Hip Hop Ladies Night – Artist Review – Lady Sovereign

Lady Sovereign

Background information
Birth name – Louise Amanda Harman
Also known as – Lady Sovereign
Born 19 December 1985 (age 27)
Origin – Wembley, London, England
Genres – Grime, UK garage, hip hop
Occupations – Rapper, Singer
Instruments – Vocals
Years active – 2003–2009 (on hiatus)
Labels – Casual Records (2004–2005)
Chocolate Industries (2005–2006)
Island Def Jam (2005–2008)
Midget Records (2009–present)
Associated acts – Missy Elliott, The Ordinary Boys
Website – Myspace.com
Louise Amanda Harman (born 19 December 1985),[1] better known by the stage name Lady Sovereign, is an English rapper and grime artist.[2][3] She is noted for her professional success in performing styles of music generally dominated by males. In 2010, she appeared on the seventh series of the reality show Celebrity Big Brother, being the third housemate to be evicted from the house.

Early life and family

Lady Sovereign was born Louise Amanda Harman in 1985 to Colin Adien Harman and Nicola Parsons (née Wood), in Wembley, northwest London. She grew up in the run-down Chalkhill Estate — a council estate that has since been demolished — with her parents and two siblings, older sister Chloe Christie (born 1984) and younger brother Richie Colin (born 1987).[4]

Lady Sovereign was a tomboy who played football and hated wearing dresses. She had difficulty fitting in at school and was expelled from Preston Manor High School at 15 because of her abysmal attendance record and bad behaviour. A number of menial jobs followed, until she decided to pursue rap after hearing Ms. Dynamite on the radio: “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, MCs are real, they write their own stuff, they rap about what they know, the stuff around them.”[5]

Lady Sovereign began uploading some of her songs and a picture to various music web sites when she was 15. She told Newsweek in 2006 that comments initially ran along the lines of, “You’re white. You’re a girl. You’re British. You’re crap.”[6]

Lady Sovereign signed with Universal in 2004. She released a number of solo records and opened for Basement Jaxx, The Streets, Dizzee Rascal, D12, and Obie Trice.[citation needed]

Her mother contracted a terminal brain tumour and died on 14 March (Mothering Sunday in the UK) 2010.[7]


2005-2006: 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!”, “9 to 5”, and “Sad arse Stripper” 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. In April 2006 she released her second EP, Blah Blah in the UK. She released yet another EP, but was limited for US radios; Size Don’t Matter!

Lady Sovereign at Reading Festival, 2006
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 #39 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 2005. This is her highest chart position to date.

2006-2009: Public Warning

Main article: Public Warning
Lady Sovereign capped off 2005 by meeting with the American hip hop artist 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 Record Label.[3][8]

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.[9][10] 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/I ain’t got the biggest breast-ises,/but I write all the best disses/I’ve got hairy armpits/But I don’t walk around like this/I wear a big baggy t-shirt that hides that nasty shit. With the lyrics continuing in this satirical nature, Lady Sovereign continues to comment on and express her dissonance with female lifestyles in popular culture.[11] She began an American tour on 23 October 2006 and soon after appeared on 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,[12] with the album following on 5 February 2007.[13]

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”.

2009-present: Jigsaw and Hiatus

Main article: Jigsaw (Lady Sovereign album)
Lady Sovereign released a second album in spring 2009. She also went on tour.[14] After a final dispute with Island Records, it was revealed on her official webpage that she was going to release on 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 released in the United States and United Kingdom on 7 April 2009. On Monday, 8 December 2008, Lady Sovereign restated that her new album, titled Jigsaw, would be released on 6 April 2009. She also released a free single entitled “I Got You Dancing”, making it available on her MySpace site and her official website.

Lady Sovereign official went on hiatus after that and took to her official Twitter page stating in mid-2012 that she will be planning to release new material under her independent record label ‘Midget Records’ quoted by her “When the time is right”.

Television and commercial appearances

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

In late 2006, “Love Me Or Hate Me” was played in a Verizon Wireless advertisement. It also appears on the soundtrack of the video game Need for Speed: Carbon, and is 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 Xbox 360’s version of EA Sports’ FIFA World Cup 2006 video game, on the Ugly Betty soundtrack and features in the 2007 film St. Trinian’s, “Random” appears on the Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix soundtrack, and features on an episode of Malcolm in The Middle, “I Got You Dancing” was featured in Need for Speed: Nitro, “Hoodie” was used for a Mario Party Nintendo DS commercial.

Some of Lady Sovereign’s such as “9 to 5” and “So Human” were also used on the BBC 1 show Waterloo Road in 2009/10. Bizarre Creation’s Project Gotham Racing 4 video game on the Xbox 360 features the song “Blah Blah” by Lady Sovereign, EA’s Fight Night Round 4 video game features Lady Sovereign’s “Bang Bang” track, “So Human” appears in season 2 episode 1 of the television series ‘90210’, “Jigsaw” was featured in the second episode of the fifth season of MTV-show The Hills, called ‘Everything Happens For A Reason’.

On 23 October 2006, Sovereign made an appearance on American talk show the Late Show with David Letterman. During her performance of “Love Me Or Hate Me” the lyrics “If you hate me, then fuck you” were changed to “if you hate me, then I hate you”. Lady Sovereign served as the host and spokesperson for Adult Swim and Chocolate Industries’ Chocolate Swim. In January 2010 Bally Total Fitness selected Lady Sovereign and her song “I Got You Dancing” for the featured artist section on their website, the song is also being used in their television commercials..

On 22 January 2010, Sovereign was due to appear on This Week, a BBC political review show, to discuss the laws regarding self-defence for householders. Early in the programme, she was shown backstage waving to camera in anticipation of her appearance. However, when the segment began, presenter Andrew Neil apologised to viewers and explained the rapper had “done a runner.” Neil instead discussed the topic with regular contributors Michael Portillo and Diane Abbott and concluded by joking “Who needs Lady Sovereign? Who is Lady Sovereign?” Abbott laughed and responded “I don’t know.”[15] In an interview with The Guardian’s Rich Pelley on 30 January, Lady Sovereign said of the incident: “I had a panic attack! My hands went stiff and I started hyperventilating. I didn’t want to do it hours before but I went anyway, then I just changed my mind at the last minute, I guess.”[16]

Lady Sovereign appeared on Total Wipeout’s eighth celebrity special. She made it to the second round by default but failed to advance any further. Lady Sovereign was the third evicted housemate from the seventh series of Celebrity Big Brother. She was nominated for both the first and second evictions. Having survived the first double eviction, she was evicted the second time around with 69.5% of the vote.[17]


“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.[18] The aftermath was acrimonious, with both sides exchanging insults in the San Francisco Chronicle.[19][20]

Andrew Bancroft, a local MC known as “Jelly Donut”, originally involved with the “random night” endeavour, attended a 7 January 2007 show in San Francisco at Club Mezzanine dressed in a donut costume and attempted to challenge her to a rap battle. She responded by throwing a drink and spitting. At her request, security escorted Bancroft out of the venue.[21]

Arrest for assault

In September 2009, whilst in Brisbane, Australia for the Parklife Festival, Lady Sovereign was arrested for assault and drunk and disorderly behaviour after spitting on a nightclub bouncer, claiming a transvestite had attacked her in the club’s bathroom.[22] She had only been in the country seven hours before the assault occurred. She was ordered to pay a fine of $400 and $200 in compensation to the bouncer.[23]

Personal life

Lady Sovereign came out as a lesbian in May 2010 in Diva magazine, making her one of the few mainstream LGBT rappers.

Red Everything Movement


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