It’s not surprising that Lady Sovereign draws comparisons to Eminem. Despite the 21-year-old British MC having a vastly different sound, being a foul-mouthed Caucasian rapper who likes to stir up trouble does bring Slim Shady to mind.
The story behind her record contract even mirrors the lyrics from Eminen’s Academy Award and Grammy Award-winning song “Lose Yourself”: “If you had one shot to seize everything you ever wanted would you capture it or just let it slip.” Before becoming the first foreign female artist to be signed by U.S. urban label Def Jam Records, Sovereign had to prove her skills.
Summoned for a meeting with chart-topping rapper and label president Jay-Z, who was accompanied by record executive L.A. Reid and singer Usher, she was asked to audition by delivering a free-style rap for the three millionaires.
“I had an idea that Jay-Z would want me to do it,” Sovereign explains to The Japan Times over the phone from a tour stop in Sydney. “Him being a rapper, he would obviously want to hear me rap. I was super nervous and tried to get drunk before hand to calm myself a bit, but it didn’t work. I don’t like small crowds so I was really quiet and not really myself as I was so worried about f**king up.”
Evidently she didn’t, and as a result her Def Jam debut, “Public Warning,” was released in Japan in February. Finished in 2005 before inking the deal, Sovereign attributes its delay to “the record label d**king about.”
Definitely not typical hip-hop fare, “Public Warning” mixes a love of old-school rap with aspects of grime (the popular UK subgenre that combines garage, drum ‘n’ bass, and dance hall), pop and a dash of punk attitude. Unabashedly British, Sovereign drops rhymes littered with references and slang from the streets of London.
“They released ‘Public Warning’ exactly the way we gave it to them. No one is changing my music — I don’t give a piss who they are. There’s been no pressure yet to do things a certain way,” says Sovereign. “We’ll see what happens, though. I’m going to scare the life out of them with the next one. I really want to f**k s**t up and take things to the next level.”
Despite itching to work on her sophomore album, touring for “Public Warning,” has made it difficult. With her next, Sovereign wants to explore different genres like disco and punk, but she has no desire to cater to anyone in particular.
“I’m an individual. Everyone has their own plan and mine is just me f**king around,” she says. “I make music for myself. If I stopped I’d probably die. If you start making music for other people it will make your head all messed up.”
When she first rapped in her early teens, her race and sex were an issue and often the basis for unjust criticism. With her popularity on the rise around the world, almost everyone now focuses only on her actual abilities.
“The only people that bring it up are the media. It’s the first line out of most journalists’ mouths,” says Sovereign. “The fact that I’m white and female only seems to matter to them. No one else says s**t.”
Recent stories of a reported “war of words” with pop singer Lily Allen aren’t gaining the press any bonus points. Apparently stemming from a remark about Allen having things easier because of her family background, according to Sovereign, like most supposed rivalries this one is more hype than substance.
“Lily Allen is a cool girl. I got no problem with her. At the time, I was just saying what was on my mind. Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” she muses. “I said it like six months ago and now journalists are trying to mix and match our comments to start crap.”
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