Lady Sovereign

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Lady Sovereign
Lady Sovereign live @ Reading Festival 2006 - Oh.jpg
Background information
Birth name Louise Amanda Harman
Origin Wembley, London, England
Genres Hip-hop, Grime
Years active 2003–present
Labels Casual, Chocolate Industries, Def Jam

Louise Amanda Harman (born 19 December 1985),[1] known as Lady Sovereign, is an English rapper[2][3]. Lady Sovereign is unique as the only white female artist in the primarily black British Grime scene.[4] As a white MC, her authenticity has been contested within that scene, "even though she grew up in the same kind of public-housing project - Chalk Hill estate, now demolished - that many grime artists did."[4] She has been compared to both Melanie Chisholm (namely her Sporty Spice persona), for their physical resemblance and similar athletic clothing, and to Eminem, as "another lily-white rap sensation."[4][5] Lady Sovereign is notable for her adoption of a relatively masculine appearance and aggressive delivery, donning athletic gear and mocking the trappings of more traditional female sexuality, perhaps in order to better fit in with the male dominated Grime scene. This stands in sharp contrast to female artists in similar genres, such as bassline house’s [6] more traditionally feminine Zoe. [7]Her levels of success continue to rise domestically, and while she has not reached mainstream audiences abroad, she is becoming recognizable as a standout in the grime genre. New Yorker writer Sasha Frere-Jones describes her as "good: pithy, clever, and able to use her honking voice to humorous effect."[8] This can be heard in Lady Sovereign's track "Cha Ching (Cheque 1, 2 Remix)" and "Love Me or Hate Me".

Early life

Lady Sovereign was born Louise Amanda Harman to Lynette Parsons and Aden Harman. She was raised in northwest London's Chalkhill Estate, a public housing project. She was influenced by her mother's Salt-N-Pepa albums and began writing her own raps at the age of 14. She began MCing ' in front of a mirror with a can of hairspray for a mic.' She was inspired by Ms. Dynamite : 'When I heard Ms. Dynamite's track 'Boooo!' in 2001 it inspired me. I hadn't heard a female mc before that..she's real... her presence..her image..the way she does everything..she opened so many doors for us girls. MC's are real, they write their own stuff, they rap about what they know, the stuff around them.'[9]

She began uploading some of her songs and a picture to various music Web sites. Around this time Harman adopted the Lady Sovereign moniker, a reference to the large sovereign ring she wore.[2] After dropping out of school she landed a job acting in an educational film about the life of an up-and-coming MC who also dropped out of Preston Manor High School at 16.

She convinced the film's producers that she could record a soundtrack for the film, the demos for which landed in the hands of record producer Medasyn. He partnered Sovereign with Frost P, Zuz Rock, and Shystie for a male vs. female MC freestyle contest, titled "The Battle". It was released in 2003 on Casual Records. Every artist that was featured on "The Battle" has gone on to be signed by a record label.


Early singles and EPs

"The Battle" began a string of singles that would push Lady Sovereign into the spotlight. While "A Little Bit of Shhh!," "Random," "9 to 5," were selling well, free Internet-only freestyles like "Tango" and "Cheeky" were becoming just as popular. On 15 November 2005, Chocolate Industries released the Vertically Challenged EP, which collected most of her singles recorded to date.

Aside from her own records, 2005 saw Lady Sovereign appear as a guest or contributor on several projects. She began 2005 by appearing on the grime compilation Run the Road, both as a solo artist and with The Streets. When The Ordinary Boys released the single "Boys Will Be Boys", Lady Sovereign came back with a reply remix, featuring the music and chorus of the original, but with mostly her own vocals to the tune of "girls will be girls". In May 2006, she was featured on the Ordinary Boys single, "Nine2Five", a remixed version of her own "9 to 5", credited as "The Ordinary Boys vs Lady Sovereign." "Nine2Five" entered at #38 in the UK top 40 singles on downloads only, and jumped to #6 upon availability as a CD and 7" vinyl single during the week commencing 22 May 2006. This was her highest chart position to date.

Def Jam and Public Warning

Lady Sovereign capped off 2005 by meeting with the American hip-hop star and CEO of the labels Def Jam Recordings and Roc-A-Fella Records, Jay-Z. This marked her foray into the American music scene. With Usher and L.A. Reid seated next to him, Jay-Z asked for one on-the-spot freestyle from Sovereign before offering her a contract with Def Jam. With the single "Hoodie", Lady Sovereign released her full-length debut, Public Warning, on Def Jam in 2006.[2] Lady Sovereign is the first non-American female to ever be signed to Def Jam.[10][3]

On 31 October 2006, her debut album, Public Warning, was released, featuring "Random," "9 to 5," "Hoodie" and single, "Love Me or Hate Me," which was also released on the same day.[11][12] The music video for the single features Lady Sovereign mocking stereotypical ideals of femininity by satirizing popular dress and mannerisms. Some of the lyrics include I'm fat, I need a diet./No, in fact I'm just too light./And I ain't got the biggest breast-s-s,/but I write all the best disses. With the lyrics continuing in this satirical nature, Lady Sovereign continues to comment on and express her dissonance with female lifestyles in popular culture.[13] She began an American tour on 23 October 2006 and soon after appeared on CBS-TV's Late Show with David Letterman. In addition to her own tour, she appeared as the opening act for various artists, including The Streets and Gwen Stefani on her 2007 The Sweet Escape Tour.

On 17 October 2006 "Love Me or Hate Me" became the first video by a British artist to reach #1 on the United States (and original) version of MTV's Total Request Live.[2][3] "Love Me Or Hate Me" was released in the UK on 29 January 2007,[14] with the album following on 5 February 2007.[15]

Lady Sovereign has recorded a cover of The Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" for The O.C.'s new album, Music From The O.C. Mix 6 "Covering Our Tracks".[2]


According to her MySpace bulletin a second album was due for release in Spring 2008. Plans for a tour are also mentioned.[16] Later on her official webpage she said that she was going to release her independent record label, "Midget Records", and that her second studio album was fully written and some songs were already recorded, she also said the album was going to be release on the United States and United Kingdom on April 7, 2008. On Monday, December 8th, 2008, Lady Sovereign restated that her new album, titled Jigsaw, would be released on April 6th, 2009. She also released a free single entitled "I Got You Dancing," making it available on her MySpace site and her official website.

Role in the music industry

Although she is not the only grime female MC, she is definitely the most well-known. The grime scene in the United Kingdom is very male-dominated, already making it much more difficult for a female to establish herself as an authentic artist. [17] There have been issues with Sovereign's authenticity because not only is she in the gender minority of the grime scene, but she is also the only white female MC.[18] Despite this, she has found success in the U.K. and is already becoming established with American and British hip-hop producers and artists like Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, Pharrell, Snoop Dogg and Basement Jaxx all wishing to work with her. [17] She has already been compared to hip-hop legend Eminem.[18]

Television and commercial appearances

Lady Sovereign has appeared on Soccer AM several times. She has appeared in a feature story on the Cartoon Network and in an educational movie called X-ED which can be viewed on YouTube.

In late 2006, "Love Me or Hate Me" was played in a Verizon Wireless advertisement. It also appears on the Need for Speed: Carbon soundtrack, and is also the theme music for the show, The Bad Girls Club. "9 to 5" also appears on The Bad Girls Club, as well as on the soundtrack of the Xbox360's version of EA Sports' FIFA World Cup 2006 video game, on the Ugly Betty soundtrack and features in the movie St Trinian's (2007 film). Also "Random" appears on the Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix soundtrack.

"Hoodie" was used for the Mario Party Nintendo DS commercial.

On 23 October 2006, Sovereign made an appearance on American talk show Late Night with David Letterman. The lyrics "If you hate me, then fuck you" were changed to "if you hate me, then I hate you" for the show.

Lady Sovereign served as the host and spokesperson for Adult Swim and Chocolate Industries' Chocolate Swim.


Studio B breakdown

While performing at Studio B in Brooklyn, New York, Lady Sovereign told the crowd she was experiencing money problems and battling depression before exiting the stage.[19] However, in a later performance at Avalon in Los Angeles, she completed her set without incident.[20] She later said that it was simply a bad day.

"Random Night" and aftermath

In 2006, a San Francisco based fan named Zach Slow made an online plea to raise $10,000 for a "random" night with Lady Sovereign. The effort garnered wide media coverage, and was successful in both raising the required funds and securing the agreement of the artist to attend.[21] The aftermath was acrimonious, with both sides exchanging insults in the San Francisco Chronicle. [22][23]

A local MC known as "Jelly Donut", originally involved with the "random night" endeavour, attended a 7 January 2007 show in San Francisco dressed in a donut costume and attempted to disrupt the performance. Lady Sovereign threw a drink on him, and spat at him. Security escorted Jelly Donut out of the concert.[24]



Year Album UK U.S. CAN
2006 Public Warning 80 48
2009 Jigsaw[25]


Year Title
2006 Vertically Challenged
Blah Blah
2007 Those Were the Days


Full singles

Year Title Chart positions Album
2005 "Random" 73 Vertically Challenged EP
Public Warning
"9 to 5" 33 Public Warning
"Hoodie" 44
2006 "Nine2Five" (vs. The Ordinary Boys) 6 25
"Love Me or Hate Me" 26 45 48 Public Warning
2007 "Those Were the Days" 88

Promo singles

Year Title
2004 "The Battle" (Featuring Frost P, Shystie & Zuz Rock)
"Ch Ching (Cheque 1 2)"
2005 "A Little Bit of Shhh"
2006 "Blah Blah" (featuring Kalie Burgess)
2008 "I Got You Dancing"



  1. ^ Lady Sovereign
  2. ^ a b c d e Catriona Mathewson (22 February 2007). "Sovereign hits her gold mine".
  3. ^ a b c Jasmine Dotiwala (13 February 2007). "Jasmine's Juice". The Voice.
  4. ^ a b c Frere-Jones, Sasha. "True Grime." New Yorker, 21 March 2005. <>
  5. ^ Gitlin, Lauren. "Lady Sovereign Rules." Rolling Stone 1 December 2005. <>
  6. ^ Bassline House And The Return Of 'Feminine Pressure' Fact Magazine (UK). Original link, archived on the Internet Archive 13 January 2008, accessed 27 September 2008.
  7. ^ - ZOE **CHECK THE NEWLY UPLOADED TUNE** - the town wher talent lies , Midlands - Garage / 2-step / R&B -
  8. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha. "True Grime." New Yorker, 21 March 2005. <>
  9. ^ "independent on sunday magazine"
  10. ^ Simon Price (11 February 2007). "Lady Sovereign, Scala, London". The Independent.
  11. ^ "Lady Sovereign: Official Site". Def Jam.
  12. ^ "Lady Sovereign's Warning". Yahoo! Launch. 17 July 2006.
  13. ^ "Love Me or Hate Me" Video. Lady Sovereign.
  14. ^ BBC Radio 1 Playlist
  15. ^ albums: Public Warning (2007)
  16. ^ - Lady Sovereign - London, UK - Hip Hop / Garage / Autre -
  17. ^ a b MEET LADY SOVEREIGN: A ONE-WOMAN GRIME WAVE At 13, tearaway Louise | Sunday Herald, The | Find Articles at
  18. ^ a b True Grime: The New Yorker
  19. ^ "Lady Sovereign freaks out @ Studio B (video)". Brooklynvegan. 2007-05-22.
  20. ^ "Lady Sov at Avalon". LAist. 2007-06-26. Retrieved 2007-06-30.
  21. ^ Help Me Get Random With Lady Sovereign
  22. ^ Pop Quiz: Lady Sovereign
  23. ^ LETTERS / San Francisco man who raised money for a 'date' with Lady Sovereign tells his side of story
  24. ^ Lady Sovereign News on Yahoo! Music
  25. ^ Cohen, Jonathan (2008-12-08). "Lady Sovereign Starts Label, Preps Album". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. Retrieved 2008-12-09.

External links