Heard on Progressive Underground

Leaf Erikson Is Pushing Hip-Hop Forward With Throwback Sensibilities

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Image credit: Courtesy of Butter Made Records

Listen to 5 essential tracks from the Detroit-based rapper and wordsmith Corey Greenleaf, aka Leaf Erikson.

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Growing up in Detroit and surrounded by the sounds of Motown, Detroit-based rapper and wordsmith Corey Greenleaf, aka Leaf Erikson, has been heavily influenced by the city’s musical luminaries such as Aretha Franklin, The Clark Sisters and Stevie Wonder.

His collaborations with other local musicians, rappers and producers led him to Butter Made Records, a progressive hip-hop collective where he has released wide-ranging, dynamic albums.

As an artist, Erikson raises the bar for MC’s to speak on what is real and what is right. He exemplifies the age of freestyle ciphers, boom-boxes and the boom bap, stimulating minds with a mic in his hand, while serving as one of Detroit’s most important musical ambassadors.  

Click on the player above to hear “5 on 5: Leaf Erikson” and listen to these five essential tracks:


1. “So Pimpish” – Stoopz N’ Breeze

Butter Made Records experiments with group collaborations and artistic configurations. This includes the album “Turn Up The Smooth,” a summertime Miami-centric release heavily influenced by the popular 1980s television series “Miami Vice.” Leaf Erikson performs on the project under his alias Drew Breeze as part of the duo Stoopz N’ Breeze. The album was a catalyst for Erikson as a collaborator, and he subsequently released various singles both as a solo artist and a cameo on other tracks.

2. “Mass Transit” — FakeHunter feat. Leaf Erikson & Asylum 7

Following a prolific live performance run, Erikson released his debut solo album, “The Great Big Nothing,” giving a glimpse into the life of the everyday modern MC. He followed that project with the album “Hidden Gems,” featuring collaborations with top emerging producers including Davey Crockett, Doc Illingsworth, Eddie Logix, The FakeHunters and more.

3. “Rotation”

Erikson’s gift of words extends beyond music; he has served as a local journalist, delivering commentary on sports and culture. His humanistic storytelling translates to his musical art and he is known for dissecting social and societal issues as well as love and relationships in his songs. The latter would serve as the context for the album “Shotgun and Wedding Bells,” a project that would add thoughtful context to the roller coaster ride of love leading to the completion of marriage. “Rotation” chronicles the ups and downs of his relationship with a longtime love interest.

4. “Rescue Mission”

Erikson’s social commentary took center stage on his next album “Canvas of Hope” where he focuses on his hometown of Detroit, detailing the history behind the city’s institutional struggles while providing context to the tragedies, triumphs and journeys that native Detroiters have experienced. The album was produced by Meftah, who supplied a J Dilla, Native Tongues, Pete Rock, A Tribe Called Quest-style vibe that perfectly complements Erikson’s lyrics. The result is a modern-day progressive hip-hop classic that supplies lyrical potency and superior sound scaping. 

5. “Liquid Sunshine – pt. 313” 

Over time, Erikson’s music and expertise has gained a larger scope as he has earned recognition by being nominated five times in various categories for the Detroit Music Awards, once winning in the category of Outstanding Rap MC in 2020. He’s also co-executive produced two instrumental projects, “Head Nod Suite Vol. 1” and “Head Nod Suite Vol. 2,” and is the Executive A&R for Architect Entertainment, overseeing a roster of artists with projects distributed through The Orchard/Sony conglomerate.

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Chris Campbell, Host, The Progressive Underground

Chris Campbell has a deep interest in curating Detroit’s rich music scene and presenting it to the world-at-large.

ccampbell@wdet.org Follow @cambeaux

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