Available on: free mixtape

Birmingham MC Melesha O’Garro, aka Lady Leshurr, has seemingly become a permanent fixture of ones-to-watch and up-and-coming talent lists over the past three years. In that period, she has released five mixtapes, an EP and an official single; her star has burned incrementally brighter with each, but progress has been frustratingly slow given her obvious star quality. Put it another way: there is no reason that Lady Leshurr should not be as massive as Nicki Minaj by now.

On 2000andL, Leshurr teams up with New York hip-hop DJ Whoo Kid and his Haitian SuperHeros production duo for an unashamedly US-slanted mixtape – “UK to the US, we does this,” she announces at its start. Having tried her hand over everything from grime to electro to ‘Flat Beat’ in the past, here she concentrates on straight-up hip-hop, from the G-funk bounce of ‘Bun Up’ to the trap snares and slabs of bass of ‘Beat The Beat’. It’s heartening to see an emerging artist so blithely unconcerned with the false division between US and UK music that British rappers often seem so paranoid about – and even better to hear that Leshurr’s unmistakeable talent translates so easily across the pond without ever losing what makes her distinct.

That is to say: the way she stacks rhymes on top of rhymes, running through metaphors as though flipping her fingers through a comic book. “Left them in a state like Americans, there’s so many sides to me like a hexagon / I don’t stop, don’t stop, never hesitant / they know I’m so tough, I’m like the president / Obama / I’m a firestarter / Bun down the place, they call me lava / Laughter” is a typical verse, Leshurr rendering herself a shape-shifting superhero as she bounces from scene to scene.

There’s her distinctively accented voice, too: deceptively youthful, initially unthreatening, Leshurr doesn’t come across as ferociously aggressive as, say, Shawnna or Trina. But if she isn’t going to rip your face off, she’s more than capable of a sharp bite; and she manages to pull off murder threats in one line and talking about sipping apple juice in the next. Two years ago, she was nonplussed at burgeoning Nicki Minaj comparisons, instead citing Eminem and Lil’ Wayne as influences; this has changed, as her increasingly conscious vocal switch-ups (in and out of patois, for instance) indicate, but Leshurr uses them judiciously enough that she doesn’t merely come across as a Minaj copyist.

While 2000andL boasts fewer irresistible pop hooks than past mixtapes – Leshurr highlights in this area such as ‘Shurr’ and ‘Lalala’ easily demonstrate her crossover potential – it’s a further illustration of her likeable, versatile persona: she can brag with the best of them while keeping the listener entertained, she can convince at unpicking relationship entanglements and closing track ‘Those Days’ is a superlative exercise in bittersweet reminiscing. Now, it’s time for more.

Alex Macpherson

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