Tree House is New York rapper/producer Le1f’s third full-length mixtape, and I think it’s his best yet. Le1f once wrote on Twitter that he made Dark York, his first tape, to set him free and Fly Zone, his second tape, to prove a point. (Presumably, that he’s not a “gay rapper”—he’s a rapper, period). The unifying force of Tree House is its physicality—there’s an underlying focus is on the body, hyper-sensory pleasure and sex. The tape doesn’t just evoke sex—it is sex. But Tree House just doesn’t need more of a thesis than that. Le1f’s rapping feels more serious than ever, but he also sounds completely at ease. It’s clear writing raps is genuinely fun for him. I found myself grinning at various points in the tape, like when Le1f ends a particularly acrobatic verse on “Jack” by throwing off the rhythm with a coy Oops, that’s gross. For all that, the production still shines bright, and it’s the all-star roster of future-focused producers—frequent collaborator Boody, Chicago duo The-Drum, Shy Guy, and Ninja Tune’s FaltyDL in a rare foray into rap—that push Tree House into next-level territory.
Highlights: The-Drum’s steel drums-meet-snap music beat for “Swerve.” Le1f’s interpolation of Aaliyah’s “Beats 4 Da Streets” lyrics on the eerily lush “Kadabra / Anubish.” The winking flip of the Trap-a-holics drop on “Damn.”
WTF: Boy I love your pheromones/ Can you come and make this Pharaoh moan? from “Oils” enters the running for most eye roll-inducing yet awesome Egyptian sex metaphor, a title which Kanye was previously holding unopposed.