Lady Leshurr at SXSW 3/16/12 from Eleanor Kagan on Vimeo.
If you can hear past the horrible iPhone sound quality in the above video, allow yourself to be amazed as the pint-sized, Birmingham, U.K.-based rapper Lady Leshurr runs her rhyme at an impressively high BPM and shatters Busta Rhymes’ verse from “Look At Me Now.” It was actually her second run through the verse — she killed it the first go-around, and was seemingly inspired to do it one more time. (Don’t even say the word “Karmin” to me.) An assist from The Rasites added a reggae groove to the song, and the band lead seamlessly into another one of the Lady’s originals.
I’d been enamored with her since hearing her single “Lego” that was one of the 1000s of mp3s doled out in a pre-SXSW package. The track itself is much more spare and dubstep-inspired than her live version, but her talent is undeniable no matter the background. She played as part of the U.K. ‘Bass Culture’ Showcase in Austin on Friday, March 16th.
What you do see here: The group of the people in front that are practically groveling at her feet. The swanky Victorian Room at Austin’s Driskill Hotel. (After spending most of the day in grimy, dark dive bars, this carpeted, air-conditioned room of extravagance was both culture shock and welcome respite. I so wanted to kick off my dirty boots and dance barefoot.)
What you don’t see here: Earlier in the set, Lady Leshurr remarked that she could put on her CD of produced tracks to rap over, but wanted to keep jamming with the band. So she went from player to player and commanded the beat or melody for them to emulate. Self-producing her live backing track, Leshurr jumped into another one of her songs, then freestyled, then allowed The Rasites’ guitarist to revive his dormant past as an MC. Needless to say, he barely compared to her tight delivery and bright presence, but it was a nice gesture.
The future looks bright for slick-tounged female MCs. Azealia Banks, though sadly not at SXSW, is blowing up thanks to her awesomely filthy mouth, which she uses to spit and sing about badass girls in a way I (and many others) find very empowering. THEEsatisfaction (who did play their whole set with fantastic backing tracks) tow the line between sultry and celebratory, singing and rapping posi send-ups to Africa and American black culture. After the duo’s SXSW set on Friday night, I ran into Detroit-based activist and rapper Invincible, who I’d caught in NYC a few weeks ago. She told me she’s working on a huge multimedia project, so that’s something else to look out for in the future.
Here’s another Lady Leshurr + the Rasites video where the sound doesn’t suck. She’s doing her single, “Lego.”