Floating into the VIBE Vixen offices with a crown of sunset colored hair, Leaf catches your eye even when she’s not trying. When she smiles and her diamond flanked tooth sparkles in the overhead light, it’s obvious there’s something different about the 21-year-old. With a subtle nod to Aaliyah with Tommy Hilfiger boxers peeking out from her denim, Leaf effortlessly blends the hardcore artist we’ve heard on singles like “Slick” and the nostalgic R&B crooner on her most recent release, “FWM(Lie To Me)” into a dynamic aesthetic.
As the great grand-daughter of jazz artist Jackie McLean, music is buried deep within her bone marrow. The Brooklyn and Lower East Side raised lyricist released her first EP in 2015, Magnetic Bitch, and since signed to Fool’s Gold Records/RPM MSC, A-Trak’s label. With bangers like “Nada” featuring Lil Yatchy--a dare to anyone who try question just how lit her and her friends may be--Leaf has been busy setting up a new wave for girls who want to support their girls. Dropping female empowering anthems like “Money” and working to make sure everyone eats on her single, “Plate”, it’s clear Leaf isn’t the artist only in it to make you dance, although she’d love nothing more than to get you moving.
VIBE Vixen sat down with the queen of the Magnetic B***h Movement to discuss her spring debut album, Trinity, why she’s a rap artist, and the power behind being a woman in 2017.
VIBE: For starters, why the name Leaf?
Leaf: Everyone always asks me this and expects some insane story, like ‘I was in a garden.’ Nah, it's my birth name.
Music is in your blood, but what what made you say, "I'm going to be a rap artist and a singer?"
I think the reason why I chose hip-hop is because I am a girl from an urban world, I'm from Brooklyn and the Lower East Side. I've always been a rocker in an urban world. I think that for me hip-hop has all those influences, it has rock influences, it has R&B influences and I wanted to be in a place that gave me a broad spectrum.
I love being a hip-hop artist, it gives me that freedom.
What made you take the woman empowerment route?
I chose this route because it's really who I am. I've always been that girl that other women have bashed, or the one they think thinks she's better than everybody else, you know what I mean? I've been in both positions. I think women bashing other women is the worst thing you could ever do. What is the point of it? I guess it comes from insecurity. I guess it helps you sleep at night? I don't know, but I'm not for it. You have an issue with her, send her love. Keep being yourself because you're dope and that's all that matters. It doesn't matter if other people are being mean to you, don't lower yourself to their level. That's why I stand for what I stand for, because that's really what I believe.
So how do you feel about this Remy Ma and Nick Minaj beef or female rap beef in general?
I think that if it weren’t females, it would be regular rap beef. The only thing I think is an issue is why does there have to be one queen? I think that as women we have to stray away from that. When it's Meek and Drake, it's not about the king of rap. It's about who's the better rapper, who has the best songs. It becomes a different thing when it's two girls bashing each other based on the fact ‘that no one else could be the queen in hip-hop except for me.’ There's enough space for 20 queens, 30 queens, we can all be queens. Why can't we share our crowns?
That definitely comes across in your work and mantra. So explain MBM, Magnetic B***h Movement.
So magnetic, I believe in the Law of Attraction and that we’re all magnets for what we want and don't want. I tell my girlfriends that you have to be a magnet for what you want by deciding and speaking it into existence. B***h, I love the word b***h because it means that you are a woman with an opinion. I think that all women with opinions need to come together with their opinionated ass. No more silence! There's no reason for us not to have a voice. And movement because anyone can join, everyone is included, no matter what you like or what you don't like, you're included.
Considering the political climate, what do you think feminists could learn from your music and your movement?
Not just feminists, but I think everyone could learn that we're all human and it's about human equality more than anything else. I'm not putting out music to say I'm better than men and they need to bow down to women, and I'm not saying women are less than men, I'm saying we're all equal, no matter what race you come from, no matter what your favorite color is. We're all equal and we all need to come together and spread the message of love and unity.
What are you expecting Trinity to do for people?
I don't think there's a voice for young girls or young men like my last song I just put out. (FWM) I don't think enough girls even think on that basis. I think that there is such a disconnect with girls and boys right now. Guys don't really know what to do with this new generation of women and women don't know what do with this new generation of men. We're in a social media age. Boys are so socially awkward nowadays; they don't even know how to approach women, and women are so powerful nowadays, that they scare the sh*t out these little boys. I'm just trying to give them a little guidance. I think songs nowadays are always "I stole your b***h and you ain't sh*t, you lame". It's like...who wants to listen to that stuff all the time? I want to listen to stuff that makes me feel good about myself and that's the type of music I try to put out into the world.
Why the title Trinity?
The number three is a very important number. It stands for fertility in tarot cards. Basically Trinity is all about creation. The Holy Trinity is about creation, the number three is about creation and I just wanted it to be about what I believe the creator is which is women. We carry these children, we create life, and I wanted it to be about the creation of life and women and represented as a whole. Trinity to me is just an everyday reminder to be a creative, powerful female.
Looking forward, what women artists would you want to work with?
So many women! I love Grimes, Solange, Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki, obviously. I love Little Dragon so much. Idols of mine like Shakira, Mariah, J.Lo. I don't care what people say about Mariah, I love her. She set a forefront for women that can't be touched to this day. I would love to work with Missy. Missy is deada**...you can't even put her in a category. She’s just awesome, all around, 360 awesomeness. There's so many women that I look up to in so many ways. Janet Jackson? Oh my God. Her life? She's just flawless.
Check out Leaf’s newest video for “FWM(Lie To Me)” below and expect Trinity out in the spring.