Where Grime Meets Grace: In conversation with Lady Leshurr
LADY LESHURR is a name that you are surely familiar with by now. Where grace meets grime, the UK rapper has been bringing her own flavour to the scene for years now. After a succession of viral videos in 2016, her ‘Queen’s Speech’ series of freestyle raps have garnered more than 85 million views on YouTube, and that was just her getting started. But, despite her online success, the lady comes across as an old soul. Focusing on her love of music videos and why she keeps it real, Lady Leshurr chatted to us ahead of her first ever Australian tour.
This February will be your first ever run of Australian tour dates, are you excited to head down?
Yeah I’m so excited, I’ve never been there before!
Are there any things that you’re particularly looking forward to?
Seeing a kangaroo!
Supporting you on the tour are some amazing Australian female rappers and performers, such as Ngaiire, Kaylah Truth and Jesswar. Some of these artists are just starting out, and you’ve got a decade of experience – what is something you would pass onto them?
I would say that if they’re really passionate about this, and they want to make it their full time career, you’ve got to be prepared to sacrifice a lot. You’ve got to sacrifice time with your family, your friends, your partner. There’s so much to it that you have to think about before you really know that you can do this. You really have to think about all those things, and only do it if you’re passionate.
Do you still find yourself having to make sacrifices this far into your career?
Yes, every day. I haven’t seen my mum in months. I barely see my family. But, it’s something that they know- they expect it because they know I’m so busy with music. It’s things like that, the little things that you never sort of thought about when you were younger. Those are the things that really mean a lot to you as you’re getting older and as you’re growing up… And also being able to walk on the street as a normal human being. It’s really bad sometimes! You never know what anyone could do to you if they know who you are as well. You have to be really careful. There’s a few things that are really annoying but it just comes with the territory, really.
And I suppose its all worth it?
Yeah, it really is.
Do you notice any difference in this next generation coming through now?
I think a lot of the people that are coming up, they’re just… I don’t know. I think it’s just the younger generation in general. They’re really rude. They haven’t got a lot of manners or respect, they don’t seem to show a lot of respect to their elders. But that’s just kids in general, and the younger generation in general. That’s what I’ve found. I’ve gone to a few places, a few shows, where the younger generation are at – and the crowd is ruder. A lot of things are different. I feel like I’m really, really old the way I’m talking, but it’s a completely different world for me, a completely different world. I think it’s easier now for an artist to put a song online and for it to be recognised than five-ten years ago. The internet is really powerful at the moment. You can put up a video and it can go viral. It’s exactly what happened to me, isn’t it?
There are artists like Missy Elliot whose entire career has been built on having a catalogue of amazing videos, and then there are artists who use videos more as an after thought.
Your killer music videos have played a huge part in your career, do you think music videos are as important to the music industry as they used to be?
Yes I believe that! But I know that other artists may not believe that. It’s because I grew up on Eminem, I grew up on Missy, I grew up on those crazy visuals. They made me want to re-watch, re-watch all the time. Whereas nowadays, you see the same videos: people popping champagne, driving fancy cars, they’ve got jewellery… It’s just the same thing nowadays, its not something you can re-watch again. So that’s something I wanted to bring back into music: the fun side! Having fun visuals that you can watch, watch with your family.
Why do you think blending music and visual art is so effective?
I think it’s important! I think, especially with the ‘Queen’s Speeches’, it could have only worked with the visual. I think if I just put out the song, people would be like, “What? Brush your teeth?” You know what I mean? It’s just a bit weird? But because there’s visuals and you can see that I’m having fun and I really don’t care, people can see that and they can actually relate to that, I’m actually human.
And I think that’s why I decided to do the videos how I do them. Where I’m just walking and talking to the camera. ‘Cause I want people to think I’m talking to them! And I’m so normal. I don’t need a fancy high quality music video and a fancy high budget. I just need a camera and me, and I think that’s why it worked really well.
Visuals are just really, really important to songs, because some people can remember the video more than they can remember the song sometimes. You have to make sure there’s a balance.
Do you think that comes across in your live performances as well? Keeping it real?
Yeah definitely, yeah 100%! I always keep it real when I’m performing. It’s like my best thing to do after recording. And I’m basically the same as how I am in my videos on stage. I love to just turn up. I love to stage dive. I love to throw water on the crowd, I love to have a party! There’s just so much I love to do when I’m on stage. Because I wanna be someone who brings something completely different to music and the way that it works on stage, and the way that it works with visuals, and on the radio… I try to tick all the boxes.
Based in the UK, you’re coming out of the heart of the grime scene. How has it changed for you, personally, over the years?
It has definitely changed, it’s more popular now. People are starting to catch onto it now and it’s become international. It’s just really good to see that it’s finally growing and developing worldwide. But, nothing can beat that old school; old school garage, old school grime culture. The way that it was just in the streets into the mic, the battles… All the stuff like that, all that is just something that can never be recreated again. So I’ll always love those times more than the new times. 100 percent.
Your ‘Queen’s Speech’ series really shows that the internet has played a huge role in your music. What was happening at the time that you started making those videos?
I was watching a lot of battle rap and I just thought the rappers I was watching were incredible. And I didn’t understand why they weren’t signed or why they weren’t popular. And, I don’t know, I just thought maybe they needed to do a song where they had battle rap lyrics and you just throw in a chorus. And that’s how I created it [‘Queen’s Speech’], just by saying, “Why don’t they do it? Well I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do a battle verse and a chorus to add a little bit of melody, make it into a song and see what people think.” And it worked.
One of my favourite lyrics of yours is in your track ‘1 Million Views’ when you say, “I didn’t think that throwing shade would get me all of these meetings.” What usually fires you up and inspires you to write a song?
People [laughs]. I will see certain people if I’m looking out my window or going to a club, I’ll just see how certain people act. Example: the girls that wear no shoes in the club, and they’re standing on the dirty floor! It’s things like that that inspire me. Yeah, because it’s all inspiration, and I know that other people can relate to it. So I always have to put down lyrics that the common man will understand.
You’ve always done your own thing, do you ever feel vulnerable expressing your opinions through your music?
No, not at all actually. I think the best way to express your feelings, if you’re a creator and you’re going through something, you need to express it through music to get over it that chapter in your life and just move on. That’s what I tend to do. I go through stages. I’ll have a little stage that I’m just doing singy-songs, or you know, just like, those relatable songs. People go through things. If I’m happy, I’ll do all these happy songs. It’s all about my personality, it always comes through in my music. It’s a good way to express.
You’ve said before that you try to avoid swearing in your music, and as a result, people like to let their kids listen to you. What does it mean to you to know that your message is reaching a new generation of young audiences?
Well I haven’t actually ever tried not to swear, I just grew up not swearing. It’s just something that I’ve never really done off the mic, so when I’m on the mic, I’m gonna be real and just be the same as I am when I’m off the mic and not doing music. That’s what I’ve decided to do, it’s not something that I’ve forced myself to do. It just comes naturally, and it’s great to see that I’m probably the only artist in music that doesn’t swear and can appeal to any person, really.
We’ve heard word that your debut album ‘Queen of the Scene’ is well and truly on its way, what sets it apart from your previous mixtapes and EPs?
It definitely sounds like an album, that’s the main thing, I think. It just sounds like a body of work. When you hear hot tracks, you just want to roll with them and put them out to the world. But with an album, you have to kind of focus on what you really want to say. Your album represents you, really. And it’s going to represent you for years to come, and it’s gonna be something that becomes a part of your legacy, so you really have to think about what you want to see and talk about it as an album, rather than a mixtape.
For the first time ever, Lady Leshurr will be “keeping it real” on Australian shores very soon. And if she is as gracious and bold in her live shows as she is in her interviews, we’re all in for a great time!
SUN 12th FEB – HOWLER, MELBOURNE
With Manu Crooks
TUES 14th FEB – OXFORD ART FACTORY, SYDNEY
With Manu Crooks and Shantan Wantan Ichiban
THU 16th FEB – WOOLLY MAMMOTH, BRISBANE
With Kaylah Truth and Jesswar
FRI 10th FEB – CHEVRON FESTIVAL GARDENS, PERTH
Words by ABBEY LENTON