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Leikeli47 wants you to look and listen deeper

In an industry that places high premium on aesthetics, Leikeli47 has always challenged her listeners to look and listen deeper than what's on the surface. Four years — and a whole pandemic — removed from the rapper's last release, Leikeli47's Shape Up marks the third and final installment of what 47 has anointed the Beauty Series trilogy. This latest LP builds on the messages of 2017's Wash & Set and 2018's Acrylic: beauty as self care, self care as communal work and the genuine, intrinsic growth required for both.

Where Wash & Set marked her introduction and Acrylic walked into the safe space of a salon, Shape Up walks out of that metaphorical salon feeling brand new. "Hence, the closure," she tells NPR. "I'm leaving the shop and I have just what I want."

Sitting in a Brooklyn studio wearing a black Celine tracksuit with matching mask, gold chains and elaborate orange eyeliner, 47 simultaneously looks cozy and coiffed. The MC broke down some essential tracks off the project for this exclusive Listening Party interview on NPR Music's YouTube channel. "Zoom" makes comedic fodder out of a real life confrontation. "BITM" is a soundtrack to the fiercest of walks, whether at a vogue ball or in aisle 5 at the grocery store. "Hold My Hand" is a letter to God for never leaving her side. "Carry Anne" creeps, then bellows with a desperately needed feminist call for 2022's misogynistic masses in and outside of the music industry.

Together, Shape Up tracks 47's learning process to embody the confidence she so often preaches onstage to others. "Shape Up came and said, 'You know that girl that you thought you was? Now you really her now.' Shape Up is the confidence I've been praying for," 47 says. "Like my mask, it became my best friend. I lived with it for four [years] ... We tugged, we pulled, but it was a confident pull. It was a different sort of pull from the Wash & Set and Acrylic eras, I really stood on mines with this."

The way she sees it, this album is for the sure as much as the unsure. "Even if you're sitting on your hands, you feeling a little lazy about it. It's not what it looks like," she declares. "Read those books. Get up. Meditate. Pray. Reverse your thinking. The same way you thought you couldn't is the same way you know you can."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.