Queen of the misfits

<strong>Public Warning</strong>

Lady Sovereign

Def Jam

Lady Sovereign is the ultimate misfit. A white, pint-sized teenager who made her name in London's mainly black and male-dominated hip-hop clubs, she has come to fame through the force of her lyrical talent and personality.

Typically, it took a trip across the Atlantic for her to realise her true potential, and so her debut album comes to us courtesy of the pioneering New York label Def Jam. It's a slick, lively production that takes in elements of contemporary R'n'B, classic hip-hop beats and, more surprisingly, a dose of British ska-punk.

Public Warning marks Sovereign out as a woman determined to confront the world on her own terms. Resolutely refusing to project the sexualised image expected of a female performer, she rails against overdressed and overtanned women (on the tracks "Hoodie" and "Tango", respectively). On the title track, she defiantly declares: "I don't give a monkey's what you think about me."

In Britain, we usually prefer our street slang tempered with a dose of middle-class respectability. Lily Allen, for example, might talk the talk, but her celebrity dad and her private education sweeten the mockney pill. On "My England", Sovereign presents a more awkward view of UK life, where teenagers on council estates drink spirits, smoke "fresh home-grown" and play PlayStation 2 all day. This is deliciously offset by a chorus that tells listeners to throw their hands in the air and "do the Tony Blair".

With its genre-hopping exuberance, Public Warning kicks down the racially segregated barriers of today's music industry, yet will sit uncomfortably in any "mature" music lover's CD collection: it's way too much fun for that. Misfits everywhere, you have a new queen.