

Yeah.

Laughing.

That’s neat.

Thank you.

Laughing.

Well, tell us how long you’ve been making music, and what inspires you to make music?

I’ve been making music technically since I was like 6 years old. I started writing in my diaries, like songwriting in my diaries when I was 6. It was basic stuff though like, “I’m sad, I have to clean up my room.” You know what I mean? Like, little 6 year old songs but I started to really take it seriously and recorded in my friend’s closet, when I was 14, in Chinatown.

Wow.

Then as I got older, when I was 16, I started to try and write music but I was trying to find my sound and all that type of stuff. Now, I feel like it’s really the time, you know? It’s really all coming to fruition, and everything is coming together.

Why the name Leaf, and who do you listen to currently?

Leaf is my government name. Actually, it’s my middle name but it’s my government. Who I’m listening to right now? I’m really into the classics. I’m listening to a lot of Earth, Wind, Fire, and Michael Jackson, and Jimmi Hendrix… and like Led Zepplin, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Like, that’s really what I’m on right now because I really want to make some timeless music. I feel like that’s what’s missing at this moment. So, I’m listening to all the timeless shit, you know?

Laughing.

Wow. So, about your new video, “Slick.” Could you talk about the treatment? What inspired the song?

Okay. So, “Slick” is actually — I feel like every girl thinks it, you know? There’s always the niggas that are in your phone, that are like “I love you,” “You’re bae,” you know, “Wifey, Wifey, Wifey,” and then they go to their niggas and they’re like, “Yeah, that’s my hoe.” Blah blah blah. You know what I mean? Niggas always think they’re slick. There’s always these little tiny things that they do, and I just want to let them know you aint slick. We know your games. Like, we out here. We see it. Like, you ain’t low. So that’s what I was making it about. And also, there’s all these songs like “These hoes aint loyal”. Which, first of all, can I just say hoe? Loyal? Like, it does not make any sense.

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Right.

But, I just want to say: Like there’s so many degrading songs about females, and I just wanted to say some actual real shit about guys. You know? Like, you guys are not slick, and we’re out here, and we’re smart and we’re intelligent, and you can’t play no more games. You know what I mean?

Right.

As for the video, I actually co-directed with my girlfriend “T”, who is a photographer. She never did a video before in her life.

Wow!

Yeah, so it was really, really, DIY. So, me and my girl “T,” we sat together. We like put together the treatment. We bought the clothes. We did the make-up. We styled the whole shit. We found the locations, and then I edited the whole thing.

Wow. I love that.

Yeah. Really DIY.

Laughing.

Very nice. Very nice.

Thank you.

It’s really about a female-empowerment.

Definitely. I’m always trying to just find dope females and put them on because I feel like there’s just not enough girls out here who want to help other girls and support other girls. They’re all about, like, “Oh, my image, and I don’t want anyone competing with me.” And I’m just like, “No one has my lane.” I’m like, “I’m Leaf, and this is what Leaf does. And y’all can join the party.”

Laughing.

You know what I mean? I don’t think that there needs to be that separation because in the 90s, we had Aaliyah, Missy. We had all these girls that were really doing their shit. And like, no one said to anybody, “Oh, you know, Missy, she should worry because Aaliyah — she could take her spot.” Everyone knows that Aaliyah is not taking Missy’s spot, and Missy, she’s not taking Aaliyah’s spot. Like, it’s just known. I think that girls are into just being this one thing — this beautiful, sex icon that people want to — Like everyone is trying to be like a Rihanna or Kim K, right now. And I just want to be here and say, “Hey, DIY girls, young independent, young… I guess it’s atypical females… I’m here. I hear you, and spread your message.” Like, tell everybody about your shit. Do everything for yourself. Build your empire and just stick to it. I can stand next to all my girlfriends, like my girlfriend I brought with me. Me and Losa, we love each other because we are completely different females. She’s a rapper. She has her whole like, thug-type, boss-type female shit too, but it’s like on totally different levels, and we compete with each other because it’s just a real love thing. You know what I mean? And I always try and keep that with my girlfriends. Because it’s like, that’s how you make some real shit, and that’s how you start a real movement. Like everyone’s stuck in this bullshit. I don’t — I don’t fuck with it. No.

Laughing.

Are there any female artists, in particular, that are on the current mainstream tip that you would want to work with?

Mainstream tip? I don’t even know what mainstream is anymore, because mainstream is technically what plays on the radio.

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Right.

Like, I don’t really listen to any of that stuff. I feel like the only girls that are really on the radio right now are Tinashe, Rihanna, and like Beyoncé, and Nicki or Iggy but you know what I mean. I feel like real music is in the streets right now. It’s not really on the radio. Like, all that shit is fabricated. So as far as females that I would love to work with, or that I am working with: There’s Crystal Caines. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of.

Interviewed her. Love her.

That’s my fuckin’… I love her. That’s my bitch. Like, I love the shit out of her. She’s about to be here on Friday. I’m so hype. There are so many dope females like Kerry Fox. I was just talking to her the other day. She produces all her stuff. She raps. There are so many dope females out here. Like even Kali Uchis, whose about to perform at FADER Fort. I just love all the dope females that are coming up right now, because there’s been a drought for a minute. Like, ever since Nicki came back. Like, she restarted the whole thing. I really appreciate Nicki. She has the dope bars, and she’s really doing some shit for females. I mean, obviously, with every career there’s something that I would do different. You know? But I respect her for what she’s done, completely. There’s just been no real music from girls right now. I feel like this year is really the comeback. I’m just excited to see how it goes because I don’t think this fake shit is going to be able to stay around. All the shit that’s about to pop off.

Laughing.

And then you said, you want to make timeless music.

Yeah, definitely. All these people want these one-hit, hook-type shits. Like, that shit, it doesn’t last. I want to make music that people raise their kids on. I want to make real, like Erykah Bahdu, Lauryn Hill, even Wu-Tang. You know what I mean? Just like real feelings, real emotion. You know? Even more of like, towards, even Prince, Michael Jackson. You can make whatever type of music you want, as long as it has real feeling, and a real message, and connects to people. I think we need more of that. Like, I don’t wanna hear no more of this shit.

Laughing.

I don’t even listen to the radio no more. SoundCloud is the best ever because they’ve created this platform for people to just like, it’s basically MySpace with just music. You know what I mean?

True.

And it’s really dope because I come from like the beginning age of social media, so like I remember screen names, all that shit.

Laughing.

So now we’re here, and it’s like damn. Like, I guess this is the future. Like, we never would have expected this to be this crazy.

That is true.

It’s dope though.

You can find just about anything.

Anything in the world. Like, I’ve been listening to Nigerian music, just cause that shit is dope. I’m not even trying to be here no more.

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Laughing.

Well, tell us a little about your live shows. Specifically, the one yesterday.

Yeah.

Which I thought was amazing. I was talking to them about…

You saw it?

I got there at the end because we were all the way on the other side. But everything from the clothing that you guys were wearing…

I actually made that dress.

Wow.

Yeah. I like put it together. It was these pieces that I found, and I like cut it up and re-sewed it and all that stuff. So, yeah. And the clothes that they were wearing, those shorts, that’s my clothing line: MBM.

Do you have any projects coming up?

Well, I just put out “Magnet Bitch,” which is a 3-piece EP about female-empowerment. But it’s more about, well, me and my girlfriend Indigo went into the studio. She’s a producer. So she produced the whole thing, and we just were like turning up the whole time and just thinking of like dope shit that we just wanted to say. And I have a couple of lines in there like talking about how I’m a queen and how you have to respect yourself and stand your ground and just be the boss female you are. Because I feel like no one’s really saying, like “build your shit and be yourself.” And I feel like that’s really important for girls to hear, because when I was growing up there was always that message. There were so many boss females. Like I remember listening to Mariah Carey’s whole entire tape, back, to back, to back, and just being like “Yo, this girl is amazing, she’s crazy.” Even Janet Jackson. I was just watching her music videos the other day, and it’s like girls don’t own their shit anymore. You know what I mean? They just want to shit back and be cute, and I”m just like, “I’m done.” I don’t wanna see that shit no more. Where are the Kelis’? Where are the girls? Where are all my girls or whatever? (laughing). Album wise, I’m going to release and album, “Fools Gold,” very soon. I can’t say too much about it but, just know it’s coming.

Awesome. We can’t wait.

Yeah, me too.

Laughing.

And then the name of the publication is called, GrungeCake.

Okay. Cool.

When you hear that name, what comes to mind?

GrungeCake: I think of like grungy girls in New York, going to Chelsea Market and eating those — you ever had those — the Witch Cake Bakery?

Yeah.

Yeah. Those brownies are the fucking best. So, me and my girls going to Chelsea Market and getting some brownies.

Laughing.

Perfect! Perfect! Well, thank you so much.

Awesome. Thank you.

Is there anything else that you want to say? Maybe there’s a misconception about you, or anything you want to clear?

I feel like people don’t know me enough yet to really make any misconceptions. So, I would just like to everybody, whatever you think about me is probably not true, and you should investigate a little more.


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