Interview: Lady Sanity

Lady Sanity

Birmingham rapper and wordsmith Lady Sanity’s place in UK rap is fast ascending: last year she won GRM Daily’s ‘Get Rated’ award and this month, she was chosen to represent her city in the handover ceremony of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

‘Now you should already know I represent Brum to the fullest, everywhere I go, so when I was asked to travel to Australia to represent the city for the closing ceremony I didn’t know how to react. This is a massive achievement for me, I’m privileged for this opportunity and hope to do Birmingham proud,’ she posted on her website.

Yep, 2018 is going to be huge for the PRS Foundation backed emcee, who first emerged in 2014 with her debut mixtape, Construction, and has been dropping hard-hitting bars and thought provoking lyrics ever since.

Inspired by artists like Lauryn Hill, MC Lyte and Missy Elliot, her dynamic has flow caught the attention of many platforms, including the MOBO Help Musicians Fund – a new initiative set up by MOBO and Help Musicians UK to assist new artists in realising their musical ambitions.

Following last year’s For Figures EP, she’s about to drop her first single of 2018, Fro’z: a bass-driven track about, ’embracing your individuality and the importance of self-acceptance and self-confidence.’

Keep an ear out for that and in the meantime, dig into our extended interview with the rising rapper, taken from our upcoming Formidable Flows feature…

How did you get into music?

I had an older sister playing UK garage when it first came out. My sister’s boyfriend at the time made beats, he showed me how to do it when I was about 12 and I got into it from there.

When did you realise music was something you wanted to make a life out of?

There’s been multiple moments – one that sticks in my head was being playlisted on BBC Radio 1Xtra when I was about 18. I was like wow, people in the industry actually like my stuff. Then DJ Target invited me to a hip hop karaoke night in London and it made me think, yes I can do this. This was back in 2013/2014.

And it’s built up from there?

In the last couple of years, I’ve taken it more seriously. There are always days when you feel down but music is a great way to escape that and push forward.

How important is BBC Radio 1Xtra to the success of UK hip hop?

It’s an institution, it’s been massively important. When artists are starting out, it’s a real goal – you have a plan of what you aspire to, stepping stones to help you feel like you’re progressing. So getting played or noticed by 1xtra is a massive mark on your tick-list as a UK rapper.

What’s your take on UK hip hop in 2018? It seems to be on the brink of having a moment – why do you think it’s all coming to a head?

Grime blew up and it’s having an impact on UK hip hop too. But it’s been a long time coming. Rap is a release for the youth: there are a lot of things happening politically, there are a lot of things changing that young people don’t like, and it’s a great outlet for that. Now we’re able to showcase it and people want to listen. It’s created a lot of unity.

New artists are fusing a whole load of influences. Are grime and hip hop merging/becoming closer?

There are still boundaries in terms of style, but people are more likely to dip into different genres and feel comfortable in using this in their own sound. At the same time, people are naive – they hear a British accent over beats and they think it’s grime. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been called a grime artist, which is nice – I like grime – but at the same time, it’s not what I do. It’s all about being comfortable in your genre.

Why have artists like Drake and Ed Sheeran looked to people like Yxng Bane and Stormzy for inspiration?

Obviously, for a long time America has been the place for music when it comes to hip hop and R&B. People like Drake and Sheeran are smart – they investigate, take bits of sound, collaborate. They’ve shown how versatile they can be while also gaining a new audience and new respect by trying something different. A lot of people might have been afraid to do this.

Are there any DJs or organisations doing big things for the scene?

Semtex has always been on point. I’ve always listened to his show and looked up to him and his taste. In terms of organisations, I don’t think there’s strong industry support for the scene but at the same time, it’s so DIY: people in hip hop have never looked for industry acceptance. It was built from poverty and struggle and a means of escape and empowerment and I think that’s how the best hip hop is made.

I remember reading something about Little Simz and it highlighted how she’s made some worldwide moves, but she’s not really championed in the way she should be and that says a lot about the way UK hip hop is portrayed. Simz in particular doesn’t get the commercial success – but at the same time, she’s collaborated with some massive acts, has a crazy fan base and doesn’t seem fazed by it.

What advice would you give to new artists?

Find your sound and try and do things differently. Once you find your feet, then you’ll be unstoppable, just like the UK hip hop scene. There are artists popping up everyday and the only difference between you and the next one is being original – stay persistent, get out and experience music live. Social media is great but you create real bonds when you’re out there and pushing it.