GUY RAZ, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. LADY SOVEREIGN (Musician): (Rapping) (Unintelligible). I know you know my name. I know you know my name.

RAZ: That's a cut off the latest album by London rapper Lady Sovereign. If you didn't catch it, she calls herself the biggest midget in the game, in part because she's barely five-feet tall. She's just 23, but Lady Sovereign's already lived a lifetime in the music business.

She was discovered by Jay-Z, scored a number one single on the U.S. dance charts, toured with Gwen Stefani, parted company with her label Def Jam and burned out.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SOVEREIGN: (Rapping) (Unintelligible).

RAZ: But now, she's back in the game with that new album, "Jigsaw," released on her own label, Midget Records. Lady Sovereign's in our New York bureau. Hi.

Ms. SOVEREIGN: Hi, hi.

RAZ: So you're back in the U.S. You haven't visited us in a few years. Where you been?

Ms. SOVEREIGN: As you said, I burned out, to put it, like, bluntly, you know? I just got tired of the work involved with being signed to a major label, and I walked away just to keep myself sane, you know?

RAZ: And you took a little bit of a break.

Ms. SOVEREIGN: Yeah, you know, just chilled out, really, you know, like, didn't do anything work-related at all. Like, the best therapy for me was having a good time, enjoying myself, laughing, being with friends, family, you know, like, good people, like, you know, not going to, you know, therapists and counseling. I mean, that - it kind of made things worse in a way because it was just like dwelling on stuff.

RAZ: Two years ago, you had a huge dance hit in the U.S. with the song "Love Me or Hate Me," and it got really heavy airplay on MTV.

(Soundbite of song, "Love Me or Hate Me.")

Ms. SOVEREIGN: (Rapping) Make way for the S.O.V. Love me or hate me, it's still an obsession. Love me or hate me, that is the question. If you love me, then thank you. If you hate me, then (unintelligible) you.

RAZ: So back then, you were still with Def Jam records, and you've actually said people die to get onto the Def Jam label, and then you say, and I nearly died being on it. What happened?

Ms. SOVEREIGN: It's hard to say really. I mean, I just felt so alone, like you know, like I was always out here in America. You know, like I appreciate what Def Jam did for me, and you know, the exposure I got, but it all seemed to be based around "Love Me or Hate Me." It just drove me crazy just going around in this big circle repeating myself, doing (unintelligible), again repeating myself, promoting the same thing.

RAZ: Do you think you were sort of, like, just overwhelmed by being so young? I mean, you were 19 when Jay-Z, the biggest rap star in the world, summons you to meet with him. I mean…

Ms. SOVEREIGN: It did scare me a bit. I actually didn't want to go. I know it sounds silly, and it sounds like, you know, it would've been a wasted opportunity, but I was so scared because, you know, being around these giant hip-hop artists and then in the back of my head knowing that I'm not a hip-hop artist kind of freaked me out a bit.

It's like okay, I don't want people to get the wrong impression of me, you know? But I went, you know, drunk some vodka. I went there. You know, I was as timid as a mouse, to be honest. I wonder why they did sign me.

RAZ: So this new album, "Jigsaw," it seems like you're sort of telling us about some of the things you went through in the past few years after, you know, the breakup with Def Jam and other experiences you had. And there's one song in particular, "So Human," where you sample The Cure's song, "Close To me."

(Soundbite of song, "So Human")

Ms. SOVEREIGN: (Rapping) I'm a star. I'm an individual, an educated example of intelligence. I'm considered to be cool. Hot bodies, offended people, the mood of age bitten on innocent people.

Anyway, things change, always at the hotel, always, I'll be gone again in four days. I've been waiting hours for this. I've made myself so sick. I wish to stay and sleep today. I'm so human. It's okay…

RAZ: I mean, do you find that you sort of have to explain yourself over and over in different ways? Because I mean, you know, a lot of people - of course here in the U.S. - compare your sound to Eminem, in part because of your style and lyrics and in part because you're white. So do you ever sort of get flak from other artists or critics who say, you know, you're not the real deal because you're white, you're small, you're a woman, you know, and a little eccentric.

Ms. SOVEREIGN: But what is the real deal supposed to be in people's eyes? You know, it's like I do what I do. No one else does it like me. I don't try and duplicate anyone. So when people come and say things like oh, you're like Eminem, it's like what? I mean, our styles are just completely different.

I don't rap about, you know, chopping people up and putting them in boots of cars and stuff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SOVEREIGN: I like to dabble around in different genres of music, and I don't like to be labeled.

RAZ: There's a track on the new album, "Jigsaw," that I think really captures this record so well. The track is "I Got You Dancing," which is so full of energy.

(Soundbite of song, "I Got You Dancing")

Ms. SOVEREIGN: (Rapping) Ba ba ba ba bing ba bing bing ba bang. Do it freestyle, mix the tango fannang? Go move from the bar to the floor. You got to do it, do it, do it, do it raw. Do it in time to my metaphor. There's that dude that I met before.

RAZ: I love this lyric: I got you dancing, got you doing it. Do it raw. Do it in time to my metaphor.

Ms. SOVEREIGN: Well, I don't dance, yeah? Well, I don't dance in public, and you know, I like to see people enjoying themselves and having a good time, smiling, dancing, whatever. You know, this song's just about me getting people dancing, really, and I'm able to do that, and it's a good feeling.

(Soundbite of song, "I Got You Dancing."

Ms. SOVEREIGN: (Rapping) I got you dancing, got you doing it, yeah. I got you dancing, got you doing it. I never quite heard of a girl who could do it like this, like this. You ain't never heard of a girl…

Ms. SOVEREIGN: But me, on the other hand, no, you ain't going to see me dance in public.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SOVEREIGN: You know, I think I can dance, but I don't know. I don't want to embarrass myself. So I just leave it to everyone else.

(Soundbite of song, "I Got You Dancing")

Ms. SOVEREIGN: (Rapping) Think twice before I break dance. Might fall on my arms and break my ass.

RAZ: London Rapper Lady Sovereign's album, "Jigsaw," is now out on her own label, Midget Records. She's on tour in the U.S., and we caught up with her during a stop in New York. Lady Sovereign, thanks for joining us.

Ms. SOVEREIGN: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song, "I Got You Dancing")

Ms. SOVEREIGN: (Rapping) Jump in, jump in, jump into the ring and do your thing. By Lady Sovereign bring a ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling. I got you dancing, got you doing it, doing it. I got you dancing, got you doing it, doing it, yeah. I got you dancing, got you doing it, doing it, yeah.

I got you dancing, got you doing it, doing it, yeah. I never quite heard from a girl who could do it like this. You ain't never heard of a girl that could do it like this, do like this. I never quite heard of a girl who could do it like this, do it like this. You ain't never heard of a girl that could do it like this, do it like this. You wanna dance? I bet you do. I bet you do. I bet you do.

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