It's easy to look back at Lady Leshurr's decade-long career and think she's still up and coming due to not yet releasing a studio album. But with nine mixtapes, five EPs, a label deal as well as co-signs from the likes of Missy Elliot and Erykah Badu, Lady Leshurr has continued to do things in her own timing. In today's musical climate, timing is everything. And in an industry where labels, critics, and fans alike continue to pit female rappers against one another, Leshurr's decision to further delay the release of her album is a sign of a forward-thinking move.
It almost goes without saying that UK rap's female lyricists seldom receive the same level of support and praise as their male counterparts. Coupled with the online hate Leshurr has received since arriving on the scene, and the general music snobbery that comes with rap beyond the M25, the Birmingham MC has continuously batted away the criticism, allowing her to focus on delivering her own narrative. "I get more hate now than I ever did before. I think it's because no one's actually doing what I'm doing at the moment," she said in a 2016 interview with Complex.
Queen's Speech is to Leshurr what Back 2 Da Lab is to Frisco and each freestyle is just as important as the last, in regards to the wider story being told. Volumes and sagas allow fans to chart and witness the growth of their favourite artists, often pointing back to evolutionary moments in their careers. Although the Queen's Speech saga was a series of freestyles—which didn't necessarily indicate Leshurr's career progression—it signalled a moment in her career where people were beginning to listen to what she had to say.
I imagine that for Leshurr, Queen's Speech wasn't just an opportunity for her to put her most prolific bars on display but to reaffirm that she belongs here. Fans would mock LL for her claims of being the 'queen of UK rap', but with all things considered being a female emcee, finding that kind of endorsement from your peers is often difficult in this scene. "I've got a dark skin friend that looks like Rachel Dolezal/And I've got a light skin friend that looks like Rachel Dolezal," Leshurr raps on "Queen's Speech 4" and it's but one of many lines that highlights the humour found in her writing, the kind of lines that have you laughing to yourself.
Lady Leshurr has had to work twice as hard just to be heard and even harder just to be listened to, and with each "Queen's Speech" release, she began to increasingly force herself into conversations which many left her out of. It was the 2015 drop of "Queen's Speech 2"—rhyming over Nicki Minaj's "Over"—where Leshurr's star began to rise rapidly, earning herself a worldwide audience, and recent brand partnerships with Captain Morgan (promoting responsible drinking) and McDonalds (celebrating fifty years of the Big Mac) show that LL has arrived at a place where she is the rap star she's always dreamed of becoming.
As of 2018, Lady Leshurr is still yet to release that official LP and with a number of projects under her belt, it's clear that there's a strategy in play. Her most recent release was "Black Panther", paying homage to the legendary Missy Elliot, a major influence in her artistry, by rhyming over "She's A Bitch", from Missy's 1999 album Da Real World. It's moments like these where Leshurr has often been right where she needed to be; her freestyle led to Missy Elliott commenting on the video, praising the UK rapper. LL later shared a video on Facebook expressing her appreciation to Missy, but it also showed how important it was to be seen and acknowledged by her.
Lady Leshurr has proven to be calculated in her approach to releasing music, particularly at a time when every new female MC is almost instantaneously compared to Nicki Minaj. In a 2016 interview with The Guardian, Leshurr expressed her frustrations with being pit against the Pinkprint rapper. Atlantic, the label behind Cardi B's breakout success, approached LL following the release of her own freestyle of Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now", and subsequently offered her a deal. "They flew me out and we had a conversation, but their idea was that they were going to pit me against Nicki Minaj. It was like: 'She's the biggest female MC and you need to take her down', and I wasn't feeling that at all," she said.
A lot has changed in six years; Atlantic has now found its rival to Nicki in Cardi B, allowing Leshurr to focus on telling her own story and one that isn't focused on orchestrated 'beefs'. While Nicki Minaj has an incredibly vast fanbase, it seems as though Lady Leshurr who formidable in her own right, would have had her work cut out for her being a British emcee. In hindsight, she made an astute decision not to accept the deal and although now signed to RCA, it appears as though the decade of grinding will inevitably pay off once the album is released. LL recognises that there is a market in the US for her style of rap, particularly with the production she usually spits over, and the timing of Queen's Speech couldn't have been more apt with UK rap and grime gaining a considerable platform across the pond.
Leshurr's forthcoming LP is rumoured to feature production from Deputy, the producer behind Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money" and Bangladesh who made the iconic "A Milli" beat or Lil Wayne, as well as Timbaland. One need only imagine what her lyrical ability combined with some of pop's most iconic and prolific producers will sound like. And in regards to UK rap's profile overseas, particularly among US rap fans, it would be poetic if it were to be Lady Leshurr whose voice could properly bridge the gap between British and American sounds. Only time will tell.