The best thing about music is escapism, and how artists can transport you out of this world to someplace different. Getting lost on the dancefloor is what I love most about dance music. Kezra Leon, 27, a Florida rapper with roots in drag and club culture, provides that relief from reality with his latest EP, Pink Moon, a three-track opus that blends braggadocious rap and club music.
Leon says he always wanted to make music no matter the genre; the melodies and rhythm sparked a lifelong passion.
“When I was younger, around five or six years old, I told people I would be a famous opera singer,” he says. When Leon was around 10 years old, he fell in love with hip-hop and rap and discovered his aptitude for delivering a smooth 16 bars over a beat. “I used to write little raps with my sister, which just took over and became my passion—nonstop just wanting to make music,” Leon tells Xtra.
The St. Petersburg, Florida, native got his start as an entertainer in the queer scene, performing in drag at gay clubs.
“I wanted it to be accessible and familiar to them, so I started creating [an aesthetic] that I found fun,” he says. Leon drew on the creativeness of anime villains he grew up watching, and the aesthetic would become his signature look in the drag scene and eventually as a rapper. But quality drag performances require coin and resources that Leon didn’t have at the time, leading him to step away from that style of performing.
“So, I stopped doing [drag performances] and started trying to prove that I could rap,” Leon says. “I wanted to make music I love hearing when I go out, and that’s how we got to Pink Moon.”
Trying to prove himself with his earlier tracks, Leon initially leaned into hardcore, braggadocious themes with his lyrics. In 2020, he released “Big Mad,” a hardcore, shit-talking rap track. He followed up with “Night Trade,” a track that arguably is more of a freestyle than a fleshed-out song. But, at the tail end of 2020, Leon released “CRWN ME,” a song that feels and sounds authentic to all the parts that make him an exciting artist.
It was the pivotal moment where he found his sound. In 2021, Leon dialled the frequency of releases back, releasing two singles, “ICV” and “ICV: Violence Forever” remix, featuring Aja LaBeija, Antonio Ultra and JayLing. As evidenced by their titles, these tracks were heavier, and served as a therapeutic release of anger and other emotions Leon was dealing with at the time. But for his debut EP, Pink Moon, he wanted to return to the lighthearted, fun energy from his days in the drag club scene.
“You get lost in the lights and music when you get drunk in a club and want to hear a good song. That’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to keep going in that direction of, ‘Yeah, I just talk shit.’ I wanted to have fun and make palatable music for people,” he says. He’s achieved that with Pink Moon, as it hones the best parts of Leon’s artistry and identity: catchy flow, a solid pen and an appreciation of club culture.
Leon invites listeners into his world of Pink Moon with the opening track, “Night Ride,” produced by Marcus Saint. Its Miami-centric club vibe immediately draws you in as Leon sings:
Heavy on patron and we outside
and out we here looking for a good time
but I’m only here for the one night
so baby, come and take the night ride
Said you wanna come with me, come with me
said you wanna ride with me, ride with me
spend all your time with me, time with me
come live your life.
Although confident in his music’s production and lyricism, Leon had doubts about releasing such an upbeat track as “Night Ride,” because it was different from the aggressive and braggadocious music he’d made before.
“I do sing from time to time. But I never consider myself a vocalist,” Leon says. “So, I’ve been deathly afraid to share it because I’m like, ‘Are people going to hear this and immediately turn it off because the auto-tune or because the vocals may not be what they thought?’
Leon sat on the song for a year. Initially, “Night Ride” was supposed to release alongside his original dance track “ICV” on a separate EP. But that didn’t sit well with him. So he scratched the whole project and put out the “ICV: Violence Forever” remix instead. “I felt that  was the year of violence, and it was its own separate thing. Then I got to this year: “Okay, now I can do different stuff.”
The EP’s second track, “BLUNT BANG,” serves as the lead single for this era. It’s a vivacious, confident track, perfect for making an entrance to your favourite club, walking in slow motion as everyone stares in awe. “BLUNT BANG” leans into Leon’s boastful rap roots while embodying the confidence from his clubbing days. “‘BLUNT BANG’ came about when I heard the beat produced by Kronixx, and it was hardcore, but it still felt like a club beat. It felt like I would see it in P-Valley with strippers or something,” he laughs. The song has a bit of a bounce that gets the shoulders jigging with a fun, catchy hook:
I keep a blunt bob
with a blunt bang
you know my shit hard
you know my shit bang
Been hot since get-go
might as well let go
you know I pop bitches
grab the Prosecco.
But that wasn’t supposed to be the original hook. Leon reworked “Blunt Bang” about three times before being satisfied with the released version. “I want it to be fun and encompass all of me,” he says. As soon as he finished “BLUNT BANG,” the rapper knew it was the lead single for Pink Moon. “This is it. This is the one.”
Pink Moon closes with “OVA” featuring Regina, a house club track that pays homage to ballroom culture. “OVA” was the final track Leon made for the EP, and it took him less than a couple of weeks. OVA is my personal favourite track on Pink Moon because it’s a liberating song about cutting a rug on the dancefloor—and I love to get my tens.
The journey to Pink Moon hasn’t been a smooth ride. Leon is no stranger to independent artists’ obstacles and the extra hoops he has to jump through as a Black femme queer musician.
“The hardest thing about defining myself as an artist is that I have to work so many times harder than anybody else in this space because [others] fit societal beauty standards of desirability,” he says. “If you’re not the standard, regardless if you believe you’re attractive, because I do, they already don’t see it for you before even tuning in to the music.”
But for Leon, nothing or no one can stop the music. “The hard truth is that music is the only thing that keeps me alive. When those things beat me up, I retreat into the music,” he says. “So, when I feel I don’t belong anywhere else, I don’t have to belong there because I know in that space that I created Pink Moon—it’s mine, and nobody can take it from me.”
Pink Moon is available now for listeners everywhere, and Leon hopes it’s as liberating for them as it was for him to make. As for what else we can expect next from the Florida rapper? He teases visuals are coming soon.