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Tell us how it all started for you, why the name Lady MC and why DNB
Well, back in the 90s (1995) there were no other female MCs really, Chickaboo was paving the way and there were a couple of others around like Dyer MC and Lady ST, so Lady MC at the time was really original, especially in the Jungle scene, not so much now, type my name into google and you can hardly find me! I suppose I didn’t choose Jungle Dnb, it called me ! I literally loved the music and started raving to it and about 9 months in, I wanted to get on the stage and do it!
Do you have preference to a certain mic?
Yes I like to use my own cordless shure mic.
Do you like to take your own mic with you, as DJs take kit, do you feel the need as a MC?
Always, there is definitely a need for your own mic, funny you say that because back in the day when the other MCs would try fight me for the mic, I would say “get your own, this is mine!” lol
You're based in London, shouts out to your home town?
Well, London is really the home of Jungle DnB, I feel so blessed to have been brought up here, so many opportunities that many other people wouldn’t get, being able to network easily, go to all the biggest raves and radio stations, so yeah BIG UP LONDON BABY!
You started working with Kool Herc and Afrikka Baambaata in New York 2002. Tell us about that experience. (how it came about, how it made you feel?
In 2001, I decided to take myself to the WMC in Miami, as back then it was popping off for dnb, so I took my suitcase full of mix CDs and went on adventure to meet all the right people. On my trip I met TC Izlam who was doing big things stateside and he is the son of Afrikka Baambaata. When I got back from Miami, TC got me some shows in New York and not long after that I moved there for a year or so and we had a crew who all lived together in the ‘Compound’, we had a huge house, with a swimming pool in the middle of New Jersey, right next to this beautiful lake and we would make music, hang out and travel around and do shows across the states.
Obviously I got to hang with some pioneering hiphop legends and that where I learned about real hiphop culture and open-mics. And at a couple of our events I hosted for Baambaata and Kool Herc, later on to discover – THEY started hiphop! I feel really grateful for that experience, something I may never be able to do again! So thanks TC.
You worked with Tommy Dee - a name who has worked with Michael Jackson, Kyie Minogue and Madonna in 2007 / 2008. What were you doing and what did you learn working with industry giants?
I was part of a rap collective called ‘Don Diva’ myself and two other female rappers and I was head hunted for a TV show back in 2006/2007 called ‘Singing With The Enemy’, which was about collaborating two musical groups from different genres and social backgrounds. Don Diva and the Apollo Strings! The Apollo Strings were three university students who played the Cello and violins and we lived together for a week to produce music for a show, bearing in mind this is TV we are talking about, there was a lot of controversy and the producers wanted some juice, so they chose to edit parts of the programme where the Don Diva’s were being ‘divas’ and the ‘poor and vulnerable’ Apollo strings girls were victimised by these street thugs lol. Quite honestly, I said I would never do TV again after that, I lost all faith in media and it opened my eyes to the manipulative ways of producers, however, it was a really amazing experience because we worked with Tommy Dee for the week and made some amazing music, got some top class training by coaches and overall, was a fantastic learning experience.
You won the best female MC award at the National DNB Awards in 2012. How did that boost your career?
Well to be fair, it was great that I won the award but its not the end all and be all of your career, you get some PR for a while afterwards but back to business as usual really. Then, the year after that, the National DnB awards removed the female MC category because there wasn’t enough female MC’s for the category, kind of lost respect for the awards after that. What about the new girls coming up, what have they got to aspire to? Don’t get me started ….
Nearly 20 years in the game! What do you think you need to stay at the top of your game?
I feel so old when you put it like that, that’s crazy! I’ve not always been on the top of my game, the past 5-6 years in terms of my artistry I took a back seat, so many factors contributed to it mainly setting up a business and a charity and some personal reasons too. So I wouldn’t say I’ve been consistent for 20 years but in the peak moments of my career I would say this, to stay on top of your game, you need to eat and breathe it, whether I was writing lyrics, performing, networking or being on radio it all has to be consistent, and the key message is, be passionate about it, if you lose your passion and you’re just doing it because either you are scared of what else to do or you just need the money, its all inauthentic and the fans and other people in the industry will see and feel it too. People who are on top of their game LOVE IT! Taking time away from it helped me to realise how much I love this music and performing, there is nothing better than getting on that stage and making people dance and connecting with my DJ.
You do a lot of charity work. Can you tell us about that and how much you have raised?
Yes, I have haven’t I! You know, charity work, shouldn’t be called charity, it should be called being a human being! Lol What I mean by that is, if everyone just contributed in some way to another person less fortunate or cause there wouldn’t need to be so many charities, if that makes sense? Imagine if the government said 10% taxes and 10% to a charity of your choice (now Im dreaming!) Anyway ranting on a bit but yes, I have set up my own Charity which is going through a rebranding process at the moment Young Urban Arts Foundation (formerly London Urban Arts) which is an organisation which works with young people from all backgrounds using music and the arts to build confidence, skills and open doors to new opportunities. I have a single decker bus converted into a self-powered multi media suite which has 9 apple macs with Ableton, Logic, Adobe Creative Suite and a stage on top for live performances. We take it all over the country but mainly to estates which need engaging in positive activities and as you know music is the key to peoples hearts. Since setting it up I have raised over half a million pounds and worked with thousands of young people and it literally has changed their lives for the better, I am really proud of what I set up, the legacy will always live on through the young people (who some are adults now).
You were on Dragons Den, what inspired you to push that boundary?
Before I set up YUAF I had a previous company called the British DJ&MC Academy with a former friend and business partner, she actually applied for it without my consent and when we were accepted, because of my previous experience of TV I didn’t want to do it. She said she is doing it with our without me, and I didn’t want her representing both of our business so I begrudgingly agreed to do it and I’m so glad that I did. Whilst we didn’t get the money, I learned so much about myself and business, I know that I can stand up in front of anyone and say anything now, it was the most nerve wrecking experience of my life but I did it. It also helped me to see other factors, which assisted me in setting up my own company not long afterwards.
What do you do to chill out?
I love to hanging out and being spoilt by my partner, he’s ace, we always have fun together and he’s so chilled I have no choice, but to relax. Seeing my friends and family is special, brings me a lot of joy spending time with people that I love.
I must be honest, its an area that I want to focus more on, I do yoga and mindfulness exercise everyday but I do need to chill out more than I do, I just feel there is not enough time in the day to do everything that I do!
Being a woman in a male dominated scene, and seeing so many changes over the years, can you give some advice to those up and coming women? (maybe talk about learning to value yourself / being knocked down / getting back up / concious works here?)
I think the tips are for up and coming MCs in general. I spent a lot of my career feeling sorry for myself because of the way I was treated being a female MC, I really misunderstood everything. I had decided based on all past experiences that it was hard and it was a struggle, thinking it was just because I was a lady, when everyone was having their struggles!
Now, I am certainly not going to shy away from the fact that there are hardly any females on line-ups or from the fact that if I was a man, certain things wouldn’t have happened to me, for an example, without mentioning any promoters or artists, something happened once, when another MC physically tried to push me off the stage because he didn’t want to give me the mic when I was booked, maybe because I had a better set time than him, or actually, I was a better MC (the latter) but if I was a man, he would not have done that unless he wanted a physical fight. As a woman I was helpless in that situation and the promoter did nothing about it, apart from give me an extra £100 in my wages (hush money) and continued to book the other MC. THAT, is where you see the difference in gender.
But going back to the question, regardless of your gender, you need to nurture yourself and your talent, practice practice practice. That is what will always keep you current and improving, don’t watch other artists unless they inspire you, everyone has their own talent and journey. Be original, even if it’s perceived as off-key!
Referring to nurturing yourself, honestly, probably like everyone, in their own way, my whole life since very young had been a challenge, and my self-worth and value has been a real issue for me, on the outside seeming really confident and strong, but inside battling some real demons of my own that most would not see or know about if they’re not in my circles and this reflected everywhere in my life. When I didn’t value myself enough, I noticed how others didn’t value me and that simply just was my mirror reflecting back on me and teaching me that I HAD to learnt to value and love myself before ANYONE would truly appreciate who I am or what I got to offer.
So, a tip, is notice how you do not love yourself enough, what life choices are you making and whether it reflects someone that truly loves and values their self.
For example, taking stupid amounts of drugs every weekend and spending half the week recovering, is that loving yourself?
Having people around you who do not show you love and respect at all times, its not their fault, its yours! For choosing to keep them around you or chasing after an ex who clearly doesn’t love you is that truly loving and valuing yourself? These points might seem irrelevant to some and wondering, how is this connected to your music career but loving and valuing yourself is everything and it took me 30+ years to distinguish it and then make the necessary changes.
Once you reach that point, it doesn’t matter if you get 3 likes on facebook, whether you get 10 or 1 gigs a month, what people think or say about you, because you don’t need anything outside of yourself, you know your worth, become detached from the result and more focussed on what you love to do, when you do what you love, the results appear without expectation, life just flows, things become effortless and your truly in tune with everything that works for you!
How do you feel about the male to female ratio on line ups?
How do I feel about it? I think its ridiculous.
Why do you think this is?
I would rather not answer this to be honest, I don’t want to offend anyone. lol
What do you think can be done about it?
Wish I had the answers Aliina, but I don’t babe.
You have been doing motivational talks to schools about women in the music industry alongside Vanna, Roybn Chaos and more. How important is this to your life and what do you think the kids get from it?
Well, its funny you bring this up, that day in Canterbury when we did that talk was the first talk I ever did and it sparked me to do what I do today! Ironic right?
I stand for the lives of the next generation, everything I have experienced HAS to be for a reason, so sharing my story with the younger generation is crucial, so they can be inspired, know that they are not alone and that anything really is possible.
How have you grown spiritually over the last 10 years?
Its funny Riya and I were speaking about the word spiritual the other day and we were really questioning it, what is spiritual? We are all spirits so we are all spiritual right? For me, it comes down to how conscious are you about yourself and your surroundings, and what you do to transform the parts of you that don’t work for you or the people around you. Some people call it healing yourself, self-development or self-improvement so in terms of my growth in that aspect. Wow, the past 10 years have been the biggest years for me in understanding my heart, my mind, the subconscious mind, how they work together, pre-programming old behaviours and mind-sets, asking questions like, is there more to life than just this lifetime, investigating it through information, different faiths, technology for the soul, understanding that EVERYTHING is just energy, including our emotions and the internal dialogue that we have with ourselves. When I really got that, I realised I could transform ANYTHING in my life, being spiritual to me is knowing your own power and using it for the greater good of myself and others.
Do you regret some of the things you have said or done ever?
Absolutely! Loads but I don’t make myself wrong for them anymore, I just learn from it, find the positive in it and then laugh lol
What gigs do you have coming up?
I have recently just announced my return back into the scene so I have a few dates over the next couple of months, but at the moment, I am in the studio working with Krust, Potential Badboy and Curtis Lynch and some really exciting projects, so that is my focus right now. Its all about Spring next year, will be announcing a secret which I cant wait to see the response of, saying no more on that!
What are your next goals and aspirations?
Next 12 months is all about my new projects which will be taking me on tour, so getting those completed and having fun with those.
Getting a sustainable sponsor for my charity and finding someone else to manage the whole operation.
Finish writing my book.
Creating a sense of real balance in my life doing all of the above.
Get married (I wonder if my partner will read this interview haha)
What has been your most memorable gig?
I really have too many !
Do you still ever get nervous?
Yes even more so now, because I’m feeling a bit rusty haha
What is your favourite bar that you like to chat?
Jungle Queen I’m a Jungle Queen!
Can you nominate our next female MC for an interview?
Miss Melody, she is new but working her ass off right now and she’s very sweet as well or Sophie So-Fly from Miami, she has just moved to the UK so she may have some interesting things to share!
Any shouts and thanks?
All my gorgeous family (blood and adopted) and friends, I can gratefully say I have too many to list here.
Everyone that has shown me love, supported me personally, emotionally or musically, given me a platform to shine, those who have come into my life and taught me so many valuable lessons, to all those who have helped me to become the person I am today, because at last, I am proud of who I am.
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