As cliche as it might sound, you really shouldn't judge a book by its cover. This young lady, pictured above, might look like a sweetheart but she's a lyrical beast when it comes to the mic. For the uninitiated, Lady Leshurr is a female MC from Birmingham, England, who boasts some of the most imaginative bars and wittiest flows on either side of the pond. Roc4Life caught up with the pint-sized spitter to discuss everything from being dubbed the female Busta Rhymes and working with DJ Whoo Kid on an EP, to her infatuation with Lil Wayne and whole lot more.
Take us back to the beginning of your musical journey. How did you get into rapping?
I think I found music when I was around 6 years old. I always used to really like music, because my mum used to play reggae around the house, like Sister Nancy, Bob Marley and those kinds of artists. I was brought up around reggae, but then I started listening to a lot of garage music. My sister used to listen to hip-hop and my other sister used to listen to R&B, so I was around loads of different genres growing up. I used to listen to my brother MC and my sisters used to rap and sing as well, so I just kinda fell into it.
Which artists would you say inspired you the most?
Well, Eminem is the one who made me want to get into music on a more serious level. When I was about 12, I was just doing it because it was the in thing to do. When I first found out about Eminem, I was like, 'No way, man. You can be who you want to be with the music.' But then Eminem left the music game and Lil Wayne came around, and I started listening to him quite a lot. It was Lil Wayne’s delivery, his character, his flow and his personality that caught my attention. Basically, it’s the same little things that I picked up off of Eminem as well. I really like both of them, but Eminem definitely opened a new dimension of music. There was a point when I just thought that all music is the same and people talk about the same things, but he came and completely switched it up and made me think, 'Wow!'
I’ve seen you on Twitter declaring your undying love for Lil Wayne (laughs). Like, you’re really a big fan of his, aren’t you? What is about Weezy that you love so much?
Lil Wayne, I just love him! I used to love Eminem the same, but then he left. See, I listen to music like it’s a relationship. You listen to the music, and you're feeling their pain and going through their journey. I think so deep when it comes to music and I can only listen to one artist at a time. When Eminem left, I wasn’t listening to anybody. When I heard Lil Wayne, the passion just came back. He’s just amazing! People won’t understand how much love I’ve got for Lil Wayne as a person. After watching him in interviews and stuff, he’s just so different from anyone else I've seen, he answers questions so weirdly. I think he’s just mad, but he gets away with it (laughs). I love him and what he’s made of himself and created. He’s just an incredible artist.
Alright, back to you, how would you describe your sound to someone not in the know?
I always get asked this question and I never know what to say, but I just say that it’s my style and it’s just loads of genres thrown into one. I’m quite versatile, so depending on what the genre is, my voice will change on it. I still do myself, but if I'm doing reggae, my voice will have the little patois sounds, so I can’t really answer that question. It’s probably one of the hardest questions.
Starting out, you were doing a lot of grime, but now you’re lacing hip-hop beats more and more. Why the shift?
A lot of people don’t know this, but I actually started out on drum and bass! I was DJing more as well, and when I found out about DJing, that’s when I found out about drum and bass/jungle. That’s how I'm able to spit on fast things, because of drum and bass. So, I started on that and then I started on hip-hop. Grime actually came last. Garage came around and I started doing that and grime, so I think it’s because grime was more around my age range, but I was still doing hip-hop here and there. I realized that people were taking to me more when I was doing grime, and I really enjoyed doing it at the time. People that I was around were doing grime as well and they were helping me out and taking me to 1Xtra. At the time, I really enjoyed the experience of grime music and all the grime MCs that were up in Birmingham. The only reason why I'm doing more hip-hop now is because I feel a bit old to do grime, I don’t know why, I just feel like I'm more mature. No one should take offence to it or anything, but it’s just personally how I feel. I see a lot of young people and I just thought, 'Wow! I want to do more than grime.' I feel like I can’t really express myself as much on grime as I do on hip-hop. There will be grime tracks on my album, I've got to make sure that happens, because I'm not leaving it behind or anything – I just feel like I want to branch out and do other things. People know what I'm capable of on grime, but I think it’s time to do the same on other genres. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still go to a grime rave and skank out, but I just feel like I can’t do as much on it anymore.
Critics, myself included, have compared you to Busta Rhymes because of your double-time flow, and some have likened you to Nicki Minaj as well. How do you feel about those comparisons? Some pretty big names to live up to there.
I class it as a compliment, because they’re out there, they’re popular and they’re well-known. To have my name next to theirs is crazy, because I don’t think I'm even at that level. I heard that Busta said a couple of good things about me in a magazine, so it’s all a bit mad. He’s seen the 'Look At Me Now' thing I did too, which is even madder. One thing I don’t want people to do is think that I’m trying to be them. It’s not that at all. I grew up listening to people like Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott and they’ve all added to what I've made of myself today, but I wouldn’t say that I'm still trying to be like them. The music that I'm working on at the moment, hopefully people will enjoy it and understand that I'm Lady Leshurr, and that I’m not a carbon copy of someone else.
Okay, so what makes Lady Leshurr unique? Why should people pick you over other female MCs out there right now? Sell yourself (laughs).
[Laughs] I think, number one, it’s my voice because I'm not from London – you can hear the distinctiveness of my accent. Other than that, I just think that it’s because I try and experiment with every genre of music, I don’t think there’s one genre of music that I haven’t touched on. The only thing that I probably haven’t done is country music. Every other genre, I think I've done. I kinda bring more personality to my tracks than I should, to be honest.
Do you find it hard being a woman in the game? In the UK, the industry seems to have embraced female MCs a lot more than they used to…
Yeah, it’s just acceptable now. It was harder before, because no one knew who I was and I just tried to push myself out on BBC 1Xtra. Ghetts started to hear about me, then Wiley and other people like that, so my name was going around. I still needed to work harder to work with people I wanted to work with, though. When I started out, it was quite hard because it was just males and I felt a bit uncomfortable, but I just got used to being around guys all the time. People no longer tend to use the whole ‘she’s good for a female’ line, they just see you as a good artist bar nothing – male or female. In the middle of 2011, a lot of the females came back that I used to listen to – like Shystie, No Lay, and Ms Dynamite – and it really made us females much stronger. Then 'Game Over' came out and all of that as well, so I think everyone started thinking, ‘Yo! They aren’t playing with the female thing. This is them just doing their thing.’
You’ve been consistently putting in the work, but what is it specifically that drives you?
I actually tweeted something about this earlier and it was along the lines of, "I’d rather be poor and love what I'm doing, than be rich and not." You’ve got one life and there’s no point in doing it to get loads of money if it’s not something that you enjoy doing. Instead of me being a robot, doing a 9-5 and getting great money and spending it on a car, or whatever, I’d rather just chill where I am right now in Birmingham and make music and put it out. It’s got to a point now where I'm thinking about the music I make, before I didn’t really care. I just used to do it because I loved it. I’m still in love with music, but I have to think more about the music that I put out because I’ve got a following now, I want to be more positive. My passion is still burning strong but if it wasn’t for the listeners, I wouldn’t be anyone. Everyone who listens to my music and gives it good feedback just shows me that I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing. The most important thing I do music for is my mom, I want to make her proud and I want to be able to get her a big house and send her on loads of holidays – I just want to try and make my mom's life better. So yeah, they’re the main things that drive me. It’s not even about me anymore, I just want to make other people happy.
You recently hooked up with G-Unit’s DJ Whoo Kid for your new EP, 2000 And L. How did that connection happen and what can people expect from it?
It's weird because he was following me on Twitter and I didn’t know. I don’t know what made me go on his page, but I followed him and then sent him a DM telling him thanks for the follow. Five minutes later he was like, 'Yo! Can you do a CD?' It was mad! I was like, 'Yeah, of course I can!' It kinda just happened. I know he’s done things with Tinie Tempah, Wiley and Ghetts and I just thought it was amazing that he wanted me to do it as well. He’s a really cool guy.
It’s just the start of 2012, but what do you hope to achieve for the rest of the year?
My main plan is to get my album out this year. It has to happen. What I really wanted to do is start touring, I'm just learning about little bits here and there, but I'm going on tour in Texas in March, so that’s gonna be big. I want to have my own tour, which would just be like a dream come true. I want to have a clothing line out, a strong one that people are gonna buy into and then hopefully own my own business. I've said this for a while now, but I've always wanted to open up my own restaurant/barbershop/studio, just everything involved in one, and I want to put them in different places, not just London. The majority of it would be based on just the youth because I want them to have access to studio equipment, I just really love helping out kids. I also feel differently with how I write now. I used to write whatever before, but I’ve noticed that I’m taking more time with what I write in my verses, so I want there to be more content than just flow now.
Photography: Liam Ricketts
This also appeared over on Jay-Z's Roc4Life.com website: H E R E