There is much to admire about Lady Sovereign. She’s taken her split from Def Jam on the chin, pissed off the ‘nice as pie’ Perez Hilton, and made an album that sticks two fingers firmly in the direction of anybody daring to question her existence.
The Lady has two sides, it seems. On one hand she sounds like a new creation from the pen of Catherine Tate or Kathy Burke, while on the other she’s more vulnerable, sensitive even. That’s not to insult her, either – more to observe that at times she’s all grime and attitude, the “I ain’t bothered” lyrics covering up a softer interior.
Inevitably, the two aspects collide. “I’m weird and you’re weird – let’s be mates”, offers the opener, with its hackneyed country accents either painfully funny or mildly offensive, depending on your stance. The title track goes deeper, a gentler approach working wonders as Sovereign reminisces on how “I miss the way we used to get off”. She’s clever, though. So Human effectively apes The Cure, a work of genius in its own way for using a sample of Pictures Of You without murdering it.
It would be interesting to know what Kanye West makes of our first lady of grime. As the US rap behemoth embraces all things English through the wide-eyed soul of Estelle, or the inner-city tales of Mr Hudson, he seems to have given Lady Sovereign a wide berth for now.
All of which is curious, as there are a few similarities between the two – not least that both have started to sing. From very different perspectives, you understand – while West dissects the painful break up of a relationship on 808s & Heartbreak, Sovereign is merely adding another discipline to her expressive armoury.
That, and a healthy appetite for taking the piss out of our transatlantic cousins. Take Food Play, for instance. Someone does a passable impression of Barry White on the intro, before a helium-infused Sovereign comes in to say “we can have a laugh with a tub of H�agen-Dazs”. “Dirty kisses, dirty dishes” indeed. It’s hilarious, a complete antidote to the army of male US rappers intent on getting it on til the break of dawn. They won’t be trying anything on with Sovereign, that’s for sure – not when “mmm, porridge” is all she’s got on the brain. If you like, it’s oat-so-effective.
Jigsaw, then, is a flawed work of genius – and, just occasionally, thoughtful and sensitive. At times over contrived, it is however funny and sometimes close to the bone. What it doesn’t fail to do is elicit a reaction, and for that must be judged a success. More power to Lady Sovereign’s sharply edged elbows, even if for now she’s inconsistent.