Music

Lady Sovereign: Vertically Challenged

Dan Nishimoto

Feminem? M.I.A. in a cheeky kinda way? Ch-ching go the banks, but S-O-V gets the last laugh. All told in a letter from one concerned Blahberian.


Lady Sovereign

Vertically Challenged

Label: Chocolate Industries
US Release Date: 2005-11-15
UK Release Date: Available as import
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Dear Reader,

By now, you have likely heard of Lady Sovereign. Perhaps you also know her by one of her myriad aliases: S-O-V, the riddim vandalist, the cheeky/white midget, etc. However, in the rush to boost/market the former Louise Harman to the Internet and club youth demographics, some rash comparisons have been made. The feminine Eminem? The next M.I.A.? Make way for the FeM.I.A.? To avoid short shrift for this teen crusader, I ask that you please pause your Piracy Mixtape for a moment while we discuss S-O-V, her latest Vertically Challenged EP, and whether 5' 1" constitutes being a small person.

The trouble with our damsel in grime stems from a back story that writers only love to recycle. Youth miscreant grows up in rough 'n' tumble neighborhood, turns to music and disseminates it independently, wows major hip-hop mogul and signs major contract before being of legal drinking age. On your mark, ready, chat! It is fantastic, it is youthful hope realized, it is the capitalist dream -- go, Kobe, it's your birthday. However, the comparisons fall short because where Eminem and M.I.A. set their sights squarely on the main stage, Lady Sovereign has yet to exhibit this drive. Where Em and M temper their hunger with a veteran Shaq and Kobe perspective in their music, S-O-V is livin' la vida LeBron. The story only frames an awkwardly grand context for this diminutive emcee from once-modest Northwest London, its enormity threatening to engulf the raw talent that is Lady Sovereign. Say what you will about the communicative power, the cultural force, and the creative freedom of music, her music just wants to have fun.

Thus, S-O-V's Vertically Challenged EP strives to be the preview to next year's blockbuster. A taster's menu highlighting the star (originals) and guest appearances (celebrity and cross-promotional remixes), the record spreads the Lady's larks over a host of soundscapes. Proven party starters "Random" and "Ch Ching (Cheque 1-2 Remix)" buzz with the best Crooklyn Clan quirk, while stars Small Stars (Adrock) and Ghislain Poirier submit A.D.D.-adled lo-fi and droogly dubby interpretations, respectively. Sov claims to not own 50 rings, but she appears properly bejeweled in the circle of these Grade A productions. Granted, this exceptional color and bounce also lacks coherence from track to track, sounding every bit like a highlights reel. No matter, because the EP's target is rapid exposure; most of these tracks have been available in the UK -- notably "Random", its Menta remix and "Ch Ching" on 12" -- so the collection is sensible for the non-net fiends.

Fortunately, the Lady and her "50 things to say in a cheeky kinda way" centralizes the appeal of VC. Sparing no time for Tiger ideology, race rage or the like, S-O-V makes Reggie proud and simply brings the ruckus. Her hook to "Fiddle with the Volume", "Disturb the neighbors / This one's a banger", could very well be her mantra if it weren't for her seemingly endless stream of witticisms: "Move your arms 'round like fucked up karate"; "So let me carry on while you sit back and vomit / Some sit crooked like Wallace and Gromit"; "Now look at me, the multitalented munchkin." While this mix of braggadocio and self-effacement plays down deep readings by the bespectacled, beard-stroking set, it also smokescreens her clever inversions of the barely legal mindset: "J-Lo's got a body / Well, you can't see mine cos I wear my trousers baggy"; "I'm the best thing since sliced bread; no Eminem / Feminine? Naw; Ms. Sovereign"; "I can confirm that the white midget feminist is sane." Removing tongue from cheek, she points it squarely at the listener. She bakes the cake, then eats it, too with her crew of keen spazzers, the unspoken herd in between Natalie Portman's Garden State and Closer characters. Indeed, VC emphatically states the presence of one Ms. Sovereign.

Beyond the valley of the VC is the suggestion of a phenomenon. To date in the public ear, Sov has yet to establish a particular sound, which has allowed her flexibility with her production choices. Her work with notable boosters [she has also worked with the Ordinary Boys ("9 to 5"), Basement Jaxx ("Hoodie") and the Streets ("Fit But You Know It")] has improved her position, not to mention given form to her raw microphone skills. This collaborative background promises to be fruitful; while yelps and yodels make for a memorable experience, striking the true Ch Ching! remains to be seen when hoodie coutoure is a top priority. Thus, as S-O-V preps her upcoming album next year on Island/Def Jam, make sure to make room for the biggest white midget.

Kindly Yours,

A Cheeky Blahberian

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