Meet Leaf, the rapper who wants you to be a "magnet bitch"
“If you’re ridin’ with me, you can get a plate, but if you’re not, then we ain’t got no love for you on my team. You feel me,” she explained over the phone during a break from her office shoot in L.A. At just 21 years old, she exhibits a confidence and swagger that’s as genuine as it is endearing as she talks about starting her career, eating only chickpeas and grapefruit juice to save money, and breaking up with her boyfriend to focus on her career.
The hard work, sacrifice, and diet plan paid off. While most of us are trying to slide into some trade’s DMs, she was getting scouted by A-Trak for a record contract at Fool’s Gold and by Calvin Klein for a campaign. Now, two years after the release of her debut EP, Magnet Bitch, she’s finishing up her debut album, Trinity, and planning a tour. So we talked to the rapper about her message to young black girls, protest music in the Donald Trump era, getting walked out of her high school in handcuffs, and the weirdest DM she’s ever received.
When you were writing "Plate," who were you writing it for?
It’s about any young girl out there who’s trying to chase their dreams. It really has no boundaries for me because it’s for girls and it’s also for guys. I just speak to women in particular.
Instagram is where you got your start, so by now you’re an expert. What’s your secret to keeping your Instagram fresh?
The most important way to keep yourself relevant is to meet people in real life. [Laughs] That’s completely backward from Instagram, but most of my connections are through meeting people in real life and then they see my Instagram. If you want more followers, go meet more people. Get to know more people. Be outside and do something artistic that people want to see. Interact with people through your Instagram. Don’t just post photos. Be a real person.
Do you ever slide into the DMs? [Laughs]
I don’t really slide into people’s DMs unless it’s a work situation, but people slide into my DMs and say weird stuff. Some guy was like I love you and I told him I loved him too, and then he sent a picture of him crying.
That’s incredible! [Laughs] In 2017, you’ll be going on tour and releasing your new album Trinity. What’s the story behind the name?
This album specifically has a lot of messages to girls about being yourself and being free and loving who you are. I’m really happy to be able to put this music into the world. Three is a very powerful number and it’s an angel number—a number of the heavens. It stands for creation, fertility, wisdom, and growth. For me, it’s representation of what I want to live for every single day.
Looking back at 2016, we both know how shitty it is that Donald Trump is going to be president. What’s your message to young women—and young women of color specifically—who might feel disheartened about the direction the country is going?
First, I’d like to say to the whole country that history repeats itself and we’ve always overcome every single time. I’m not going into this afraid. We’re going to start making more powerful statements through our art. People are going to come together because, even though we’re being led by someone who is so against what I believe America stands for, I think it’ll really bring America together. We know now that we’ve got to unite and be strong.
Were there any particular women you looked up to as a kid?
There were so many. But in particular, I looked up to Gwen Stefani when I was younger. I loved her so much. Frida Khalo, of course. Kelis, Angela Davis, and Maya Angelou. This list could go on forever. Any woman who was doing something beautiful and powerful in the world was someone I was looking up to.
When you were at LaGuardia High School, you were pretty infamous for your behavior. What was your wildest high school experience?
I got walked out of the building in handcuffs so that’s kind of—
Holy shit, what happened?
It was for graffiti! I don’t understand how you can ever get arrested from art school for graffiti. It was a moment where I was like, okay either you’re going to continue to fuck around in school and get in trouble or cut school, not get in trouble, and just make music. [Laughs]
I’m honestly just proud of myself because, like I said, there was a moment where I was eating chickpeas and grapefruit juice and wondering if it was ever going to happen. Now it is and I feel very grateful just to be here.
It’s also twenty times harder for women to get to that point because of all the obstacles you face every day.
Yes, it’s so true. Even though everyone tells me no, I’m still going to find that door and open it and create that opportunity for myself. We’re constantly told that we’ll never be able to do this and that and we’ll complain about it. But I’d rather just be one of those girls that acknowledges it, but doesn’t really acknowledge it because it doesn’t apply to me. It won’t apply to me because I won’t let it.
That ties into the Magnet Bitch Movement you started, as well. Why is it so vital for other women to surround themselves with a network of strong women like you do in your videos?
It’s so important for girls to support each other and to have a bunch of girls who are powerful around you who think like me and want to be successful and push each other forward. It’s so beautiful to see girls do that. Magnet Bitch Movement stands for girls who magnetize what they want in their lives through the law of attraction. It’s girls who aren’t afraid to speak their mind and get called a bitch because they have an opinion. It’s really important for girls to get that message that you are smart, you are intelligent, and you can do whatever you want. If people judge you, that’s fine. People judge everyone. You just keep moving forward and being a powerful woman.
Listen to "Plate" here, and watch out for more from Leaf.