Lady Leshurr is an artist who takes great pride in her style, and has been an advocate for Foot Locker given their fantastic selection of sneakers. She’s had a monumental year, racking up millions of views across her ‘Queen Speech’ series, touring and performing at a number of festivals, winning the coveted MOBO award for Best Female Act, and her personal highlight, buying her a mum a new house. Following a special performance at Foot Locker in Oxford Street on Sunday 27th November, which featured BBC 1Xtra’s DJ Melody Kane on the decks, we recently had the chance to speak to the UK’s leading female MC about why she’s a fan of Foot Locker, what style means to her, being persistent, success of her own YouTube channel, starting her own label, and more. Check out the interview below now:
TP: You’ve just given a great performance in Foot Locker, how come you’re down here this evening?
Lady Leshurr: Basically today, I’m supporting Foot Locker. I’m currently wearing the brand new ‘2017 Nike Air Max 2017 Pure Platinum’, they’re a Foot Locker exclusive. I’m just a big fan of Foot Locker, I really do like the stuff that they do on this floor (upper floor in the 283 Oxford Street Foot Locker). I remember I came in here last month, and I came upstairs and thought to myself, “wow, I never knew they had an upstairs!” I bought ‘Nike Air Max Tuned Olive’s’, they’ve got exclusives in here, so I’m just supporting really.
Have you always been into style?
Yeah, 100%, I think style and fashion, is a massive part of music. You have to look a certain way, a lot of people do look a certain way in music, and it makes you feel different when you’ve got something on that you know you look good in. And you’re on the camera, and you think “I know I look good, so I can perform good”, so you’ve got to make sure your fashion is on fleek at all times.
How do you think your (MCing) style has developed over the years?
Ummm my style’s developed…its weird because when I first started I was very intricate, and I was very technical with the flows and the metaphors, and similes because I used to listen to a lot of Eminem. Then growing up, I listened to a lot of Pop, Classical and Rock. The reason I did that was because they had a lot of melodies that Grime doesn’t have, or that Grime hasn’t thought of yet. I took the melodies, ideas and thought process from other genres and put them into Grime. But I slowed down my flow, so I’ve kind of progressed, but I feel I’ve gone backwards in terms of watering down the sound a little bit. But its only because, you can be the best spitter, but if you’re not getting the audience to sing along with you, you’re not connecting with the audience. So I slowed down, and made it so easy that even a one year old baby can understand it. So I think I have progressed in a way.
Going back to when you first burst onto the scene…I remember your ‘Woo Riddim’ on SBTV, and even from then, I thought you were one of the sickest MCs. I feel like its taken a while for you to receive your due recognition…do you feel the same way?
Yeah! Its taken forever! Ten years plus I’ve been in this you know? And there hasn’t been a point where I’ve felt like there’s no hunger or no passion left. Certain things do drain you and you do fall back, but you have to get up and keep running man. Its like a race… but yeah definitely, the ‘Woo Riddim’, and everything I had done before were freestyles I was trying to showcase my talent, and show what Birmingham had. It wasn’t even about me, I just wanted to put Birmingham on the map, because there weren’t a lot of Northerners down here representing at the time when I came through, so it’s a pleasure to be representing Brum, and being at the forefront.
Speaking of that region, what do you think of MCs coming out of there? You have MIST, Bugzy Malone-
Yeah, 0161, Manny on the map (Bugzy Malone)!
(Laughs) yeah, so who do you like at the moment coming from Midlands and up North?
Its not even about liking them because I could just rate their work and what their doing. I’ve always rated C4, that’s Preditah’s brother. I rate them both, because what they’ve done is amazing. Bassboy as well… Swifta is doing amazing, he did ‘Man Don’t Care’ with Giggs and JME. That’s what I mean! Birmingham is really being put on the map now, and its incredible. Jaykae… Vader… Invasion (Alert), there’s a lot of people that are making noise in Birmingham.
On your tracks, whether it’s freestyles or ‘Queen Speeches’, you seem to be great at choosing your instrumentals. What goes through your mind when you choose them?
(Laughs) I’m laughing only because, I love that you say that…because when I took a break from music for a year to plan everything out, I thought about what I was going to do, what the concept was going to be, and decided that I was going to be the main producer. So basically I’d beatbox the melody into my phone, so “dun-dun-dun…dun-dun-dun” (‘Queen’s Speech 4’ melody), that’s exactly what I did with “brush your teeth”, with all the ‘Queen Speeches’, and went to a studio with a producer who I could connect with and feel comfortable around, because when you don’t feel comfortable you can’t do your best.
Yeah of course
And we just got it done! He took my beatbox and made it into reality, and he done what he done. But every single song, I produced and I just gave it to the producer, to boost it up and make it crisp. Same with the visuals, everything was my idea. I knew I wanted to do a one take, I didn’t want people to take their eyes off me, I wanted people’s eyes popping out, and grab people’s attention like the old school videos. I wanted to bring that back so, everything came from me, and all I really needed to do, was find the people that could see the vision and piece the puzzles together.
Sure…so you’ve mentioned other platforms before like SBTV, Link Up TV, and I remember in a previous interview you mentioned that you’re the one putting out the freestyles, but they’re getting the views. You started your own channel, and you’ve now got 600,000+ subscribers. What do you think has been the key behind building your own channel?
The key behind building your own channel, is by not relying on other channels, because a lot of rappers… they don’t have a business mind, they just think “let me just drop something on another channel”. No shade to any of the other channels, big up to Link Up, GRM Daily, SBTV, all them people, but, a lot of rappers just rely on another channel, and their subscribers, just to get their views up, and I had to sit down and say to myself…because I was scared you know, when I first put out ‘Queen Speech 1’, I was scared, I was actually going to give it to SBTV, but I thought, “you know what? I can either put this on my own channel and it flops but I’m building, or I can give this to someone who has a platform, and for it to do good but not get views on my own channel”. You actually have to sit with yourself, and talk with yourself to see what’s the best option for you. Is it now, or longevity? And with the ‘Queen Speech’ series, I think ‘Queen Speech 1’, got 50,000 views in 3 weeks, and now I’m getting 1,000,000 views in a week, so it just shows the build, and progression. You have to be patient with it man, and can’t just expect that its going to come straight away. Any rappers out there, don’t rely on other channels to bring success, bring yourself success, you’ve got to make your own channel. Build your own platform, do it your own way, make your own money. Simple as that.
So you’ve mentioned your main inspirations are Eminem, Lil Wayne…is there any UK MC that you’ve been inspired by growing up?
Ghetts when he was Ghetto…Nolay…Kano, Wiley… used to love Tinchy Stryder, there’s someone else that I’m missing and its key…Shystie man! Lioness! I used to listen to a lot of the female MCs growing up, even if they were in the year I was born, it didn’t matter at that time, because I was no way near what they were doing. Like Shystie was the first person who I saw get signed, and that made me think “yo! I can actually do this! She’s a black woman, and she’s rapping, she’s doing what she wants to do, she’s signed, she’s making all these great videos”, so she made me think, “you can actually do this you know, doesn’t matter what colour skin you are, if you actually got the talent you can make it”.
Yeah, 100%…so what we can expect from Lady Leshurr in 2017?
(Laughs)…2017…sounds weird saying that man… My album, but I don’t know when it’s going to be released… Own clothing line, I’ve got to! Own hairline…a couple special features, I’m touring again in February, I’m going to Australia but I hope I don’t see no spiders because I’m petrified of spiders. What else…some collaborations with brands and stuff. I’m not trying to do what all the other artists are doing, you know what I mean, I want to make a book. I want to give people my experience, what I’ve done, what I’ve been through, and I want to pass that down onto people who have doubts in what they’re doing. Because for me personally, the reason I do what I do, and what I stand for right now, is to try and inspire the youth. Its all about the younger generation for me, they’re the ones who are really watching what I do, so I want to show them its possible for them to do whatever they want to do, they just have to be focused and consistent.
Would you ever want to start your own foundation for young people?
100%, in fact I did something with Vevo and Levis recently and I went back to Birmingham, I went to my youth club where I first started when I was 14, and made my first song. They’re trying to shut it down, but I’m trying to keep it open, so I want to have a foundation with something I can be happy and smile about, that I’ve kept something alive.
What song means the most to you?
There are three songs actually, Sister Nancy – ‘BAM BAM’, that was the first song I heard when I was 6 years old, and I wrote something then used it for my mums voicemail, the second song is ‘My Name Is’ by Eminem, which made me know I wanted to be a rapper. Because before I was just writing lyrics here and there, but when I saw that, I just became serious. It was weird, and I was like 12 or 13 at the time… and then the next song was Lil Wayne – ‘Go DJ’, because…Eminem stopped doing music for a bit and I had no one to really look up to or inspire me. But then I heard Lil Wayne on ‘Midnight Club’ on Playstation, I was listening to it, and it made me drop the controller saying “who’s this guy?!” I started researching him and fell in love with him, he just brought the fire back man. His voice, and he’s funny! He’s just one of those guys, he’ll say something and you’ll think “what?!” but he’s funny, and I just love that. So yeah those are the three main songs.
Well, Lady Leshurr, thank you so much for your time
Lady Leshurr performed an intimate gig for fans at the Foot Locker Oxford Street flag ship store in London, to celebrate the recent ‘Girls In Grime’ project she led at Red Bull Studios. You can listen to Lady Leshurr on Spotify here and follow her on Instagram/Twitter
Photography Credit: Word On The Curb