Lady Sovereign Public Warning

Judging by her recent on-stage meltdown, the wait for her debut album and the actual end product, Lady Sovereign may not be ready for the big time. Originally scheduled in the first quarter of 2006, Public Warning captures some of the promise this cheeky MC from Northwest London showed when she lit up blogs two years ago. Using a smattering of different production styles, she’s no longer strictly a grime artist — a move that has no doubt played a large part in her popularity (read: grime = cult following and nothing more). "Blah Blah” utilises a standard model of barmy grime with subterranean beats and chunky bass lines, but "Love Me Or Hate Me” moves to slick ’80s electro, "Those Were the Days” harkens back to laidback Cali hip-hop, and while weak by comparison, the title track bounces to happy hardcore and some undesirable rock guitars — a sure-fire move to secure America’s attention. Lyrically, she’s on point, mixing wicked poking humour (the orange slap of "Tango”) with accurate descriptions of her working class background (substituting her preference for Shepherd’s Pie over diamonds is admirable) in her unique delivery. Where Public Warning falters most though is with a poor song selection. Sure "Random,” "A Little Bit of Shh” and "9 to 5” are wicked fun, but they were more effective when they first surfaced in 2004. Make a case for this as the best way to introduce her to a new audience, but if so where is "Ch Ching,” the song that first earned her attention? And why not use the much stronger Basement Jaxx-produced version of "Hoodie” instead of this flaccid one? Public Warning is still a strong debut but doesn’t quite do enough justice in launching such a fresh artist. (Def Jam)