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on Tue, 08 Dec 2020
Referred to as the UK’s Queen of Grime, Solihull-born Lady Leshurr is now starring in a new nationwide campaign promoting the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Here, the MOBO Award-winning rapper, singer & songwriter talks about her early years, her major influences, and her excitement at representing the city that’s in her blood..
Tell us about your early experiences of music in Birmingham...
I went to a youth club which was just down the road from my house, which was the best time in my childhood because I learnt how to build on my craft as an artist, as a lyricist and as a performer. They just had all the equipment and facilities there. And that was my childhood - I used to go straight from school to the youth club and back home. There were talent shows in my school - so when I was younger, I just had so much time to develop myself in talent shows and performances. If I hadn’t had all that before, I wouldn’t be the performing artist I am now. I used to give performances in the city centre. I first used to get booked for shows for, like, £50, but after I finished the show, the promoter would disappear and I wouldn’t get paid! I spent a lot of time performing at the Custard Factory and going to raves. I also travelled down to London. There was one talent show in London when I was quite young that I ended up winning.
Is there anybody on the Birmingham music scene who inspired you?
Joan Armatrading, who is originally from Saint Kitts and moved over here to live in Birmingham. What really inspired me was that she still wore her hair afro. She’s a black woman and she would still have her own image and create incredible music. And I’m from Saint Kitts, too. She does everything herself; she produces, she writes, she engineers her music. And that’s literally what I do. I just looked at her story and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s somebody who’s so similar to me, from the same background - and although we do different music, I feel somewhat connected’. I’d also say Fader, who’s an MC but also a mentor. He set up a group called Invasion Alert with JayKae, Sox and a few other MCs. He’s just been an amazing person and saw my talent from the get-go. He opened me up to a different audience. I’ve gotta thank him for giving me that leeway.
I’m really inspired by how Mike Skinner is a global star because of his voice; the way he would talk and have a poetry-vibe on tracks. I did a documentary with him, and he came to my area and I showed him where I grew up. I did an EP influenced by his song, Blinded By The Lights, which is like a whole story. I have big love for him.
You reference being from the 0121 in Queen Speech 4. How has being a proud Brummie impacted your career?
I don’t think I’d be the same person if I wasn’t from Birmingham. The accent is just one thing, but the sense of humour, the personality and the banter is next scale. I can always tell from someone’s energy if someone has been brought up in Birmingham. I think we just bring so much to the table. You know, it took me a while to understand and accept my accent for what it is and how to use it, but when I did, it worked out.
How does it feel to be featuring in the ad campaign for Birmingham 2022?
Mate, this is absolutely huge. I just didn’t think I’d ever be asked to do anything like this. But the fact that it’s in Birmingham in 2022, I would’ve been somewhat offended if they didn’t reach out! I’m just really happy they chose me to be at the forefront and representing it. Obviously Brum is always gonna be in my blood, in my veins. I scream it everywhere I go, no matter where I am in the world. I always do a song and say I’m from Birmingham. I literally go everywhere and say ‘0121!’ There’s so much talent in Birmingham - and up north - who’re doing their thing. They’ve solidified themselves as artists, and it’s only right to scream where you’re from.
What do you hope people will remember Birmingham for?
Well, for me, I don’t play it safe, I always like to think outside the box. And I think current artists from Birmingham who are coming out now think the same - they want to be completely different. I think we’re fearless; we stand down to no one, we create our own opportunities, and obviously the accent is close to none. It’s just so unique. I want people to remember us for being light-hearted, always having a good time, but just know that we’re serious when it comes to the talent.
How does it feel to be receiving mainstream recognition via BEM Award and Dancing On Ice?
I mean, I don’t understand what’s going on and why this is happening right now - I just know that the stars are aligning. We’re going through a crazy time with the pandemic, where there’s a lot of lows, but for me, I had to create my own opportunity in that period. I just thought: you know what, I need to use my personality to get into TV. I’m quite overwhelmed it’s worked out. I was actually planning to quit music at the start of the year, then the pandemic hit. I thought, “Oh my gosh, everyone is so frustrated, so who is the best person to tell everyone else to ‘wash their hands’? I felt like the people needed me. So I learnt how to use my studio equipment, watched tutorials on YouTube, and I edited the Quarantine Speech video myself. I recorded it on my mic, then set up my phone at different angles in my house, and cut the video together. I just didn’t think that this would be the reason why I’ve been recognised by the Queen. I always say: whenever you’re about to quit is the moment when you’re about to step up to the next level. It happened to me - I’ve been able to transition from music to daytime TV shows off the back of the Quarantine Speech, and now to Dancing On Ice.
You recently teased new music. What can we expect from you in the next few months?
Yeah, I’ve literally got about six or seven music videos all recorded from about a year ago. So for times like these, I guess, I’ve got things to release!
Can we expect a Commonwealth Games speech from you?
Imagine! Well, we’ll see what we can whip up. Never say never!