Young Leosia: She Is The Icon and She Is The Moment
Who is Young Leosia?
Before we dive deeper into the Polish phenomenon that is Young Leosia, an introduction is needed. Her real name is Sara, she was born in 1998 and was raised in Szczecin, the north-western part of Poland, where people are said to be slightly unhinged.
Her debut EP of seven songs, Hulanki, went platinum even before the premiere. She started off as a DJ and is a lyricist as well as a producer. But most importantly, she is the first female rapper with a best-selling album in Poland and her Hulanki tour is already sold out. With her pink hair, streetwear apparel and cool tattoos she is conquering the male-dominated rap scene in a country that hates women with a passion.
Dissection: Best-selling female rapper vs Poland
There is no room to argue with the fact that rap music is often demeaning to women. Polish rap is soaked with up-front references to patriotism, fuckboyism, drugs, sex, money and expensive cars. So to have a sweet looking 24-year old find her place in an environment that oozes Polish straight male energy is groundbreaking. Not to say that she is the first female rapper in Poland. There were some before her (like Wdowa) but Poland went through a long drought until Young Leosia came into the picture. She raps about all the things women should not rap about - sex, money, success, drugs. On the track Stonerki she collabs with another upcoming female rapper, Oliwka Brazil - particularly shameless in her sexual references.
Reactions to her music show how far Young Leosia has come and just how far Poland is behind culturally. Many criticized her for being vulgar, “not girly enough”, unfit for the role of a teenage idol, calling her music shallow. Although music and culture do not have to be “deep” to be enjoyed or invoke feelings, I will dare to argue that her music is not as shallow as one may think. Young Leosia not only provides a powerful reflection of the male-orientated music industry but also serves as a witty satire that makes for entertaining and empowering music. She reinvests the genre usually reserved for patriotic fuckboys, and no matter how good their music may be, Young Leosia serves something different and fresher than they ever could, simply by being the female trailblazer of the industry that she is. Period.
Even her choice of stage name “Young” may be seen as typical for a rapper, yet it sounds so ridiculous. “Young” is often reserved for male rappers; it seems that any man who wants to become one puts “young” or “lil” before their name and calls it a day, making it very hard to differentiate between them or to tell who exactly permanently embedded a diamond to their forehead (FYI it was Lil Uzi Vert). Her choice of stage name is telling on a meta-level, allowing her to fit into the new wave rap “boys club” while also ironically signifying the space she has carved out for herself, claiming a name so common but making it so unique. It’s also a match between the old and the new, the West and the East, as Leosia is a shorter version of Leokadia, an old Polish name that suits an adorable crazy old-church lady.
Weed? Young Leosia’s doing God’s work
In Poland, the use of cannabis is still considered as a “gangsta”, life-ruining and brain-frying activity. For possession alone, one may be sentenced up to 3 years while for sharing your supply the sentence can be up to 10 years. This means that weed is considered to be as dangerous as cocaine or chemical designer drugs. In reality (and especially in Poland), weed use is nothing in comparison to through-the-roof culture-embedded alcohol consumption which is very much legal and very dangerous.
But Young Leosia is doing God’s work, as her frequent yet casual mentions of smoking normalise marijuana use. Not only in reference to Polish people but also to womanhood in general. It is the case all around the world (although this is especially the case in Poland), it is still frowned up for women to curse, drink, smoke or enjoy their lives in general. But Young Leosia is breaking the taboo to let reality shine through: young Polish people do smoke week and they do it for fun so get over it. Specifically, her songs Jungle Girl and Stonerki are centred around smoking joints with your friends and simply having a good time, and serve as great companions to evening balcony smoking sessions.
Voice of a new generation & pre-pandemic nostalgia
The breakthrough moment for Young Leosia was a song called Szklanki which became an anthem of Polish youth during the pandemic. Deprived of social contact, proms or birthdays, young people could easily relate to a catchy party song with an underlying tone of sadness and bitterness raging about their stolen youth. It allows young people to enjoy the simple things in life like being with their friends, partying, acting cocky and carelessly. Young Leosia’s music is like youth itself - upbeat, simple, funny (some may even call it silly), but very much needed as it reminds us of things that were taken for granted, transporting us to a wild reality where everything seems to be okay.
The verdict on Young Leosia
Intentionally or unintentionally, Young Leosia’s presence is empowering. As an emerging female voice, her music has met the needs of the young providing a reprieve from the mess that Poland is in financially, politically and socially. Simultaneously, her refreshing presence in a men’s dominated industry subliminally paves way for other female artists to come, as she reclaims sexuality and power for Polish women by re-interpreting the hip-hop genre.
With her tomboyish look and “not like other girls” vibe, Young Leosia provides a balanced and secure outlet for reclaiming sexuality and power by women. She is the go-to music party choice, she is the voice of Polish youth, she is the icon and she is the moment.
Photo editing: Kateryna Skipochka