November 30, 2006

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Lady Sovereign, Public Warning
Def Jam, 2006

I don’t care how short Louise Harman, a.k.a. Lady Sovereign, may be. I think the 20-year-old South London rapper is kinda cute. Oh yeah, and her debut album Public Warning is pretty killer too, with the diminutive MC spewing more self-deprecating trash talk and bring-it-on-bitches sass heard on a rap record since, well, The Marshall Mathers LP.

Of course, Lady Sovereign (or “The S-O-V,” as she often nicknames herself) doesn’t like being compared to Eminem, but it’s meant as a compliment really. Like Slim Shady, Sov specializes in a unique lyrical style of honest, uninhibited wordplay that seems silly and laid back on the surface, yet reveals a deep sense of anger and alienation underneath. On the dance-hall rave-up “Random,” Lady Sovereign notes, “Just check how my flow differs/I’m dropping lyrics like a hoe dropping knickers/I’m old-school, like marathon prior to snickers.”

Later on “My England,” Sov reveals, “It ain’t about tea and biscuits, I’m one of those English misfits/I don’t drink tea, I drink spirits/And I talk a lot of slang in my lyrics.” And let’s not forget popular single, “Love Me or Hate Me,” which glides along on digitized synths that could have been lifted from the original Super Mario Brothers. On that song the self-proclaimed “Biggest Midget in the Game” lays it out like such: “I can’t dance and I really can’t sing/I can only do one thing/And that’s be Lady Sovereign” (and, thanks to her British accent, she manages to make that last part rhyme).

To be certain, some songs on Public Warning work better than others. Sov’s bid at misty-eyed nostalgia on “Those Were the Days” slows things down too much, and I’m not sure we really needed to close the album with a second version of “Love Me or Hate Me” (this one featuring Missy Elliot, albeit briefly), catchy as the song is.

But this is Lady Sovereign’s debut album, so go easy on the kid. Besides, I think she’s kinda cute. B+ —Adam Marletta