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.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 19 February 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Iran - Ready to attack