Any record exec would pay a trunkload of cash to sign a Feminem a credible, bankable, white female rapper. That explains why Def Jam honcho Jay-Z snatched up the 20-year-old British MC Lady Sovereign last August, despite the fact that she'd only released a couple of moderately successful singles in the U.K. So, did Jay-Z pick a winner? Sort of.
On Public Warning, her boisterous debut, the Sporty Spice look-alike shows off a wicked sense of humor and a virtuosic flow. On the wisecracking first single, ''Love Me or Hate Me,'' she introduces herself as ''the biggest midget in the game'' (she's 5'1''), and rhymes about her hairy armpits and small ''breast-ises.'' Having grown up in public housing and dropped out of school at 15, she's also got the requisite grit. ''It ain't about tea and biscuits,'' she rhymes on the martial stomp ''My England,'' a place that ''ain't all crumpets and trumpets, it's one big slum pit.'' But Lady Sov's street cred, raw talent, and gumption can't mask Public Warning's faults like overly frenetic beats and a handful of choruses that rely on tuneless yelling instead of a good refrain. Still, the diminutive rapper's rubbery rhymes and punky energy are definitely entertaining, and well worth sampling in moderate doses.