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Lady Sovereign

The Ess-Oh-VEE

Lady Sovereign, the 19-year old star of the UK's grime scene, isn't a lady in the traditional sense-unless your definition of a lady has something to do with baggy Adidas tracksuits, fierce rhymes and a whole lot of rough-around-the-edges attitude. Between inking a contract with Island Def Jam, collaborating with the likes of Missy Elliott and the Neptunes, and embarking on an international tour, the sandpaper-voiced MC is set to make a name for herself in the United States.

Sovereign is a wordsmith who delivers her rhymes with crisp and nimble-tongued precision, flowing fast and furious over window-rattling basslines and electronic beeps, throwing in the occasional giggle or shout-out of "UK all the way." On her newly released EP, "Vertically Challenged" (a direct reference to her 5'1" stature), she effortlessly slides from a rapid-fire verbal sparring match in "The Battle" to sing-song nursery rhymes in the radio-friendly "Random" to straight-up attacking the beat with nonsense noises in "Ch-Ching."

While she doesn't relish the incessant comparisons to Eminem-how many times could you stand to be called Feminem?-she shares his talent for crafting cunning barbs that decimate the intended target while making everyone else laugh, half out of relief that they were spared the evisceration.

Perhaps Sovereign will serve as grime's unofficial ambassador to the United States. Evolving out of a confluence of jungle, UK garage and Jamaican dancehall, grime started popping up on pirate radio shows in the late 1990s in East London. This danceable and MC-friendly genre of music has been burgeoning in the UK for several years, but Dizzee Rascal has been its only representative to achieve a modest degree of recognition stateside.

Fortunately for us, Sovereign's lyrics are still intelligible through her thick accent and heavy slang, two possible reasons that Americans haven't caught on to grime. She balances out the roughness of grime with her own fresh energy, sharing her thoughts on everything from her affection for hoodies to griping about the nine-to-five work hours her new success requires to her to keep.

Despite the fact that she now rides on the shoulders of a major label, you suspect that she was still sporting the same nylon tracksuit and sideways ponytail in her pages of her secondary school yearbook, right before she got kicked out for truancy.

For someone who's earned her dues selling windows door-to-door and filling jelly doughnuts, her apparent disdain for marketing herself as eye candy is refreshing. On the track "9 to 5" she spits, "So my label would change my image / I'm a pink lipstick chick called dipstick / This ain't on my wishlist / Oh sh*t I'm in FHM posing in a bikini/ Next to a Lamborghini."

Time will tell-if she continues on her current trajectory, there will be no shortage of opportunities for her to don clingy designer frocks and pose with six-figure sports cars. Lady Sovereign may claim to be vertically challenged, but it seems that she's going nowhere but up.

Vertically Challenged
Chocolate Industries -- November 15, 2005