Witch Prophet 
Gateway Experience 

Heart Lake Records • 2023

Gateway Experience is a mind-altered musical state that walks the line between awake and sleep, dream and reality, physical and spiritual.

I understand the challenges and frustration when medical professionals (and even your friends and family) don’t take debilitating invisible symptoms seriously. I suffered from crippling knee pain for years without any outward physical explanation or blood chemistry markers to suggest its source. I don’t know if Ayo Leilani, the artist more formally known as Witch Prophet, has had a similar experience with the medical world. Still, I’m assuming that being a “neurodivergent artist who struggles with focal aware seizures” and suffering frequent bouts of déjà vu prompting her to tell doctors that “she feels as if she is time travelling” wasn’t always met with an open mind. And yet, opening minds is exactly what she does with Gateway Experience, a mind-altered musical state that walks the line between awake and sleep, dream and reality, physical and spiritual.

With her spouse and producer SUN SUN, Witch Prophet casts a musical spell of soul, jazz, and hip-hop rooted in reality but interconnected and extrapolated through her unique vocal styles. It’s as if all these influences flow into her conscious mind and emerge through her subconscious as newly transformed energy. The opening track, “Lucid,” uses mantra-like lyrics—“This is a dream”—that ebb and flow through a barely-there arrangement replicating that elusive feeling of being caught between being awake and sleeping. A final, somewhat definitive delivery of the line instantly lands us in “Dreaming,” a smooth-flowing number featuring Zaki Ibrahim that makes the most of its minimal musical elements. “Dizzy” achieves a similar effect, its single, trilling horn spinning the song around Witch Prophet singing “Don’t take my breath away.” 

On the groove-infused “Energy Vampires,” she pleads with her mysterious night visitors not to suck the life forces out of her, but there’s a sense of resignment in Witch Prophet’s delivery that suggests she knows it’s all for naught.  They are coming for her whether she likes it or not, so rather than resist, she makes the most of the hand she’s dealt. With deft grace and inventiveness, Gateway Experience kicks open the door to multiple realities and experiences simultaneously. Whether with one foot in jazz and soul and the other in hip-hop and funk or one eye wide open and the other in the deepest throes of dreams, Witch Prophet is ready to guide you through a mind-altering, body-moving experience like none you’ve ever had before.

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