Midwestern Hip-Hop artist Leslie Hall broke out in 2005 rapping about gold pants and bedazzled sweaters. Living in her parent’s house in Ames, Iowa, Hall drew Internet fame for her self-produced short films.
The artist straight outta cornfields soon found herself fielding questions on MTV’s Total Request Live and performing on Nickelodeon’s Yo Gabba Gabba. In 2006, Leslie Hall was named by VH1 as one of the “40 Greatest Internet Superstars.”
In 2008 Leslie stopped by DC9, did one of the most awesome shows ever and we’re rerunning this interview from back then because she’s back, same place, this Sunday.
Hall spoke with Brightest Young Things while driving a tour van in the rural hills of Pennsylvania en route to a sold-out show in New York City.
BYT: Leslie, where are you exactly?
We are driving to a sold out show in a city that is abbreviated N-Y-C. I have never sold out a show before in New York City. This is a big deal and the frontier of internet fame meeting actual live fame and I am gonna bring it.
BYT:You’re currently touring in support of the new album by Leslie and the Ly’s titled CeWEBrity. What is on your rider?
What’s a rider?
BYT: A list of backstage demands.
Our backstage demands are Evian water, dill pickle potato chips, nothing with hydrogenated oil, oh, and peanut butter cookies. Dick pickle potato chips are a very popular potato chip.
BYT:Your hip-hop focuses almost exclusively on Midwestern themes. What Midwestern topics do you cover on CeWEBrity that you have not previously covered?
I have to say that all of my issues remain the same. I just dig deeper into the valley. I touch more on Midwest ladies bringing the love in the club with their blouses and tights that they look good in. And with them grabbing the attention with the men who want to touch them. We just want to shine right, every night.
BYT: What reaction to your work have you seen from the mainstream hip-hop community?
Well, I actually don’t get a lot of feedback from that area.
BYT:Have you gotten any feedback?
There is one rapper in Iowa who hates me. He is Ion Gray. He thinks I am making a mockery of hip-hop and rap, not to mention the Iowa school of hip-hop and rap. He’s just hating on me because I chose my path which has brought me fame and glory.
BYT:Well, one of the people who likes you is Elvira. Tell us about working with her on your track titled “Zombie Killer.”
Elvira has been one of my heroes ever since I first watched Elvira, Mistress of the Dark on the TBS Superstation interrupted by commercials. I fell in love immediately with her comedy and diva-like presence. I find a lot of myself in her, with the hair, the attitude. I think I am her unborn child. I knew “Zombie Killer” was right up her alley, and I begged and pleaded and promised her the Internet would respect her for this collaboration.
BYT: Any plans to do any live performances with her?
Absolutely. We’re in negotiations right now. It would be a collision of the Internet titans.
BYT: Have you ever considered recording a concept album based on geographical locations outside the Midwest?
Not yet. I am still pretty much in love with Iowa. If I did move away from home, I might write an album like that. However, I write what I know. I can’t make stuff up. I keep it pretty real, so thats why I got to rap about those things that I know.
BYT: Do you have any plans to move away from Ames, Iowa?
No. The only reason would be if Hollywood comes calling.
BYT: Are you still operating your mobile gem sweater museum (www.gemsweater.com)?
Yes, the gem sweater museum is still going strong, but its not actually driving strong. Its sitting in my parent’s driveway right now. I think I need to purchase a new vehicle to put it in because I’ve discovered that you shouldn’t ever purchase old vehicles.
BYT: Because they tend to break down?
Yes, and because mechanics tell me that they don’t like working on old stuff.
BYT: How large is your museum collection now?
About 400. Oh my, Detroit! In Detroit this guy brought me a huge bag from his dead grandmother who weighed 90 pounds.
BYT: Wait, the bag weighed 90 pounds, or his dead grandmother?
No, the grandma weighed 90 pounds. He kept pushing that line over and over again, but I don’t know why. I guess he thought the thought was uplifting.
BYT: Is that how you get most of your sweaters now, do your fans bring them to you?
Yes. I’ve almost hung up my hoarding/rescuing and I let the people do it. Almost. I mean, they are like orphaned babies and I have to help.
BYT: What if you encounter a gem sweater being worn? Do you try to acquire it?
No, I don’t tend to buy it off of them. I tend to sincerely compliment them and say that “I think your blouse, or gem jacket” really highlights your eyes,” or “I think you really look like a princess of the night,” or something to let them know that what they are wearing has value.
BYT: While several of your songs focus on gem sweaters, you also visually surround yourself with beanie babies. What is the significance of that?
Its simply their sheer availability. I mean a few years ago they were like finding gold nuggets in a cave, but now they are just a dime a dozen. So, I figured, why not? Invest while its low and maybe they will go back up in value and I can retire.
BYT: Well, you’re certainly not retiring. You recently co-starred alongside Dustin Diamond in a film adaptation of Hamlet (Hamlet A.D.D., currently in post-production) and, unlike other actors in the film, are credited as playing yourself rather than a particular character. How exactly does Leslie Hall fit into Shakespeare?
Someone in the world Hamlet turns on their tv and they discover my video. We exclusively shot “Zombie Killer” for the movie, and I believe that video goes up on YouTube today. The concept is that I am performing at Elvira Colosseum for an audience of zombies.
BYT: You have produced your two previous albums largely utilizing Apple’s GarageBand program. Did you employ the same production on CeWEBrity, or did you choose another format such as studio production?
For Door Man’s Daughter, I went fancy and recorded vocals in a studio and had someone mix it. But, I went back to my roots with CeWEBrity and utilized GarageBand and a little Radio Shack microphone and boy can you tell! I’m just hoping to get a boyfriend with a production studio. It seems that so many dames have that these days. I would so tap that.
BYT: Speaking of boyfriends, it is Valentine’s Day. Any particular plans?
No. The only thing I will be doing is sweating my body and singing songs with my hairspray dribbling into my eyes.
BYT: Well, that sounds like…well, I’m not sure what that sounds like. But, maybe you’ll attract a Valentine.
I like your optimism. Maybe I will!
BYT: Has your focus on gem sweaters brought sponsorship opportunities, such as from Bedazzler?
I have approached Bedazzler. They won’t return my phone calls. I find it completely inappropriate. That lady from The Apprentice is their spokeswoman and she lives in Des Moines, Iowa. I’m in Ames, Iowa. I think more people have bought a Bedazzler off my name than off her penniless patten leather purse.
BYT: Oh, I noticed she said “Hi, I’m so-and-so from tv!” So, she’s from The Apprentice? Did she win?
Not even. She’s some Season One who didn’t even win.
BYT: I don’t know who she is, but I would think people would know who Leslie Hall is.
Heck, yeah boy. That is why I need to patent my own device.
BYT: Tell us a little about Holla Back Ames.
I am trying to develop a tv show about a diva from the Internet moving back home to Ames, Iowa and proving to her community that the girl’s got moves, looks and the dream. That she is worthy to name a Mall after. And the whole show is centered around me and my looks. I’ll be pitching that to VH1 tonight.
BYT: When will CeWEBrity be available for purchase?
It is available now at our shows and it is also available on our website (www.LeslieHall.com) and those are the exclusive places to pick up my newest, greatest album.
BYT: Any plans to distribute it on iTunes, as with your previous albums?
Yes, absolutely. I’m not a signed artist, so I have to DIY everything and I have to ship it to a company that distributes it on iTunes and I just did that yesterday. So, it should be up within a couple weeks.
BYT: Any thoughts on playing the DC9 for their 4th Anniversary show?
I need to say to Washington, DC – wear them sparkly garments or stay home and watch American Idol. Because everyone who shows up will feel the urge of the sparkle.
DC9 4th Anniversary Show
Featuring Leslie Hall and the Ly’s
Also featuring Hello Tokyo, John Wayne Hero
Saturday, February 14
$10 – Doors: 9:00pm Show: 9:30pm
For more information on Leslie Hall, visit: www.LeslieHall.com