Spotlight: Lady Sovereign

12mid, La Zona Rosa

Spotlight: Lady Sovereign

Three inescapable facts about Lady Sovereign: she's white, British, and female.

"Apparently I'm all the things a rapper shouldn't be," says the diminutive, 19-year-old Londoner. "I hope people can look past that."

It appears people already have. In hip-hop circles both here and overseas, Lady Sovereign's wears the universal next-big-thing seal of approval. Not only does she possess underground cred built on a series of widely bootlegged singles and EPs, she's got a brand new record deal stateside inked personally by Jay-Z.

"I flew in to meet him and he asked me to rhyme for him on the spot," she says of her NYC audition for Island Def Jam's president, who didn't just sign her; he promised to send her to the studio with Missy Elliot and the Neptunes. "He's a legend, and I'm just a cheeky li'l midget, right? I did it, but the whole time I'm standing there spitting I was fighting off a weird combination of disbelief, happiness, and nerves. I was pretty overwhelmed."

It's not hard to guess that what got Jay-Z's attention: on last year's Vertically Challenged EP there are tough-as-nail battle raps, complex storylines, and danceclub-ready bangers that suggest British grime and American crunk may be less distant cousins than was previously thought. Then there's her flow – hyper, slang-heavy, and boasty. It's easy to believe the bulk of Streets and Eminem comparisons she's earned are based more on agility than skin color.

"There's people that are going to see me and think I'm a novelty, that I'll have a few hits and piss off," says Sovereign, who'll play her first-ever SXSW well in advance of a late-summer debut LP. "But hip-hop is me. Music is me. I'm real. I'm the little girl with a big voice."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Wednesday Interview
Wednesday Interview
Delta Spirit

Jim Caligiuri, March 20, 2015

Wednesday Picks & Sleepers
Wednesday Picks & Sleepers
First night SXSW Music recommendations and hints

March 20, 2015

More by Andy Langer
Margaret Moser Tribute: Jimmie Vaughan
Jimmie Vaughan
“Everything back then felt like us versus them – and she was one of us”

June 30, 2017

Margaret Moser Tribute: Chris Layton
Chris Layton
Antone’s, 1979: Hurricane Margaret blows in

June 30, 2017


Lady Sovereign, hip-hop, Jay-Zm, Missy Elliot, Neptunes, Vertically Challenged,

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle