Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Biggest Midget in the Game

Lady Sovereign, Public Warning, Def Jam

So I can't dance and I really can't sing / I can only do one thing and that's be Lady Sovereign.
-- "Love Me or Hate Me"


The gestation period turned out to be longer than expected and most tracks have already appeared in single form. Still, it was worth the wait for diminutive London rapper Lady Sovereign's first full-length. When I wrote about Vertically Challenged last fall, I was expecting her long-player to follow in February rather than late-October. Since the EP, Def Jam snapped up the 20-year-old and the S-O-V has been touring and doing publicity non-stop, so I think it's fair to say that awareness is at an all-time high.

I have no idea how well Public Warning is doing nationally, but according to the Seattle Weekly, it's a local top seller (I'm guessing it helped that she played this year's Bumbershoot). Though she's probably tired of the comparisons to MIA and Lily Allen, Lady Sov slots pretty neatly between the two and next to pal Mike Skinner (the Streets). I'm also reminded of the Arctic Monkeys as she slings just as much UK-specific argot. As she states in "My England," "I talk a lot of slang in my lyrics." As such, it's a thrill to see the album attracting so much attention Stateside as she's made no attempt whatsoever to tone down her Britishness.

Take "My England," for instance, which is like Sov's version of Allen's "LDN," i.e. "We don't all wear bowler hats and hire servants / More like 24-hour surveillance and dog shit on the pavements." That said, when she adds, "Now do the Tony Blair, throw your hands in the air now everywhere," I'm not sure what she means. But in "Love Me or Hate Me," she seems to be riffing on The Queen: "Now bow down to your royal highness / No, I don't own a Corgi / Had a hamster, it died because I ignored thee / Go on then, go on report me / I'm English, try and deport me." (So, where's that Lady Sovereign-Helen Mirren duet already?!)

My primary problem with this album is not a unique one. Because so many singles were released in advance, the LP selections pale a bit in comparison. Fortunately, I don't think any qualify as filler. On the downside, if you have all the EPs, you won't be getting the best value for your scratch. Since I only own Vertically Challenged, I got my money's worth, although the Missy Elliot remix of "Love Me or Hate Me" (track 13) doesn't hold a candle to the original (track five). Also, I gotta admit I don't hear much Eminem here, although a lot of folks have been dropping his name. Sov agrees. As she explains in "Blah Blah," "People wanna classify me as an Eminem / But hear what I'm a different kinda specimen / Just because I be a white Caucasian / Doesn't mean me and him are the same / Because one I'm not American, two I'm not a man / Three I'm coming through with a different kinda plan."

Incidentally, in the liner notes, Sov boasts, "Once I had a shit record label, now I've got a good one." I can understand the props to Def Jam/Island/Universal, but I don't think isn't too cool to dis the company that first brought her to the public's attention (I think she's referring to Casual Records as opposed to Chocolate Industries, with which she still appears to be associated). Then again, if you're going to take the S-O-V as she is, i.e. "Love Me or Hate Me," you've got to accept the fact she's trying to make music not friends. Just as the Decemberists released a major label debut that sounds more like the Decemberists than ever--for better or for worse--the self-proclaimed cheeky midget has done exactly the same thing. No false humility, false manners, or (God forbid) false nails. Public Warning is 100% Lady Sovereign.


If you love me, then thank you,
If you hate me, then fuck you.

-- "Love Me or Hate Me"

Note: Image from Wikipedia, video from YouTube.

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