The rapper's second is a reflective affair...

The “biggest midget in the game” rather found the rug pulled from under her feet as debut album ‘Public Warning’ failed to turn positive critical reaction into commercial success substantial enough to warrant a follow-up for the same label, Island. So, for album two Lady Sovereign sees her songs find a home on her own label, run in conjunction with EMI. A second chance down the major route, then, but with a little less pressure on the rapper’s shoulders.

While 2006’s first foray into long-play releases was characterised by a degree of brattitude, which made for comical lyrical content and some truly wonderful put-down rants, ‘Jigsaw’ finds Sov, known to her mum as Louise Harman, presenting self-reflection to the fore alongside her own brand of middle-finger vitriol. Everything that’s happened over the past couple of years, for better and worse, has informed her palette, resulting in some interesting stylistic left turns.

Take the title track, for example: “I’ve got you on my mind, I’ve got shit on my mind… I wish you were mine.” It’s a love song, and what’s more it’s a love song with strings draped all over it, a gentle backbeat keeping things relatively breezy but ultimately it's as tender, as honest, as Sov’s ever sounded. It's somewhat alarming, and requires immediate checking of the record sleeve to make sure you've got the right thing on. A rather different approach on a similar topic is ‘Food Play’, which runs through a gleeful description of some rather messy foreplay. Surely one needs to explain it no further, given its title. Bagsy not cleaning the kitchen.

The contrast between tracks inspired the album title – ‘Jigsaw’ is indeed a whole made up of many different pieces – but it doesn’t result in an album that flows well; instead, this is a record where standout offerings seem such because of the lack of a considered segueing between arrangements. Not that we’re asking for those horrible skits that feature on so many mainstream US rap records, but ‘Jigsaw’ does sound as if its tracklisting was thrown together at random. A dissection of frustrating hands-on fans combined with heard-it-before stating of our protagonist’s dress sense, ‘Bang Bang’, seems rather out of place immediately prior to the album’s brightest, most pop-savvy cut, ‘I Got You Dancing’, where vocal aggression is forgotten in favour of simply getting bodies moving. The track's a crossover vehicle, but one which doesn't sell its maker short on the lyricism front despite a comparatively banal chorus.

With expectations not entirely high for ‘Jigsaw’, the pressure alleviated, there’s no doubt Sov sounds looser than she did on her debut, and in a good way – her wordplay is smoother than the staccato stutters of ‘Public Warning’, where rapid and raspy deliveries seemed to be making up for the artist’s opinion of her diminutive frame. Now she’s celebrating her size more than seeing it as a source of harassment, and subsequent aggro-raps, the songs resonate with an optimism that bodes well for Sov’s future releases – bad times can produce good music, but great times are better still. And a lot of the time it sounds like Sov had a blast making ‘Jigsaw’, even when she reaches her eff-you nadir on ‘Pennies’, a frustrating lapse on a record that elsewhere genuinely represents progression.

‘Let’s Be Mates’’ line of “I’m weird, and you’re weird, let’s be mates” is a brilliant summary of the singular appeal here: it’s a left-of-centre rap record that dallies with ‘80s electro and, ultimately, seems penned entirely to its maker’s tastes with little in the way of compromise. Some will loathe it; others, obviously, will fall instantly in love with the cheeky wit on show, at turns charming and caustic. If you, too, are tired of predictability in your rap – and pop, for that matter, for there’s little here that can’t also fall into said category – then you know what your next purchase is.

Not that any of the above forgives the sampling of ‘Close To Me’ for current single ‘So Human’. Seriously…


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