West London grime MC AJ Tracey is fast and aggressive on the mic, boasts a versatile style, and his lyrics are packed with references to everything from soccer players to Dragon Ball Z characters. In 2015 he released two impressive EPs in The Front and Alex Moran, and he has recently locked studio time with Ratking’s Wiki and Sporting Life. Tracey’s tireless work on London’s radio circuit, typified by a jubilant 22nd birthday set on Radar Radio in March, has seen him build a considerable following. Combine this with his energetic, hook-filled music and Tracey’s future is bright. These six songs show why.
The best song on last year’s Alex Moran EP, “Naila” references Yu-Gi-Oh! characters, Netflix’s Narcos, and London chicken shop chain Morley’s over a frantic Zeph Elllis (f.k.a Dot Rotten) production.
Tracey sounds completely cold-blooded here, with a paranoid hook about dodging the pitfalls of a music career while making bare dough.
More love for east Asian culture from Tracey here as he name checks Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon, and Mortal Kombat while still sounding completely no-nonsense. Rising south Londoner Ezro’s beat provides the doomy setting for Tracey’s agile verses.
Tracey and 17-year-old rapper Dave make great teammates as they swap fast-paced bars on a song named after Brazilian soccer player Silva. A swirling beat lays the backdrop for the equally lyrical Tracey and Dave to go head-to-head.


By Roisin O’Connor

Be Charlotte is a three-piece Scottish band that evolved from the solo project of singer songwriter Charlotte Brimner: still in her teens, but already scooping up accolades for music that involves an impressively fluid use of analogue and digital sound.

They just picked up a nod for Best Electronic Act at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, and are currently out on their first tour of south east Asia.

Q&A with Be Charlotte

What are you listening to at the moment? 

I’m a big fan of Milky Chance. I love their mix of digital and live and it’s something that we try to incorporate into our music too. 

How are you feeling about the SAMA award?

Great! It is such an exciting time for us. It was a really strong category of people who are making really cool digital and electronic music so to be recognised for that part of our songwriting is really nice. It’s great to be able to celebrate the diversity of Scottish music in one night and appreciate all the music that is often under the radar, 

What are your plans for the rest of 2016?

We are currently in Thailand doing some writing and recording before heading out on South East Asia tour in a few weeks. We will be playing in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore before heading back to UK to do our first headline show in London on 23rd November at The Great Escape Festivals new First Fifty award. 

We then have a few Scottish dates in Edinburgh that are yet to be announced, and kick off some European dates in The Netherlands in January,  It’s all so very exciting. 

What was the first gig you ever played and what’s been the best so far?

It feels like a life time ago.  I was 13 or 14 and it was in Dundee.  I was playing guitar and I was so nervous. 

I’ve been on quite a journey in the five years since then and this is our first proper tour, and the fact it is in Asia makes it very interesting,  Hopefully people here enjoy the music and we can continue to build our fanbase in other parts of the world.











By Paul Simpson, AllMusic

Marian Hill are a duo from Philadelphia consisting of singer Samantha Gongol and producer Jeremy Lloyd. Their unique sound combines sparse, minimal electronic beats with seductive vocals (which are often chopped up and manipulated) along with sultry saxophone. The duo wrote a song called “Whisky” in spring of 2013 and sent it to dozens of blogs hoping to catch some attention. The song created a buzz, and the following year, the duo released their first EP, Play, as well as a 7″ single, “Lips.” They received mainstream exposure when Romanian pop star Inna credited them as co-writers of her song “Diggy Down,” which incorporated the hook of Marian Hill’s “Got It.” The duo signed to Photo Finish/Republic Records in early 2015 and released Sway, a seven-track EP. In 2016, they released their full-length debut album, Act One, featuring the single ” Down.”

This article originally appeared on AllMusic.

































By Ashley Lyle, Billboard 

Up-and-comer OneInThe4rest steps into the spotlight with his infectious pop/R&B banger “Jiu-Jitsu,” featuring Chris Brown.

Years before a burgeoning songwriting career that included working with Nicki Minaj, French Montana, Big Sean and Tyga, among others, the artist born Melvin Moore was a young boy living in Kansas with his parents — his mom did theater while his dad was a percussionist — and little brother.

Early on, Moore let out his artistic expression via oil paintings, sketching and drawing portraits before beginning to rap in church. Family background aside, he set out to do music professionally, noting, “Nobody forced me to do music.”

Taking up guitar and piano as a young adult, Moore credits multi-platinum Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/producer Raphael Saadiq and critically acclaimed jazz musician Norman Brown as inspirations. After moving to Los Angeles around 2008, he met Saadiq, who played a pivotal part in his career, allowing him to use his studio for free and gifting him industry lessons.

He recalls of Saadiq’s suggestion to play guitar, “Raphael gave me the ‘pick this axe up, never let it down, and it will pay you in the long run.'”

The grind has paid off so far for Moore, whose first writing placement was Trey Songz’s 2011 track “Unusual” featuring Drake before going on to work for several months with Robin Thicke for his 2013 Blurred Lines album.

Around 2015, he circled back to longtime connect Chris Brown. “I had a relationship built with him and [singer] Sevyn for years,” he recalls. “So I ended up in a position where he was open to take songs, and we would email him song after song, and he just started cutting them.” He adds, “He cut about 75 songs this past year of mine. He’s one of the hardest-working artists there is. He’s like our generation’s Michael [Jackson].” One of the songs sent to Brown ended up being the recent No. 1 Rhythmic Songs hit “Party” featuring Usher and Gucci Mane.

Having had success as a songwriter, Moore always envisioned stepping out as an artist. “I’ve always wanted to shed my own light on the music that I was writing. I always wanted to have my own voice — that was the plan from the jump. I just knew that writing was a way to gain leverage.” For his solo debut, he tapped Breezy. “‘Jiu-Jitsu’ was one of those in-the-moment creative vibes where I was playing off words. I need ‘jiu’ like ‘jitsu,’ just finding a metaphor. I wrote it with my friend, Prince Chrishan, aka PC.” Moore played Brown the song who then wrote and recorded a verse for the record.

With upcoming collaborations including PartyNextDoor, Black Youngsta and Jeremih slated for his album, Moore hopes that his music brings a message of encouragement and motivation: “My ultimate goal would be to leave a legacy and to inspire everybody else that does music or just wants to be successful.”

“Jiu-Jitsu” is now available for purchase on iTunes and via all streaming platforms.

This article originally appeared on Billboard.





































By Caroline Sullivan

‘This is my dream,” says Rachel “Raye” Keen at the end of the evening, glass typically half-full. Outside, it’s freezing; inside, it’s a basement with obstructing pillars and a stage so cosy that she and her three musicians are almost literally cheek by jowl. Yet dreams are subjective, and for this teenager from Croydon, headlining XOYO is measurable progress after three years of co-writing songs for others and being the featured voice on other people’s hits. Coming third in the Sound of 2017 poll has given Raye a leg up, but tonight’s show proves that she would have probably got here under her own steam: she’s that confident, and that promising.

Current hit You Don’t Know Me heads a short set of emotional R&B, to which she brings musicianly deftness, a singer-songwriter’s intimacy – new song Sober, played on a keyboard, graphically describes a boyfriend’s drug addiction – and an extrovert’s unquenchable charm. Her tracksuit posits her as the anti-diva, and she sings what she knows: My Girl bouncily celebrates her best friend, and new track The Line jauntily makes light of queueing outside a club at one in the morning. Give her the chance to be Lana “Del Raye”, though, and she rises to the occasion, making a dark tour de force of the queasy weed ballad Hotbox. As a getting-to-know-you occasion, tonight’s well-plotted mix of bangers and sweetness succeeds in making you want to know a lot more about Raye.










By Vanessa Okoth-Obbo

Real Ting is the first project of the impressive rising young London MC Stefanie Allen (aka Stefflon Don). The mixtape is a slightly rocky intro, but her raw talent shines through.

In late 2015, then-ascendant South London rappers Section Boyz made their presence felt with “Lock Arff,” the breakout single that netted them a place on BBC’s Sound of 2016 longlist at the end of that year. It’s usually an indicator of success when a song gets remixed—“Lock Arff,” a sprawling opus that boasts contributions from each member of the six-person crew, left little room for anyone else to get a look-in between verses. But a version with two new verses by Stefanie Allen (aka Stefflon Don), stripped of everything but the original beat and chorus, impressed the Section Boyz enough that they cosigned its official video treatment. The remix and video in turn raised Stefflon Don’s profile enough to land her on the 2017 Sound of longlist at the end of last year.

In between, the young London MC stayed busy—churning out more remixes or hopping on songs by compatriots like Angel and grime veteran Lethal Bizzle. All of that that momentum culminated in Real Ting, her first full length solo project, released just before 2016 drew to a close.

With a running time of under 40 minutes, the tape’s rocky start is acutely felt, taking up more space than it should in proportion to the remaining nine tracks. “Intro” is a somewhat cartoonish announcement of Allen’s formal arrival on the scene (“Look to the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a Don!”) set to an excerpt from Nile Rodgers’ Coming To America score. The melody plays during the scene in which King Jaffe Joffer tracks Prince Akeem down in Queens; from the eastern borough Allen bears south for inspiration on “Real Ting.” It’s startlingly derivative of Brooklynite Young M.A’s “OOOUUU”—from the punchline delivery to the ad libs.

Comparison to established artists can be a boon or a blight for an emerging talent, foreshadowing similar levels of success in the former case or inviting dismissal in the latter. Since “Lock Arff” went viral, discussion of Stefflon Don has often touched on the parallels between her and Nicki Minaj: owing to her cadence, a penchant for brightly-colored hairstyles and a tendency to slip back in and out of Jamaican patois, which can resemble Minaj’s Trinidadian Creole to the untrained ear. Thankfully in Allen’s case the similarities seem both incidental and positive; no rapper could or should corner the market for bravado, and Stefflon Don clearly possesses a lot of it.

Real Ting picks up steam by track three “Tight Nooki,” an upbeat dancehall jaunt featuring Jeremih. It capitalizes on the unstoppable “Bam Bam” riddim, made famous by Chaka Demus & Pliers in the early ’90s, and complements the pair’s previous collaboration on Jeremih’s Late Nights: Europe mixtape. “Family Ties” is deeply personal, touching on a childhood marked by violence and her mother’s legal troubles (“She was looking at ten but the lawyer beat the case/By the grace and the power or the mercy of the state.”) The family affair is rounded out by her brother Dutch, who goes into detail about his own run-ins with the law, and UK House star Donae’o. “Envy Us,” another dancehall-tinged standout with an assist from Tottenham upstart Abra Cadabra, is a good example of the rhythmic space for which Stefflon Don’s voice is well-suited. But the tape’s overall scattered quality positions it as a teaser of things to come rather than a cohesive collection.

It’s hard to tell if or where the line between a mixtape and an album should be drawn—in 2017 a mixtape can be the vehicle for an artist’s unpolished experiments, or be in with a serious chance of winning a Grammy. On Real Ting, listeners get a proper introduction to Stefflon Don and a fuller understanding of her artistry. She sings as well as she raps, is a scholar of many genres (trap, dancehall, house and more) and has wide-ranging influences; the outtake from a Margaret Thatcher interview on “Lik Down” and even the antics of “Intro” are revelatory of her cultural interests beyond the music. So if Real Ting is her CV, it’ll be fun to watch her find her footing at work.



By Rolling Stone and Jane Chardiet


Sounds Like: Basement-show Beefheart

For Fans of: The Raincoats, the Residents, Half Japanese

Why You Should Pay Attention: After two well-received cassette full-lengths, Brooklyn/Philly noise-rock trio Palberta are finally going straight to vinyl for their third album, Bye Bye Berta. For their first release for Brooklyn’s Wharf Cat Records, the D.I.Y. staples sing disjointed playground punk that embraces both dissonance and innocence, trading instruments as quickly as they change ideas: A good 80 percent of the songs poke and scurry off before two minutes are up. “At this point writing short songs feels more intuitive for us than intentional – it’s the natural way,” says Nina Ryser. “It kind of reflects the song writing process itself: frenzied, fast, kind of jumbled.”

Though Palberta recall angular British post-punkers like Liliput and the Raincoats, the band is more likely to be listening to Al Green, Fleetwood Mac and Arthur Russell these days. To wit, the highlight of Berta is their cover of “Stayin’ Alive,” a spectral, funky, 68-second deconstruction of the disco classic in the tradition of the Slits’ “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

“‘Stayin’ Alive’ is one of the greatest songs ever, it makes you feel like a million bucks!” says Ryser. “We only knew fragments of the lyrics so Lily [Konigsberg] decided to stick with her rendition: ‘Jenny’s eatin’ burgers and everyone’s uh-shakin and uh-stayin alive.'”

They Say: “We still switch instruments as a result of writing our songs in different formations. It’s a great thing, because we’re all eager to learn and grow as drummers, bassists and guitarists, so it gives us a chance to rock on each instrument,” says Ryser. “The drawback is that it lends itself to pretty awkward transitions when we play live – mostly because breaking up loud, heavy songs with silence can be awkward. Lots of muttering aloud as we pass instruments to each other, sometimes someone is stuck with a bass and guitar in each hand, tripping over cables.”

“It happens all the time and it’s hilarious,” adds Konigsberg. “The transitions, though sometimes awkward feeling, definitely add to our performance and make it more uniquely Palberta.”












Artist Biography by Mark Deming

An experimental duo whose music is a witty yet sensual fusion of funk, pop, R&B, Latin, and electronic influences, Buscabulla were formed by Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle, a pair of Puerto Rican émigrés living in Brooklyn, New York. The two first met in 2011, when Del Valle attended a house show where Berrios’ insouciant acoustic duo En Teta were on the bill. Berrios and Del Valle soon hit it off, and became romantically involved. Both were of an artistic bent — she was a designer, songwriter, DJ, and music producer, while he was a multi-instrumentalist — and before long they began working on music together. They adopted the group name Buscabulla, a Puerto Rican phrase meaning “Troublemaker,” and were soon looking for outlets for their music. After winning a contest sponsored by Guitar Center and sneaker manufacturer Converse, Buscabulla were awarded studio time and the services of producer Dev Hynes, which led to their debut EP. The self-titled four-song release was issued by Kitsuné Music in 2014, and earned positive reviews. One of the songs from the EP, “Métele,” was used in the award-winning film film Mala Mala, a documentary about Puerto Rico’s transgender community. Producer Roberto Carlos Lange became a fan of Buscabulla, and invited the duo to open a tour for his Helado Negro project. Lange continued to show his support by appearing on Buscabulla‘s second EP, fittingly titled EP II, contributing vocals on the song “Frio.” EP II once again earned enthusiastic reviews, as did Buscabulla‘s video for “Tártaro,” shot in a rundown love motel in Puerto Rico.












By Simon Spreyer, AllMusic

Essex, England-born Anne-Marie Nicholson was no stranger to performing by the time her debut EP dropped in 2015, having shared the stage as a 12-year-old with none other than Jessie J in a West End production of Whistle Down the Wind. She also auditioned for Les Miserables without telling her parents, and was offered a part. It was a risk that paid off, as it served to open her parents’ eyes to her singing ability. Aside from West End commitments, the intervening years between her days as a child star and the advent of her career as a pop singer were spent becoming a world karate champion no fewer than three times, an art form she credited with teaching her discipline and focus, two essential traits of becoming a successful musician.

After a chance meeting with an aspiring singer/songwriter, she managed to secure some studio time in Elton John’s Rocket Studios, and, after hearing what she could do, she was subsequently picked up by Elton’s management company Rocket Music. Anne-Marie released a demo in 2013 entitled Summer Girl, which drew some attention to the singer, most notably garnering a fan in Ed Sheeran. Despite the encouraging start to her solo career, things were put on hold to give her more time to develop as an artist.

Having guested on tracks by dubstep super group Magnetic Man, London-based garage duo Gorgon City, and progressive house trio Raized by Wolves, Anne-Marie caught the attention of Brit and MOBO award winners Rudimental. She was featured alongside Dizzee Rascal and Will Heard on two tracks from their second album, 2015’s We the Generation, and spent two years touring with the band, playing some of the world’s biggest stages and best-known festivals. The summer of that year also saw the release of Anne-Marie’s debut EP on Rudimental’s then-new record label Major Tom’s. The aptly titled Karate EP featured three tracks and a Chloe Martini remix, and producers Josh Record and Two Inch Punch worked with her on the record. Both the lead single “Karate,” a slick fusion of electro-grime and R&B, and the follow-up “Gemini,” garnered some very positive reviews and led Anne-Marie to gigging as a solo artist. In early 2016, the single “Do It Right” reached the U.K. charts, and several months later “Alarm” hit the Top 40 in several charts around the world.

This article was originally posted on AllMusic.





































By Alex Macpherson, FADER

After six years on the come-up in U.K. hip-hop, the queen of banter battle rap is going global.

Around six years ago, Melesha O’Garro got a job that most wouldn’t expect of a woman who stands at just over five feet in her Nike Jordans. “People always laugh, but you know why I did it?” she says, wide-eyed while sipping pineapple juice in London’s Soho. “Someone in my college was like, ‘you can’t do that, you’re a girl.’ But I’m too stubborn and I love to prove people wrong.”

The artist better known as Lady Leshurr isn’t talking about her rapping career, but the £14-per-hour security job for which she was stationed on the gates of music festivals and football stadiums at the age of 20. During her year as a bouncer, she learned that her stature—a perceived weakness—could be her strongest weapon. “I was so small, no one really wanted to mess with me,” she laughs. “All these men, they use their bigness to their advantage, but they create the problem. I was very bubbly and I’d make people laugh instead—I knew how to defuse the situation.”

The 26-year-old’s approach to her MCing is remarkably similar. Since quitting her security job in ‘09, Leshurr has released nine mixtapes drawing from genres like U.K. hip-hop, grime, garage, and more—tied together with lyrics that juggle metaphors with the kind of quick wit that might lead those in her hometown of Birmingham in the middle of the U.K. to call her a “fibbertigibbet” (an affectionate term for a chattering, chirpy individual). I don’t see how you can hate on a little girl—I look 12 years old!, she giggled on her 2011 remix of Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now,” before proceeding to demolish the beat with double and triple-time verses honed on the frenetic rhythms of drum’n’bass. She gained a loyal following among hip-hop heads, but it’s this year that U.K. rap’s best-kept secret has caused ripples worldwide.

Over the summer, Lady Leshurr’s video for her freestyle “Queen’s Speech 4” went viral. Shot in one take, the clip shows Leshurr skipping, striding, and spinning down a Birmingham main road, insouciantly dodging cars and acting out the track’s indelible brush your teeth, brush your teeth hook with brightly-colored toothbrushes. With her tutting, taunting, and smirking performance, Leshurr seems to align with a streak of playfulness that’s been prominent in U.K. hip-hop this year, where ebullient breakout tracks like J Hus’ “Lean & Bop” and Krept & Konan’s “Freak of the Week” have made a counterpoint to some of road rap or grime’s more hard-hitting moments.

“Queen’s Speech 4” may take its name from England’s reigning monarch, but it’s not just a U.K. audience that has driven its video to 40 million views on Facebook. Leshurr’s had the song licensed for use in a huge Samsung advert, with its predecessor “Queen’s Speech 3” soundtracking Alexander Wang’s SS16 show, and her U.S. tour this month will include a support slot for Lil Wayne in Seattle. A fifth part in the Queen’s Speech series is coming soon, and Leshurr will also independently release an EP compiling all five installments. With a few inexpensive videos, she has revitalized her career—and it’s all off her own back. “It’s crazy, overwhelming,” she says. “I feel like that’s why no one should ever give up.”

“It’s not just fun and games, I’ve got a story to tell and so much to express, and I don’t want people to think I’m a one-lane rapper who’s talking about funny things all the time.”

Giving up, though, was a real possibility at several points on Leshurr’s journey. Arguably, her breakthrough should have happened in 2012, when that “Look At Me Now” remix found its way onto wildly popular video site World Star Hip-Hop and was a runaway success, essentially going viral in an era when no-one used that word. “Someone posted my number and Atlantic U.S. saw it, called me up, flew me out, asked to see my music, said I was crazy and amazing,” remembers Leshurr. “Then they said: ‘What we’d like you to do first is a diss track to Nicki Minaj. That’ll really solidify you in America.’ My heart and gut instinct were screaming no. I said to them, ‘You have me wrong. You saw me and thought I was a little artist with some buzz and one minute of fame and you’re going to use that.’ I have integrity and I’ve always stuck by that. [The Atlantic A&R] kept writing down more money, more money and pushing it to me. I said, the money’s not going to change how I feel.”

Other labels had come calling in the past; they’d wanted to turn her into a singer or change her image, and she had rejected them as well. “A majority of media, labels, even fans all feel they need to pit female rappers against each other,” reflects Leshurr. “Labels feel the only way they can create a buzz and start someone’s career is off the back of another female. I don’t respect that. It’s not correct. Missy has never had to diss any female rapper to be successful.”

After she turned down Atlantic, Leshurr took nearly two years out of a languishing career to work behind-the-scenes as manager for British MC Paigey Cakey, a one-time regular collaborator and friend. It ended acrimoniously, as Leshurr outlined on last year’s reflective track “Penny Cake”—yet the track is not a diss but a calm explanation, in which Leshurr emphasizes her former ally’s talent and wishes her the best. She describes her time away from music as “a good thinking break,” and one that helped her define the kind of artist she wanted to return as. “I just felt like the scene was missing fun and a sense of humor,” she says. “That’s how I created the Queen’s Speech series—it’s basically an alter-ego where I banter with relatable quotes. I call it banter battle rap.”

Banter is a loaded word in U.K. culture. Traditionally, it involves making tired, puerile, cruel jokes at everyone else’s expense and getting away with it because, apparently, nothing is ever serious. In linking it to battle rap, though, Leshurr undercuts the self-seriousness of the MC battles which she watches avidly, but refuses to participate in—and the results are as funny as hell. I’ll upload a pic of your dog and sell it on Gumtree—just for the bants, it’s all for the bants, she chirps on “Queen’s Speech 3.”

After being introduced to Twitter by U.K. rapper Mz. Bratt (who now goes by the name Cleo.) five years ago, Leshurr jokes that she spends “probably 22 hours a day” online—”Twitter first, then Facebook, then Snapchat, then Instagram.” Her fascination with trending topics is channeled in her verses, which immortalize internet memes that would have otherwise been forgotten within the hour: her 2015 track “Lukatar” takes its title from a viral clip of U.K. tabloid talk show The Jeremy Kyle Show, and “Queen’s Speech 4” replicates the threat of a schoolgirl bully: Are you gonna go and get your cousin? Her pop culture references aren’t those of glossy celebrities or reality television stars, but the characters from around the neighborhood, or the girls at school you didn’t dare to cross.

It’s pure social media humor, but banter can be a risky fire to play with, and Leshurr was burned earlier this year with a cruel and unthinking line in “Queen’s Speech 4”: I’ll turn a man to a girl like Bruce Jenner. She brings the subject up entirely unprompted today, taking the opportunity to offer an apology. “I know a few transgender people and I ran it by them first to double check that people wouldn’t take it to heart,” she offers. “But it’s a sensitive topic that I didn’t really think through. A lot of people called me transphobic. It was genuinely just meant to be a punchline. I’ve never experienced being transgender and I’ll never know how it feels, so I can’t knock them for being mad at me—but I wouldn’t do that to upset anyone.” It’s rare to hear an artist acknowledging their critics, and even rarer to find one so at ease with being corrected.

In the back of an Uber on the way to London radio station Rinse FM’s studios, where she’s doing an on-air interview later, Leshurr scans the pavements for inspiration to use in her rhymes. She clutches her iPhone at all times, with the Notes app in near-constant use. With no warning, she suddenly leans over and starts videoing me for Snapchat. The sight of my flinching in surprise is the first time she’s properly laughed today. “It’s very hard to make me laugh!” she says. “I banter so much that you have to surpass my banter levels, you have to create a next level of humor. I don’t laugh at basic jokes.” She does laugh at surrealisms and surprises, though: thinking hard about the last thing she found properly funny, she recalls a cat video. “Someone was brushing the cat’s teeth, and when they took the toothbrush out this space noise sounded. It’s hard to explain.”

It’s might be difficult to reconcile with her feisty records, but Leshurr says she was a shy and timid child, the kind who would bite her nails and stare at the floor rather than talk to anyone. Raised in the Birmingham suburb of Solihull, she grew up in a house where music was behind every door, whether it was her mother listening to reggae on the radio, her brother banging out the latest drum’n’bass and garage sounds from his bedroom or her sister’s R&B and hip-hop. Inspired by the wordplay of Eminem’s “My Name Is,” Leshurr decided at the age of 13 that she wanted to be a rapper—and proactively set about making it happen. At government-funded local youth groups, she learned the technical skills of how to record your own music, as well as practicing playing the drums, and, with Missy Elliott as an inspiration, started to produce her own beats. Three years later, she put out her first mixtape, Needle In A Haystack, which she distributed herself in Birmingham city center and at local independent record stores.

At the same time Leshurr was taking acting classes, to which she still attributes her comedic abilities and love of making people laugh. Aged 20, she took a role in a British gang film, 1 Day, filmed in and around her hometown. Alongside a young cast mainly from the local area, she flexed both her acting and rapping chops, playing the film’s lead character Flash’s “baby mother” and MCing in a scene in which she confronts him for his philandering ways. The movie didn’t quite find a national audience, but Leshurr benefitted from the exposure. With her name more out there, she started travelling down to London for appearances on hip-hop radio mainstays like Tim Westwood’s show, and SB.TV.

“If I actually was [the character of my lyrics] everyone would hate me. Bowling around telling people their weave smells like cornbread!”

Reflecting on her early years in the industry, Leshurr admits to not always being so confident about her music. “[I was] a bit self-conscious, a bit aware of what people think of me,” she says today. The live, direct, and ephemeral platform of Snapchat, in fact, was Leshurr’s unlikely salvation. “I realised I was actually funny—and I’m very shy around new people, but whenever I’m on Snapchat I’m myself, like I’m with people I’ve known for years,” she explains. She’s created a cast of characters on the app, acting out vignettes from their lives in five to six Snaps at a time. One of these, a snobbish girl named Sandra, already had a cameo in 2015’s “Lukatar” video, for which Leshurr rapped in an upper-crust accent and donned a blonde wig. More skits in this vein are planned, as well as a potential sketch series involving this gang of misfits. Leshurr has always had ambitions in this vein: a fan of Chris Tucker and Katt Williams, she already includes a comedy-style interlude in her live sets, and at times she seems more stand-up comedian than rapper.

Now she’s riding high on the back of “Queen’s Speech 4,” it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that Atlantic have re-approached Leshurr (along with a few other labels, of course). She won’t be drawn on how she intends to respond, but her pleasure at how the situation’s turned is evident. “The ball’s in my court now,” she says with satisfaction. “Back then, I wasn’t in a position to be calling shots. Now, they can see I have my own machine and my own thing, and they want to buy into it. Creative control wise, that’ll be me 100%.”

While Leshurr is still mulling over the various label possibilities that have presented themselves recently, she says that her debut album, tentatively titled Queen Of The Scene, will be out next year. For it, she intends to get back into production, which she hasn’t hasn’t focused on since her teenage years. As well as another creative outlet, she’s mindful that there’s still a barrier to be broken in terms of female rappers producing their own beats. “I think all I need is my own set-up—the beat machine, the keys and everything—and I’ll be on top of it again, I really do.” she reflects. “It’s not just fun and games, I’ve got a story to tell and so much to express, and I don’t want people to think I’m a one-lane rapper who’s talking about funny things all the time. Life experiences, personal issues, family relationships—they’re things I need to address.” The banter queen is ready to get serious.

Until now, there’s only been the occasional hint of Leshurr’s heartfelt writing, such as with the admission back in the day I couldn’t trust mi daddy on “Queen’s Speech 2.” “I never got on with my father,” Leshurr shrugs. “I’ve never known him that much, and when he was around I never trusted him. [That line] just felt like it needed to be there. I want to tap into that because I know people all around the world who haven’t grown up with their fathers or have been in a violent family, and they don’t all have music to express how they feel.”

Later that day Leshurr arrives at the Rinse FM studios on east London’s Brick Lane for Maya Jama’s Drivetime show. On-air, she’s mostly a serious interviewee who mulls over her answers before responding precisely, following DJ Maya’s humor rather than impose her own. Alongside dropping a hint that she’s recently been in the studio with Timbaland working on forthcoming material (she can’t say any more), Leshurr repeatedly emphasizes that the Leshurr of the Queen’s Speech series is an alter ego, not her in real life. “If I actually was that person, everyone would hate me.” she gasps. “Bowling around telling people their weave smells like cornbread!”

Twenty minutes in, the show’s producer springs the idea of a live freestyle on Leshurr, whose energy is winding down after a full day of meetings and interviews. Briefly, you can see the idea of bailing—understandably—on her face. It’s barely a moment, though, and when Leshurr gathers herself she goes in on the beat hard, pulling herself back to a staccato flow before unleashing her full effervescent torrent. Leshurr, pizza, shisha, she rhymes, words pouring out of her as if she’s been storing them in her head for years.

Her life now couldn’t be more different, but Leshurr’s memories of her former security job are almost all fond ones; it got her into football matches and music festivals she wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford, and the cash enabled her to move into her own flat and buy the clothes and shoes she wanted. Even now, she says she wouldn’t mind going back to it if her career doesn’t work out. Only one awkward moment sticks out: “At one event I ran into Mz Bratt, and she was like, ‘wow, you work here?’ It was a bit embarrassing—she was there on stage doing what I wanted to do, and I was doing this.” It’s fair to say Leshurr won’t have this problem again. On “Million Views,” her follow up track to “Queen’s Speech 4,” she muses in the tones of someone who still suspects it might all be a dream: I woke up one morning, saw one million views. It isn’t just her YouTube stats she’s talking about: after years of grafting away, Lady Leshurr’s future has finally opened up for her, and she has the world in her sight-line.

This article originally appeared on the FADER.