Introducing: Leo Bhanji
Hometown: LA, now London
Listen to: ‘The Wades’, ‘Blade of Hope’, ‘Heart of Gold’
It’s often said (admittedly many times by me, in this very column) that an artist is unconfined by a genre. It may seem overused, but it’s actually like a pretty appropriate descriptor for any artist bursting onto the scene in 2021—a cohort of up-and-coming artists, from Rina Sawayama to Mysie, are making genre-bending the norm. But LA-born Leo Bhanji takes this to a whole new level.
Calling Bhanji’s music a blend of pop, hip-hop, R’n’B and underground doesn’t seem to do his level of experimentation justice. So going through Bhanji’s top Spotify tracks might leave you a little confused at first; from the disorienting beat and diary lyrics of his new release ‘Raw’, to the dreamy layers and memorable melody of ‘The Wades’, it’s clear Bhanji is everything but predictable.
In his 2019 duet with Donalee (another emerging artist from London worth checking out), dogs barking and howling punctuate an otherwise understated track. I’m still trying to figure out if it works, but it’s safe to say that Leo Bhanji is pretty fearless. In spite of these brave choices, his developing sound is far from jarring—it’s enchanting.
While his production and melodies venture into unexplored territory with each song, Bhanji’s lyrics remain candid and intimate. “You wear somebody to the party, I take them off you / Blood on my boots and on your tools / I always call you when I’m alone” he sings in the frustrated-yet-romantic ‘Heathers’. Talk of a “Texan with the blonde hair” in ‘The Wades’ and how “every station[‘s] got its ghosts” in ‘Blood & Guts’ give Bhanji’s lyrics a diary-like quality.
With so much difference from one song to the next, who knows what to expect of his upcoming EP Birth Videos. But speaking to office magazine last year, Bhanji’s given us a bit of a hint. ”More abrasive. Brittle sounds. That’s what I’m into now.” In ‘Raw’, released merely days ago, kick drums, untouched vocals and simple production definitely suggest Bhanji is stepping away from the more polished sound of his 2020 No Guard EP.
Either way, I’m excited to hear what Leo Bhanji drops in the next few weeks. Alongside his up-and-coming label-mates at Dirty Hit, like Gia Ford and beabadoobee, he’s sure to keep us on our toes.
Words by Kat Smith
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