Leila K. was the first Swedish rap star and also had some success in the states with her debut single "Got to Get." In a career marred by an unusual number of problems, she managed to go bankrupt as well as become the best-selling European female artist as she moved from hip-hop, over Euro-disco and techno, to rock beats, and then disappeared into almost total obscurity. During the late '90s she was mostly known for a number of alleged scandals in her home country.
Leila K. was born in 1971 as Leila El Khalifi by Moroccan parents in Göteborg, Sweden. She had a turbulent youth, but when she participated in a rap contest under the alias Miss Melody, she was discovered by the DJ and producer duo Rob'n'Raz. Together they released the single "Got to Get" which sold a million copies, made the band well-known across Europe, and even made it over to the States. The next single, "Rok the Nation," was almost as successful and the debut album Rob'n'Raz Feat. Leila K. was recorded in 1990, while the still-underage Leila K. was wanted by the police for running away from her parents. This made headline news, and while Rob'n'Raz were in charge, it was Leila K. who was the obvious star, with an uncompromising attitude and wild stories about her background. The album was released and it was time for a major tour, but after only a few concerts, Leila K. disappeared. She was later found in Mallorca but then made it over to Ibiza where she arranged her own concerts to big success. Rob'n'Raz were sued over the failed tour and didn't want to know Leila K. anymore, who, upon her return, participated on Doktor Alban's hit "Hello Africa" and had two solo hits in 1991.
Leila K. started to collaborate with Denniz Pop, who was soon to found the Cheiron studios, and in 1992, she had a major dance hit with "Open Sesame." The single made it on charts all over Europe and was followed by a number of successful singles, including a cover on Plastic Bertrand's old "Ca Plan Pour Moi." Carousel was released in 1993 and made clear what had already been heard on the singles: Leila K. had abandoned most hip-hop influences for Euro-disco and techno. The album made Leila K. the best-selling female artist in Europe that year, so it was somewhat surprising that the next year she was already broke again, with a big tax debt. Two relatively quiet years were followed by the hit single "Electric" in 1995 and the album Manic Panic in 1996, on which Leila K. had once more made a move musically, now including heavy rock beats with the dance music. The album sold OK but was overshadowed at home by writings by the scandal press. Throughout the rest of the '90s, there were reports of Leila K.'s imminent comeback, but except for a remix of "Open Sesame" in 1999 and the Madonna cover "Burning Out" the same year, nothing much was heard from the problem-ridden star, who now suffered from back injuries from a serious car accident in 1998 and who reportedly had big problems in co-operating with the various producers she tried after the death of Denniz Pop in 1999. ~ Lars Lovén