Lady Sovereign

Public Warning

(Def Jam; 2006)

By Kevin Yuen | 4 September 2007

Lady Sovereign’s (publicist’s) guide to becoming a burgeoning success in America

The genre of “grime” or, as geriatrics call it in the States, “What the fuck is this, junior?” is super duper fresh to the kiddies of TRL. While skimmers have already bumped “Random” and “Hoodie” for a quick minute in 2005 and were over the Streets and Dizzee Rascal, like, totally two years ago, little Madison Chambers and Theodore Gabriel (probably real people) are just now getting familiar with Lady Sov and her gruffy lil rapping stylings. The media, however, disowned her along with the rest of her grime* brethren, moving on to uh, the Arctic Monkeys or whatever (remember them?). This left Sovereign way open for the people to embrace her, because the people love artists who aren’t media darlings (see: Nickelback, Danity Kane, country music).

This year, Lady Sov slipped onto Cartoon Network bumpers and snuck into MTV’s Total Request Live, where she eventually captured the #1 spot. Wait, seriously? You know she’s English, right? And she’s not in the Arctic Monkeys? OK, so this white girl rapper from England right now has all the momentum in the world to shove garage beats and chav talk into the mouths of trend-loving teenagers in junior high schools across the country. Amazing. It’s unlikely that her popularity will be shared by her country/genre mates, though, seeing as how she was originally not well received back in the UK. And the fact that she’s a tiny, white girl** (she never lets us forget this, by the way) is probably 74 percent the reason why she is popular (24 percent, for the wondering, is payola). Whatever her draw is, it’s definitely not the music.

The actual music, while at times catchy and bold, is largely unmarketable to the young, nubile ears of American children. Lady Sov’s rude chav drawl constantly pummels the colorful garage (rhymes with “marriage”) rhythms, and Sov even punctuates many of the tracks with her saucy, droning crooning (she’s a better singer than Busdriver but worse than Ghostface). Oh, and lots of synthy vacuum cleaner noises. Vroom vroom. While it’s easy to stomach her lead single “Love or Hate Me” after taking in copious amounts of Good Charlotte and Fergie, on an LP her tinny tunes and rapid fire drums play out like a 45 minute episode of Danger Mouse on Redbull and blow. It may be some people’s thing, but not most. Also, there’s a hangover involved.

Each production is varied slightly (very slightly), even the poppiest songs are -- for the lack of a better term -- grimy. While her topics (basically, herself and how she’s different***) play a bit tired, it doesn’t really matter, as her words eat eardrums for breakfast (or tea time, or whatever). Every song seems like it all went through a grime factory conveyor belt, and at the expense of being cohesive, Public Warning grows a bit repetitive. The album’s not long, but at such blistering speeds, the theory of relativity kicks in and three quarters of an hour suddenly feels like three hours and fifteen minutes (hangover included). And then you soiled yourself and missed Lost.

At the best, tracks like “Public Warning” and “Love Or Hate Me” can spice up a mixtape so your boo don’t think you hate on the rap. And after a year or two, “Hoodie” and “Random” are rediscovered to find that they actually have a certain charm that may have the stodgiest consumer singing along to the infectious choruses. Who knows what Jay-Z saw in her, and the comparisons to Marshall are ridiculous, because we can actually understand what Em is saying (he speaks proper English). But take her in small doses and you’ll be fine. God made her 5’1” for a reason.

*****

*Step 1: Import an already marginally successful international genre/style of music. See: MIA, Panjabi MC, Daddy Yankee, Sean Paul

**Step 2: Be a relatively cute or unthreatening white girl. Or be short. See: Mandy Moore, Christina Aguilera, Phife Dawg, Alan Baban

***Step 3: Constantly mention how you’re different from everybody else. “It’s officially the biggest midget in the game.” “I ain’t got the biggest breastestes, but I write all the best disses. I got hairy armpits but I don’t walk around like this.” “J. Lo’s got a body / But you can’t see mine ‘cause I wear my trousers baggy.” See: Eminem