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Lady Sovereign: Biggest Midget Growing Pains

12 May

lady_sov_12Lady Sovereign may have sold a million copies of “Love Me or Hate Me” from her 2006 U.S. debut Public Warning, but don’t remind her. The diminutive British rapper (born Louise Harman, but don’t remind her of that either) and her relationship with Def Jam Records quite publicly imploded as criticisms flew and Sov became uncooperative with the label. Now with her own imprint, Midget Records (a division of EMI) Sov is back with a sophomore disc Jigsaw, a 10 song romp that sees her all across the pop spectrum. There are club jams (“I Got You Dancing”) atonal orchestral break-up tracks (“Guitar”) and supremely odd but sexy come-ons (“Food Play”). The mandarins may say that the disc is needy and campy, but it is also a weird and endearing portrait of a hyperkinetic self-taught 23 year old, precisely because it is needy and campy, full of bubbling beats and attention deficit sonic trills. Jigsaw would never have been made without the notoriety or tribulations of the past years, and it remains to be seen if Sov finds an expanding audience- her Meet-and-Greet deal with Hot Topic shows where she is banking on growth. In advance of her Saturday Fine Line gig, Cake In 15 caught up with her via phone in her New York hotel room to ask her about change, process and to see if we could find out anything about those rumors that were floating around Minneapolis a while back. (We did, sort of.)

Cake In 15: Thanks for taking the time to do yet another interview.

Lady Sovereign: Yeah. I’m sorry, did you try and call before? ‘Cause I wasn’t in the room.

CIn15: Yeah, it just rang through the first time I tried to ring.

LS: Aww fuck. I should have been here, but I went elsewhere. I just got back to the hotel. Yeah, but that’s just me.

CIn15: Has it become easier for you to do interviews now that you’ve taken more control of your work?

LS: Kind of, I mean I can obviously do stuff like today and its all good, I don’t mind doing it. It’s my job, y’know?

CIn15: Jigsaw is a bold move, it’s a totally different record from Public Warning.

LS: I know it’s going to sound really weird, but I didn’t realize how different it was until the other day- I was like, how is it different? I didn’t realize it because it’s just me, you know? But I see it, I see it now.

CIn15: You’ve said as much in previous interviews, that you don’t really see them as that different, maybe that Jigsaw is a little more “personal”?

LS: Public Warning was personal too. Everything I do is personal. I don’t lie about anything and everything is honest and whatever. I guess with Jigsaw it’s a bit more…how do I put it…personal, but in a way that’s more open, does more things.

CIn15: Public Warning cast you in a pretty narrow role as a white, British, girl rapper. Is that what some of the falling out with Def Jam was about?

LS: It wasn’t necessarily a falling out, but what bugged me was the fact that all I seemed to be promoting was “Love Me or Hate Me”. It was what I had to talk about and they wanted to perceive me as a white female rapper. You know, fair enough, I am that but I’m not your average hip-hop artist. I’m not a part of that world really. I’m something else, I do a lot more than that.

CIn15: It shows- Jigsaw has a much more diverse sound, hip-hop and pop and club jams.

LS: It’s what I like. I listen to everything, I really do. I don’t want to do things people have necessarily done before, I want to try things out. I like the fact that I can make an album and have a variety on it, ‘cause most artists stick to one genre and here everything‘s got it’s own little vibe to it, jamming, you know?

CIn15: Who brought the Cure sample (“Close to Me” is prominently sampled on “So Human”) in to the studio?

LS: That was me. I never sample stuff but for some reason that just seemed to work for me. The song goes for a bit before they start singing so it’s almost like an instrumental and I would always be rapping or singing over the instrumental bit. And I like the song and I like some of what the Cure do, so I thought, let’s sample this, it’s so sample ready.

CIn15: If you juxtapose the singles “Love Me or Hate Me” and “So Human” you get a very different pictures of a person.

LS: Yeah, I’m 23 now and everyone involved has progressed.  Or maybe it’s just us special people who progress (laughs).

CIn15: Jigsaw definitely sounds more experienced. Apart from the professional changes it also sounds like there was some personal heartache and heartbreak involved.

LS: Yeah, there was. Ahh, Minneapolis (sighs). Yeah, shit happened. I came out of that and I felt quite alone with the Public Warning extravaganza, and I got stressed out, my head was just fucked up. I was 19, I hadn’t really traveled round, seen the world, been on this huge stage so to speak. It was too quickly going into that and it was like, wow.

CIn15: Songs like “Jigsaw” and “Guitar” are much more personal and open. Are you finding that these kinds of songs are opening you up to new audiences?

LS: I haven’t really grasped that yet because my fans are dedicated fans. Those are the people that are coming to the shows, I wouldn’t know if people have just picked up on me now. Performing tracks like “Jigsaw” freaks me out a bit. I really just started performing that song and I always say something before I do it, like, “OK, don’t laugh at me…” It is completely different. And I do feel like what led up to it, it hurt me a lot. As time goes on I will pick up a more diverse audience. I’ve already got that but I think that it will take me out of this hip-hop pigeonhole.

Cin15: What is your process with (producer) Medasyn like?

LS: I’m always thinking about stuff and how to work it into a song and then I’ll go into the studio. Me and Medasyn will work together on songs- I’ll point him in the right direction. I’ll put my chorus down and he’ll add some more as I’m sitting trying to word things out.

Cin15: Do you have “Aha!” moments?

LS: That happens, we also know when something ain’t right. I love working with him, I don’t really work with anyone else because they don’t know me and he knows me which lets me be creative instead of just getting into the studio with some complete stranger.

Cin15: Is he coming out with you on tour?

LS: No, he’s a busy dude, he’s got so many little projects. He’d probably annoy me though if he toured with me. He’s a character (laughs).

Cin15: Are you touring with a live band?

LS: I’ve got a drummer and a DJ. It works. I can only work with the budget that I have.

Cin15: Which I suppose has changed now with Midget Records.

LS: Yeah. Skint. I’m the biggest midget in the game with the smallest budget.

Lady Sovereign with Chester French & Hollywood Holt
Fine Line Music Cafe
Saturday May 16th 5pm Doors
$16 advance / $18 doors

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