Rapper Lady Leshurr: ‘My letter from the Queen went to my junk mail’

The Birmingham performer, 34, on learning music at her youth club, the loveliness of Solihull, and how she nearly missed out on her British Empire Medal

As a black woman from Birmingham, I stood out like a sore thumb on the UK rap scene. Everyone in London would mimic my accent, laugh at me, troll me. I became determined to be my own self and unlock the door for Birmingham artists. People know about 0121 now.

Councils have failed us when it comes to youth clubs. I built myself at ours. I learned spoken word poetry, how to DJ and MC, play drums, mix and master. All the facilities were there. Now there’s nothing and it breaks my heart. Youth clubs take kids off the streets and away from social media, which can be toxic for mental health. There needs to be a place where the younger generation can let loose and feel safe.

Don’t judge me, but I tried to shoplift in my teens. I had no money and no job, but my sister had just graduated from uni and I wanted to get her favourite perfume. It was only a sample sachet, but I got caught and never stole again.

I only experienced racism when I left Birmingham. I’m from Kingshurst in Solihull, which was a mainly white neighbourhood. We were one of the few black families, but everyone was lovely. It was only when I started flying to other places that I realised racism is real.

My letter from the Queen went to my junk mail. I brought out Quarantine Speech during lockdown and gave the proceeds to the NHS. I think that’s why the Queen reached out: “Hi, you can have a British Empire Medal if you want.” If I hadn’t checked my junk folder, maybe I’d never have known.

A spider once crawled up my nose when I was sleeping. I was traumatised and haven’t touched one since.

I came out as pansexual because, for me, it’s all about connection. Girl or boy is not what attracts me. Love isn’t about gender, it’s about energy, spirit and vibe.

My proudest achievement was buying my mum a house. When I was 11, I told her: “I’m going to get you a house one day, Mum.” She was like, “Yeah, yeah.” But I did it eventually.

Me and Mum never used to say we loved each other. She was very shy; our family never said those three words. When I moved to London I tested it out on the phone. I was like, ‘Love you, Mum!’ There was a long pause, then she said, “Love you too, bye!” We broke the cycle.

Love and kindness are the key to happiness. My mum brought me up that way. She was my biggest inspiration: grinding three jobs, raising four kids, being both parents, always smiling no matter what. That really humbled me.

Lady Leshurr recently took part in Strongbow Ultra’s Greatest of All Time Debating Society to celebrate the launch of new Goat cider, Strongbow Ultra Dark Fruit


Michael Hogan

The GuardianTramp

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