Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "On 'Rage,' he straps a stick of dynamite to his usual silken purr, spiraling into window-smashing fury -- a musical litmus test to determine those who either can, or cannot, get down with his right to emotional complexity."
Spin - "[W]ith RIOT BOI his explorations of queer desire and entrenched societal racism finally feel fearless."
Pitchfork (Website) - "Riot Boi delivers what its title promises -- a transgression of pop cultural limitations -- most clearly in the final three tracks, socially-conscious slow jams with far more overt political messages than Le1f's usual banger-obscured radicalism."
Clash (magazine) - "RIOT BOI is a trailblazing record very much in the now. It's bombastic, and transgressive."
Audio Mixer: Rob Kinelski.
Recording information: Boody's Studio, NY (2013-2015); Doctor Wus, Brooklyn, Ny (2013-2015); Profit House, NY (2013-2015); Rare Earth Studios, NY (2013-2015); Room 13, Burbank, CA (2013-2015); The Space Station, Minneapolis, MN (2013-2015); Tileyard Studios, London (2013-2015).
Le1f was on the cusp of something close to trailblazer status on his debut, Riot Boi (Terrible Records). Making no secret of his sexuality, he could exist purely as a niche gay artist, and yet he doesn't cater exclusively to the queer community: he spreads positivity and love for all. He's here to spit about gender, sexuality, race politics, and social justice. With a dash of sass, a mellifluous lisp, and a throaty rasp, he vacillates between tongue-twisting bars and slinky come-hither teases. Combined with schizophrenic production (Evian Christ, Boody, Balam Acab, Lunice) that leaps from horny trap to frantic electroclash, Riot Boi overwhelms with twists, turns, and surprises, all of which are exhilarating. De facto opener "Rage" starts sweet and glittery before crashing down into an abrasive, defiant Saul Williams-esque stomp. This zigzag is indicative of the album as a whole. As a burgeoning icon, Le1f does a good job representing without being preachy. He is defiant on "Grace Alek Naomi" and the filthy "Swirl," proud of his complexion and unapologetic about his sexual proclivities. Guest spots by femcee Junglepussy and duo House of Ladosha on the latter track create a whirl of topics as kaleidoscopic as the production on this album: reparations, oral sex, and sexual fetishizing of blacks. Le1f returns to that topic on "Koi," the poppiest offering here. Fans of that single be warned: it's the lightest track on the album (the melody on "Taxi" comes in at a close second, but is more hypnotic jam than rave-up), the single breather in a dark, snarling, and icy-hot mix of defiance, pride, and racial and sexual reclamation. Album centerpiece "Umami/Water" sprawls like Frank Ocean's "Pyramids," starting spooky and hazy before evaporating into a borderline spiritual experience. However, the true highlight comes at the end ("Change"), when the sarcastic kiss-offs fade to the background and Le1f gets down with some serious examination and introspection. The vulnerable track is packed with issues to ponder, but it remains heartfelt and endearing, with a gorgeous chorus provided by Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) and a transcendent closing provided by his mother, Miss Geri. Through the cloud of pain and frustration, she provides comfort, wisdom, and hope to her son and his listeners, encouraging all to find a voice in the dark. Le1f has made a bold declaration with Riot Boi: he is who he is, haters be damned. He's taken the pain, hate, and rejection and turned them into a message of truth, a statement of allegiance for anyone struggling with one or all of the same problems. ~ Neil Z. Yeung