All hail Birmingham’s Queen of
real talk. Lady Leshurr tells it as it
is at Afropunk Fest London
It’s Saturday night at Alexandra Palace and Lady Leshurr is fresh off stage having brought some serious heat to Afropunk’s first London edition. She had the crowd revved up and whined low. “I'm not going to lie I was a bit nervous,” the rapper confides to Nataal. “I was shaking on stage at first. I always get nervous before my shows so I'll have a little drink, I'll have a little worry and then I'll get on and depending on how the crowd is reacting to me I'll give them that energy. Today they gave it me back so it was a really good performance.” The proof of this is evident as our conversation is frequently interrupted by fans wanting to “send some love and get some hugs”.
"I just thought I'll put myself in a completely different lane and see if I can connect with all ages, all races, all cultures, all around the world"
The pint-sized 27-year-old has been labelled the UK’s Queen of Grime and counts the likes of Akon and Busta Rhymes as mentors. She’s also “working with some crazy producers” including Timbaland, Scott Storch and Bangladesh and had Wiley feature on her recent track Where Are You Now? Real name Melesha O’Garro, the Birmingham born and bred rapper’s rise to the top has been down to hard graft. “It's been a long time coming. Over ten years I've been doing music and trying to get through to where I am now”, she says. It’s meant having to find “a new way of rapping and what I kind of do is comedic bars. It’s sense of humour lyrics on an instrumental.”
This newer style resulted in the tongue-in-cheek lyrical banger Queen’s Speech – a series of freestyle videos she started to release on YouTube in 2015. A mix of funny one-liners and important public hygiene information, it’s racked up an impressive 32m views and counting. In the videos she references pop culture (‘Don’t act like a chicken from Nandos’) to social media (‘I hold it down like a snapchat, go over your head like a snapback’) through to cleanliness (‘Some girls wake up and don’t even brush their teeth, it’s a dead ting, it’s a bad breath ting, brush you teeth, that’s nasty’).
Queens Speech Ep. 3 was played during Alexandra Wang’s SS17 show at NYFW and Ep. 4’s belter can be heard on Samsung’s commercials. Her catchy lyrics are also notable for containing no swear words. “I just thought I'll put myself in a completely different lane and see if I can connect with all ages, all races, all cultures, all around the world. And it's actually happened because the common man can understand what I'm saying and they can relate and they can laugh so it's just something that I had to sit down and make sure I got right before I came out and done it,” she says.
Signed to Sony’s RCA imprint and rapping since she was 12, her biggest break came in 2011 with a blazing parody of Chris Brown’s Look at Me Now uploaded to YouTube and amassing 1m views. It got her a US record deal, which she bravely turned down. The label wanted to pit her against US rap sensation Nicky Minaj and she wasn’t having any of it. “I'm all about the females,” she says. It’s one of the reasons she agreed to perform at Afropunk. “It's just great to see the diversity of energy and music that we have over here... I respect that a lot.”
Currently, she’s getting ready to drop her first ever studio album Queen Of The Scene. She’s also looking to get back into acting having starred in Birmingham street gang film 1 Day. “I had to stop acting so I could focus on music so that's basically why I came up with the Queen’s Speech because I have to act when I'm doing the videos. I'm going to be doing more of my own sketch shows, which will be coming out at the end of this year.” She’s come a long way from the teenager who left for London to dream big. For Leshurr, the longed-for success has meant she can now afford to focus on “everything that I used to do when I was like 12,” only now the world is watching.
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