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Lady Sovereign, ‘Public Warning’ (Def Jam)

Lady Sov is a brilliant example of how hip-hop adapts to any lowlife’s expressive needs. She’s white, British, female, and at five-foot-one, a self-proclaimed “midget.” But what may be most striking about her is how annoying she already finds the rap grind. “I wake up late every morning, manager’s calling, I’m still yawning,” she begins her debut album, eventually pitching a tantrum, passing out at a video shoot, and dreaming that her label wants to change her image from cheeky London hood rat to “a pink-lipstick chick” who is “posing in a bikini next to a Lamborghini.” C’mon, nothing’s realer than hating your job.

Signed by Jay-Z, Sov — who just turned 20 — could do more Stateside than U.K. partners in grime Dizzee Rascal, the Streets, and M.I.A. That’s partly because she has Def Jam muscle, partly because her approach is more inviting and easier to parse — “If you love me then / Thank you / If you hate me then / Fuck you” is a sing-along chorus whatever sort of English you speak.

The production, mostly by U.K. crony Medasyn, mixes heavy bass wobbles, video game bleeps, ’80s ska rewinds, even some jazzy hip-hop. The toughest cuts are still the early singles (“Random,” “A Little Bit of Shhh”). But shorty’s in the process of becoming something bigger than a hot, patois-spitting grime MC. Give her room, and watch the girl go.

Now Hear This: Lady Sovereign – “Love Me or Hate Me” DOWNLOAD MP3