At a time when grime and the British rap scene are thriving from Sheffield to Manchester, Birmingham’s contribution is still found wanting. Lady Leshurr agrees: “It’s a shame,” she tells NME. “We don’t really have anyone. We’ve got Laura Mvula, then we’ve got the old-school likes of Jamelia and UB40.”Except now there’s also the lady herself: Leshurr is carrying the flag as one of the most exciting and engaging rap talents to emerge from the second city in aeons.
Such progression came to mass attention at Glastonbury last month. “The majority of the people there didn’t know who I was,” she explains, “but to be introduced to a new audience and see how grime is being received by people who wouldn’t normally listen to it – that was the main thing.”
Hailing from Kingshurst in north-east Birmingham, Leshurr was initially inspired to write lyrics when she heard dancehall icon Sister Nancy’s ‘Bam Bam’, which led to falling for the charms of Ms Dynamite and Eminem. Endeavours in poetry and DJing followed; milestones on the route to her current position as newly anointed rap royalty. Case in point: ‘The Queen’s Speech’, a stunning five-episode series of performative YouTube freestyle videos, which collectively have racked up 65 million views in 18 months.
Now Leshurr finds herself in Atlanta, recording her debut album with “legendary” producers. She’ll only divulge the identity of one: “Timbaland! That’s a massive deal for me because I grew up listening to Missy Elliott and I just love the energy and vibe of her work with Timbaland. I’ll be trying to forge that same connection with him to make some crazy music together.”
Crazy is an apt description of her latest single ‘Where Are You Now?’, which features a knockout verse from Wiley, AKA the Godfather of Grime. “I told him I wanted it to be the old-school Wiley, who had the fire – and he delivered.”
Leshurr still very much reps her home city. “The music scene there is evolving,” she says. “But I’m just happy to be representing females. I’m a proud Brummie, definitely.” Consider Birmingham’s reputation significantly enhanced, then.
Buy It: The ‘Queen’s Speech EP’ is on streaming sites now
Live: Reading Festival (August 26), Leeds Festival (August 27), Bestival, Isle of Wight (September 8-11)
Fact: Leshurr used to run her own ‘Rap College’ between London and Birmingham, where she dispensed career advice to aspiring MCs
Best track: ‘Queen’s Speech 4’ Her most-streamed track for a reason. It’s packed full of zip, humour and a carriage full of fire bars.