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12: Coi Leray

Photo By Daniel Prakopcyk

 

                                                                 

Only Want People Around That’s Gonna Make Me Better…

 

“Industry Plant”. The proverbial kiss of death given to new or up-and-coming artists that the music community feels is overexposed or overly promoted. Those that appear to be independent and genuine whilst being supported by the major labels behind the curtain. Any organic artist that wants to establish themselves in the ruthless music industry will have to do so with sheer will and refined talent. The attention span of the average listener has diminished to the point where only the best can endure longer than a hiccup. Due to this, the "Industry Plant" business model has morphed from low risk/high reward to high risk/low reward. Mediocre artists need not apply.

Many of the artists associated with this poisoned chalice have familial ties in the industry. From Lil Yachty to Lil Nas X, nepotism extends to this domain as much as any other; it helps to have friends and family towards the top of the hierarchy. In the world of hip-hop, very few had more influence in the rap game than “The Source” founder, Benzino. So you can see why there are skeptics over the rise of his talented, estranged daughter, Coi Leray.

Born on May 11th 1997, in Boston Massachusetts, Coi Leray was exposed to the hip-hop music and it’s industry from an early age. Her father was a partner for The Source ,which was the magazine for Rap Culture, Politics and Music from the late 90s through to the early 2000s. The brand encapsulated the light and dark aspects of the culture, from unnecessary feuds with mainstream rappers, to providing insight to the inner working of the industry itself. For many years, The Source suffered from years of distrust and incongruity, and the main culprit of this was Benzino himself. In the early years, he would arrive at the head office and intimidate the editors to cover his releases. The power of being a partner would inflate his ego to the point where he thought he was untouchable. This manifested in the notorious mixtape cover printed in 2003 of Eminem’s severed head in his hands.

To feud with the biggest rapper in the industry was misguided to say the least, and this would start the timer for his inevitable departure from mainstream attention and The Source itself in 2006. At just eight years old, Coi would see her father squander his major position in the industry, lose the ability to provide at the same level and finalise a divorce from her mother. Seeing this chaos from an early age, Coi would believe this was the way life that should be lived. Being diagnosed with ADHD wouldn’t help matters either. Inspired by Benzino, even with all the tumult he had brought to her life, she would begin her own career at the age of 14 with her brother Taj.

This was a short stint in the industry, recognised more for being the children of Benzino than any talent with long term star power. She would quit thereafter and secure a sales job for a couple of years, but it wasn’t long before she returned to her perceived destiny and follow in her fathers’ footsteps. An EP called “Everythingcoz” would be her first breakthrough in 2018, with the hit “Huddy” its headliner.

Cover Art for "Everythingcoz"

More exposure would come her way with a quality feature on the soundtrack for the hit Marvel animation movie “Into The SpiderVerse”. Her stardom was rising, and as common industry practice, she coupled up with Trippie Red to enhance her clout in late 2019. Apropos with the cycle of music industry pseudo-relationships, it ended publicly and unpleasantly. Coi felt she had been used, which was puzzling seeing as he was the bigger star at the time.

She would move forward, releasing music with a melodic, positive vibration that drew the attention of new followers. Grinding without end, she would achieve a major quantum leap with her biggest hit to date, “No More Parties”, featuring Chicago native Lil Durk in 2021. Her toxic relationship with her father would rear its ugly head through lyrics in the single, which left Benzino confused and deeply hurt.

We can obviously speculate whether this dynamic between the two was a mutually beneficial way for both to remain relevant in the mainstream media, as feuds or “beef” between two parties always elevates exposure. But on the surface, Coi and Benzino seem to lack discretion when it comes to their personal relationship, especially as father and daughter.

Many wanted Coi to focus on the music she was making, and refrain from airing dirty laundry on the internet. For some more active minds however, the question of whether she was worthy of the acclaim and success she was achieving was prominent. She had not yet received the stamp of approval from the hip-hop community, and this was exhibited during performances at Memorial Day Mayhem and Rolling Loud Miami.

The crowd was unenthusiastic to say the least, and the silence was deafening, especially for an event as big as Rolling Loud. No matter what theatrics she did, it just wasn’t working. Things didn’t get brighter for her a month later when she was featured on the XXL FreshmenClass 2021, where her innovative freestyle didn’t go down well with the hip-hop audience. Mockery began as the vicious side of the internet was brought forth in all of its glory, if you would call it that.

For the average artist this would have been the final nail in the coffin. Public humiliation to this degree had taken out many a musician, but she would stride forward and bag nominations for “Best Female Artist” and “Best New Hip Hop Artist” at the BET Awards 2021. Fans were not pleased. This was adding insult to injury to an already volatile situation between Coi and the community. The daughter of a known “bully” in the industry receiving“undeserved” praise and recognition; the script wrote itself. A whirlwind year to say the least. After all of the drama, vitriol, and publicity she had received from the mainstream, her first debut album was named after her nickname “Trendsetter”.

This was, for the most part, appropriate. Her innovation and style in her sound was different compared to her contemporaries. The album was released to mixed reviews, but with a much more positive atmosphere to what she would or should be accustomed to. “Twinnem” would become a viral sensation on Tik Tok, with a rhythmic melody and catchy hook.

Cover Art for "Trendsetter"

The story of Coi Leray is an ironic one. As the daughter of an industry enforcer, her path to success in entertainment should have been a smooth one. But the world is becoming smaller by the day, so the old saying “its not what you know but who you know” has become partially redundant. Her own relationship with Benzino has, in some way, lowered her ceiling in the industry, regardless of how I or others feel about her talent or ability to innovate, which is mostly her own doing. A talented artist? Yes. A smart artist? You can speculate. Regardless of the road she has travelled so far, I do believe she still has a chance at superstardom. However, her Twitter fingers and public disrespect for those that are closest to her will need to be put aside for her to reach her obvious potential. Coi Leray, after all that’s taken place thus far, seems to be the “industry plant” that has done everything the hard way. She’s yet to earn a return on her investment of effort, but time is on her side, and in the modern industry, anybody can make it under the right circumstances. Her next few steps will be crucial.

Written by: @Arriv3r

Edited by: @Whosaria

Insight.