Lady Sovereign: Public Warning

Lady Sovereign: Public Warning

A two-year delay between the first single and the first album can be deadly for a hip-hop artist. For an MC identified not with an American scene, but with the British variant grime, it's potentially even more dangerous. It doesn't help that Lady Sovereign, the self-proclaimed "white midget" who's long been tipped as grime's surest shot at crossover success, has long professed her own distance from the style's center. Or that hip-hop fans tend to look askance at London accents. Or that much of Public Warning has leaked over the past two years. In spite of Sov's anti-stereotyping inveigling on Public Warning's "My England" ("We ain't all squeaky clean / We ain't all posh like the Queen"), it's difficult not to make the comparison to Sex Pistols, which encountered similar skepticism when Never Mind The Bollocks turned out to be the band's singles plus some new tracks.

Also like the Pistols, Sov is at her best when she's laying on the scorn. "Tango" is a girl-fight classic, snapping on a rival who layers on liquid-tan ("On your English breakfast / Place her next to the bacon / She could be the beans") And "Hoodie" mocks fashionistas: "You're hurting my eyes / You really should revise your dress sense before you walk on by." But even a moment as snarling as the obvious anthem "Love Me Or Hate Me" (presented twice, the second time with an appealingly offhanded Missy Elliott guest verse) is buoyed by sonic accoutrements that hint at Specials-style ska-pop as much as grime's PlayStation-fueled beat-smithery and hip-hop's drop-the-bomb bass. Even if Sov doesn't cross over the way she or Def Jam might want her to, she still sounds like an original—even for people who know half the songs already.

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