Lady Sovereign with Ghislain Poirier and Cadence Weapon at Revival (783 College), Saturday (December 3). $15.50. 416-870-8000.
It's been a rocket ride to hiphop stardom for junior grime rhymer Lady Sovereign since the UK's self-styled "feminem" topped the genre-defining Run The Road (Vice) comp with her dance-floor burner Ch Ching and upstaged Mike "The Streets" Skinner on a remix of his track Fit But You Know It.
Yet while the fire-spitting 20-year-old upstart is raising a ruckus on internet chatrooms and bulletin boards and having sit-downs with Jay-Z to talk U.S. takeover strategy, Sovereign's musical record has been limited to just a few tracks collected on the just-released Vertically Challenged (Chocolate Industries) EP.
What she's got right now is a rep -- however flimsy -- built on a few fired-up performances on high-profile bills with The Streets and Basement Jaxx and a modicum of street cred from growing up in the Chalkhill Estates, which her bio assures is in "a rough part of Wembley."
She's proven her knack for nasty disses with Sad Ass Strippah, which ruthlessly takes apart Brit pop starlet Jentina for being a phony. But you have to wonder who's really Ja-fakin' here.
Once our phone interview begins, my first attempt at delving into the background of the notorious S.O.V. is abruptly halted by someone claiming to be her manager. Sovereign's publicist, Kim Juneja, later confirms that it was indeed one of her "three managers" and that "he only goes by Zak" -- just Zak.
"With regard to some of the general background things, can I go over those bits with you?" he offers. It's an unusual interruption which actually hasn't happened during an interview since I asked Beck about Scientology, which makes me wonder if Sovereign, aka Louise Harmon, has something to hide.
For clarification, I ask Zak if he means he'll be answering questions on behalf of Sovereign.
"Yes," he explains, "just some of the early stuff, like how she started and when. I handle all the background questions so when you speak to Sovereign you can just talk about the recent stuff. That's usually how we play it."
What a novel way for Sovereign to avoid dealing with any probing questions. But soon after I insist that she be put back on the line, I'm having second thoughts about not taking up Zak's offer to speak for her.
Sovereign replies to each question with a dismissively vague, often monosyllabic response like you might get when asking a teenager how their school day went. When I enquire about her meeting with Jay-Z, she says only, "That was cool."
Prompted for more details, Sovereign grudgingly elaborates, "I was sort of nervous because it was a bit unexpected for me, but, you know, it went well."
So what exactly happened? What did Jay-Z say?
"He just wanted to know about what I'm doing and how he could help me out."
Wasn't Usher also present?
"Yeah, he was in the office during my meeting with Jay-Z."
And what was Usher's reason for being there?
"I have no idea."
When asked about her forthcoming debut album, she's reluctant to go beyond confirming that the working title is Public Warning, Basement Jaxx were involved in the production -- "just two tracks" -- and that it will be released early in 2006, in March.
Hopefully Zak will be at the Revival show Saturday if Lady Sovereign runs short of rhymes.