Award winning rapper and producer Lady Leshurr, tells Shelley Carter that despite her stratospheric rise to fame, there’s no place like Brum
Google Queen’s Speech and it isn’t Elizabeth II that pops, but Brum rap royalty Lady Leshurr. In less than 18 months the Brummie MC has gone from relative obscurity to scooping three urban music awards, a MOBO nomination and 15 million views of witty four-part work, Queen’s Speech on YouTube. A regular on Radio 1 and BBC 1Xtra she’s gaining mainstream popularity at a rapid rate. It might all seem like a bit of a whirlwind but Lady Leshurr wrote her first lyric aged just six, so it‘s been more of a slow burner than an overnight hit. It all began in Solihull – not exactly the rap and grime capital, but bear with us. Born Melesha O’Garro, Lady Leshurr has fond memories of growing up in the Midlands. She enthused: “I actually grew up in Kingshurst which is a quiet suburb of Birmingham. I love it! It’s my safe haven and I try to get back there as often as possible. It’s my home.”
NO PUSH OVER
It wasn’t a particularly musical background aside from her family being avid listeners, but Lady Leshurr got into it at a very young age and made her first mix tape aged 14. She recalled: “I remember listening to Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam playing at home and that was when I wrote my first lyrics aged six, but it wasn’t until I heard Eminem’s Hi My Name Is that I knew I wanted to be a rapper.” The rap scene remains a male dominated genre and it’s well documented that Lady Leshurr has been critical of the fact that she is referred to as a female rapper which is still a source of irritation. She says: “It’s like saying I’m good for a girl.” She’s no push over and has made strong decisions along the road to success, famously turning down a deal with Atlantic Records because “I believe you have to be in the right head space to make such a huge decision and I guess that time in my life a deal was not right for me.” She’s firmly in control of her work and her image. Playing the lead in Penny Woolcock’s controversial film 1 Day in 2009 which depicted gang life on the streets of Handsworth provided a minor break and a bit of recognition. Criticised by the city’s police for glamorising violence and banned in some Birmingham cinemas, it gained a cult following and meant that when Lady Leshurr travelled to London to freestyle people recognised her. The Brummie lilt which is refreshingly evident in her work set her apart too which is still pretty unique in the UK rap scene. The versatile star also featured in Fifty in 2010 and starred in Lapse of Honour in 2015 with more acting set to follow.
HEROES AND VILLAINS
In 2013 Lady Leshurr’s career took off. She released Blazin’ which rocketed to number one on the MTV Base Chart. In the same year she was involved in the BBC Urban Classic Prom and was nominated for two Urban Music Awards – best female act and best hip hop act. She lost out to Krept and Konan and fellow Brummie Laura Mvula, but in 2015 she had her moment. Nominated for three awards – best music video, best female act and best hip hop act – she won the lot. She recalled: “I still can’t believe it. The whole year was amazing! Full of blessings. I really didn’t think I’d win all three. It’s a moment I will never forget.” She’s having more than her fair share of moments she’ll never forget. In December Lady Leshurr travelled Stateside to support one of her all time heroes Lil Wayne in Seattle. She said: “Lil Wayne is my bae! Everything he does inspires me. I watch his videos on YouTube all the time. The way he expresses himself and his presence on stage is incredible.” Along with Missy Elliot, Tory Lanez and Eminem he’s top of her wish list of artists to collaborate with. She met another of her heroes recently, Timbaland who didn’t disappoint. Lady Leshurr explained: “I grew up listening to his music and I’m a big fan of his work. To meet him and for him to be so accommodating and humble was such an amazing thing.” Lady Leshurr’s most recognisable work, four-part freestyle Queen’s Speech made it onto radio playlists in 2015 which has propelled her into the mainstream. Even if you’re not into grime and rap, it’s hard to avoid the witty, lyrical tracks that induce giggles and wonder in equal measure. Drawing on comments from her critics on Twitter, the freestyles are often peppered with comical responses to the haters, such as the infectious brush your teeth in Queen’s Speech part 4.
Alongside Felicity Jones, Mike Skinner and Benjamin Zephaniah, Lady Leshurr was one of the faces of the giant mural in the Custard Factory inspired by Zephaniah’s quote, ‘Birmingham has changed a lot, but for me it’s still the centre of the universe’. It strikes a chord with Lady Leshurr who said: “I agree with it 100 per cent. I will never forget my Birmingham roots.” Speaking of Birmingham I wonder how the music scene is looking to the 27-year-old? “The music scene is really stepping up. I believe we have some greats there. We just need to believe in ourselves more and realise not all music comes from London.” Topping the phenomenal year she had in 2015 will be a tall order, but Lady Leshurr is expecting great things from 2016 too. “I’ve worked at my craft for a long time and I am ready for seeds I’ve planted to flourish. I want to be the best I can be to explore and stretch myself musically working with different producers who know how to bring out the best in me.”