There’s a certain level of stigma that comes from finding fame in YouTube, but as Lady Leshurr has proven time and time over, it’s a result of incredible sacrifice, passion, and hard work. Her sharp tongue led her to go viral with Queen’s Speech 4 and had people from all around the world yelling out “brush your teeth!” 2016 was her most successful year yet, winning multiple awards and accolades, playing shows around the world and now with an album firmly in the works, 2017 will no doubt be even bigger. Ahead of her debut Australian tour beginning in February, Lady Leshurr set the record straight on what she really went through to get where she is, denying an Atlantic record deal and sneaking underage punters into her show.
You had an amazing 2016, from winning a MOBO award for Best Female Act to an award for Best MC from DJ Mag. You’ve posted on your Facebook page recently that you’re cooking up another #UNLESHED, the last one being your ‘Panda’ freestyle, when is it set to drop?
I think I’ll release it quite soon because I want to start a fresh and brand new slate in 2017. I want to release all this brand new music I’ve been working on.
You’re a very passionate advocate for getting young women involved in the scene. And I recently saw your work with Red Bull Music Academy. What do you have to say to girls who are struggling or doing it tough when trying to make a career in music?
I would just say that you should only do it if you’re passionate and don’t do it if you expect to see money from it; because it can be a very long pleasurable journey but you have to be very hard-working and very focused. If you really want to do this you have to put your all in into it and you may have to sacrifice things you don’t really want to but you do need to in order to receive success. I’d also say keep being consistent, keep putting out music, keep feeding people so wherever they look you’re there. Have a YouTube account, Snapchat, Instagram – all the main social networks – you need to keep in touch with your supporters. And just go hard.
You’ve worked your butt off to get where you are today. You turned down an Atlantic Record deal when you first blew up a few years ago, and for those who don’t know, that was partly because you were asked to do a Nicki Minaj diss track. ‘Queens Speech 2’ is set to Minaj’s ‘Only’ and I need to know, was that a bit of a cheeky diss to Atlantic, like I won’t do the diss but here have this remix.
No, not at all actually. I do everything that I want to do – I don’t do anything that my heart don’t feel good doing. That really steers me left and right in music. With the Atlantic meeting, they were offering me money and at that time I was young and naïve. I had no idea about signing a deal or record labels and how much percent they would take. I was very frustrated at the meeting because I thought I had made the wrong decision at the time. I just wanted to get my mum a brand new house and better my life and my family’s life. On the plane ride home I was like “Oh my god, did I make the right decision?” but I really truly believe I did. When they were telling me I had to do it for another reason, to diss Nicki, I thought, I never came into music to diss anybody, especially a female because I’m all about female empowerment. I think it was a test from God, a test to see how much I really wanted it and how much I would give for it to happen to me and I knew for me it wasn’t the right time. I was a work-in-progress and I had a lot more work to do and a lot more things to say to people to show them that I’m here to stay. We’re talking 5 or 6 years later, where I’ve had time to rebrand myself and do this Queen Speech series but I’m really glad I took a year out to really understand where I wanted to go. I really believe if you take your time and get it right you’ll succeed but if you just jump in and go for the first offer you’re more likely to fall flat on your bum because you’re not ready and you’re not prepared.
You talk a lot about wanting to ‘make it’ for your mum and I saw that you were recently trying to surprise her with a house. Did you get to do that yet or is that still a secret?
No, I think she knows now actually because she made a Facebook [account]. I never thought she’d make a Facebook or get any social media but she’s found out now. So now I’ve just told her to pick the house and I’ll get it. I originally wanted to get the house and then take her to it, pretend it’s mine and then just say “it’s yours”.
A lot of the joy from your come-up has been from the fact that you’ve been able to financially help your mum. I have read that your upbringing however was quite strict and your dad was unsupportive of you pursuing music. You’ve already spoken about that before, what I really want to know is how did your mum step in and support you through this and what it means to share your success with her?
Well, with my mum she always has let me do whatever I want to do. She’s never said “You need to get a job” or “Music isn’t for you”. She’s let me be a free spirit and I’m quite lucky and privileged actually, because I grew up in quite a violent and protected family background household. My father never let me do these things. He used to be the one that would be like “You need to get a job” but my mum, on the other hand, she would let me do whatever I wanted to do and I’m really lucky that happened.
I had to leave Birmingham and move to London because that’s the place music is at in England and I had to leave and sacrifice seeing my mum’s face, seeing my family’s face just to prove to my father, especially, that I can do this, because he never thought it was possible. I had to leave with a little suitcase. I went to London, I was sleeping on couches, on floors and because I knew this was all I wanted, I had to prove him wrong. So I spent a couple of years in London grinding and working hard and trying to get myself out there. Next thing I know I’m winning a MOBO award, I’ve got my music video on music channels and it got to the point where my father was finding out things and I’m not telling him – his friends are telling him or he’s seeing the newspaper or me on TV and that’s when he started to realise it’s actually working out, so now he supports me. At the time being a young female he was quite protective and he didn’t even want me leaving Birmingham. So when I left, I had to without anyone in my family knowing, neither of my parents knowing. I just went and knew that I couldn’t go back until I could prove all of them wrong. It was a massive sacrifice and it’s paid off in the end.
Back to your music – I love all your cheeky disses from ‘crispy bacon lips’ to ‘change your panties’ but my favourite line has to be from Queens Speech 1, “If you friend zone me, I’ll go on your Insta And I’ll unlike every picture” just because I’ve definitely done that before so I always laugh when I hear that line.
I definitely have too [laughs].
Do you have a lyrics that your most proud of?
I’ve done sooo much music but I think my favourite lyric that I’ve made is from ‘Chase The Dream’, but that’s quite an old song that I’ve done. I was in a bad space and I thought everything was going wrong for me. It’s just about empowering people just trying to keep people really positive, so I always do that one in all my sets to remind people that I’m a regular person and I’m here because I followed my dreams.
Your album has been in the works for a while and there’s excitement around it because fans have been waiting on it for a little while. You’re also working with sooo many amazing producers – Deputy, Bangladesh, Scott Storch, and Timbaland. Is there a date yet?
Definitely this year. I couldn’t rush it and there is always a time to release things and for me it wouldn’t be right to put it out without any promo behind it – you need a campaign and stuff. Because people are annoyed about how long it’s took, I’m a perfectionist and I really love to have everything right, so right now its at 70% but I want it to be at 100%. Because it’s going to be a little longer wait I’m going to release a new EP before the album at the start of this year just to keep the supporters happy because I know they’re annoyed and they’re waiting for a Queen’s Speech or an UNLESHED or the album. I can’t keep feeding them a Queen’s Speech all the time because I’ve got to be inspired by relatable things to do something like that. I’m dropping an UNLESHED soon. The EP (before the album) is going to be a balance of Queen’s Speech and UNLESHED because I’m going to show two different sides of me and try to catch people’s thought processes on how they perceive me. A lot of people just think of me as the banter queen or that I just talk about girls or things that happen but there is more to me so I wanted to find a balance and see how that goes.
So the album will be out, this year, definitely.
You’re kind of pulling a Frank Ocean on us by making us wait and moving dates, but I’m sure we’ll forgive you when it drops
[Laughs] It’s not that bad!
So let’s get to your Australian tour, which is in February. I listened to your Rinse FM interview from last year on The Drive with Maya and she mentioned her friend in Australia was listening to your music and you were shocked to hear it had such reach. Now you’re playing your first show in Australia, how does that feel?
I can’t wait man! To me, it goes to show that the internet is powerful. Even if people in Australia have things like iTunes and Spotify, it goes to show that YouTube is a massive social network and for any artists to get that far, it really warms me. It’s good to see people who have completely different accents to me; people who have a different mentality and mindset can enjoy my music and understand and just like it and support it. It’s really good to even have a tour there, even to visit there! But I’m petrified of spiders and that’s one of the reasons I’ve never been to Australia because I’ve heard they’re massive over there. I’ve just been so scared to go. But in New York I met some guy who said he’s from Australia and in five years he saw one spider and it wasn’t even that big, so maybe it’s not so much of a problem for me. I can’t wait to come!
I really like the way you interact with fans, you’re always liking and replying to comments on Facebook. I noticed that when you announced your Australian tour, someone commented that they couldn’t come because they’re under 18, to which you replied ‘Come anyway, I’ll put you on the guest list’. Are you really going to sneak them into your show?
Yes, I’m definitely going to try my hardest. You know it’s just that I’m going to be there, not once in a lifetime but it’s going to be very rare that I do come to Australia. I want to do so many things over there and you know, I have young supporters, so why not?
You’ve mentioned before you enjoy hearing people sing your lyrics back at you in different accents, and especially with Futuristic’s cover ‘King’s Speech’. How are you feeling about hearing your songs in an Australian accent?
[Laughs] I can’t wait.
I know from your Queen’s Speech series alone you love a good meme, what was your favourite of 2016?
I never knew about me-mes and things like that. I call them me-mes (laughs) because I have no idea. I like the Arthur fist one though, that one is great.
Lady Leshurr will be touring Australia and New Zealand from February 10. Details here.