After a year during which hip-hop was declared dead by chart-topper and Best Music Poll runner-up Nas, and sales dips signified the genre’s weakening grip on its pop crown, it’s no surprise that the national Rap/Hip-Hop category would be won by someone who is almost literally the exact opposite of everything mainstream hip-hop represents. White, female, 5’1” and, ahem, British, Sovereign has defied all expectations of what a hip-hop star can be. After building buzz with her appearance on 2005’s Run the Road (Vice) comp, Sovereign got a meeting with Jay-Z. She freestyled for the Def Jam CEO and was offered a contract on the spot. The deal led to the self-proclaimed “biggest midget in the game’s” debut album, Public Warning, late last year. Although it featured many of her early hits, like “Random” and “9 to 5,” it was “Love Me or Hate Me” that hit big, landing the top spot on MTV’s TRL, a first for any British artist. It’s equally impressive because, unlike other non-American emcees, Sovereign never hides her thick British accent, intent on making it to the top her way. In an era when emcees latch on to the next hot producer and play it safe with coke and guns, a diminutive troublemaker from across the sea might be exactly what’s needed to knock a stale mainstream off life-support. That makes her selection here anything but, well, random.
by MATT ASHARE