Initially, the atmosphere was "quite relaxed", but then she heard the words anyone else might have been dreading. "OK", said Jay-Z - a man five foot one inch LADY SOVEREIGN now describes as "a gentle giant" - "spit something on the spot".

"I was almost shaking", she remembers. "I just did like three lots of 16 bars - a couple of them were freestyles - and then all of a sudden the room was silent. Then I could see Jay-Z had this really happy grin on his face and he started whispering to all the other people...". And now LADY SOVEREIGN is the toast of American hip-hop elite, as proved by Island/Def Jam confirming that they will be releasing her debut album in Spring 2006 with collaborations being mooted with everyone from Missy Elliott's Soul Diggas to Full Force and Young Guru. Prior to her US album release, November sees the release of SOVEREIGN'S "Vertically Challenged" EP in the US, which features an exclusive remix by The Beastie Boy's Ad Rock.

Growing up in North West London's Wembley/Neasden badlands on the notorious Chalk Hill estate (a now-demolished monument to low grade public housing stock which also gave the world Oscar-nominated actress Sophie Okonedo) seems to have been the perfect preparation for life in the global hip-hop fast lane. "It was good - I have no complaints about it" LADY SOVEREIGN insists. "I saw the odd bad thing go on - I was a kid and I got up to mischief - but I'm not one of those crying little gangstas who does nothing but moan about how rough their area was. Yeah, my area was rough, but I prefer to talk about the good things - like how carefree and united it was - and if I do talk about the bad things, I'll try and make it funny".

Making it funny is LADY SOVEREIGN's speciality. And the distinctively low down and dirty delivery mechanism with which she launches her witty verbal sallies ensures they rarely - if ever - miss their target. It wasn't always that way however. By her own admission, she used to have "a cheesy little voice", until "One day I was just sitting there, doing my lyrics, and I just went...[she slips into the throaty guttural vocal style which is now her trademark] 'Yow' and I was like [delighted intake of breath] there it is".

Having met her DJ on a So Solid Crew internet forum in her mid-teens, LADY SOVEREIGN progressed from rapping into the microphone of her personal computer to going round to his house, doing a half-hour live set and putting it on the internet for people to download (a tradition she's continued with such sought-after exclusive tracks as her classic fake tan anthem "tango", not to mention her hilariously savage attack on Jentina's "Bad-Ass Stripper").

She first hooked up with producer Medasyn after he saw her starring in a low-budget educational film about a troubled teen finding redemption through her skills as an MC (she'd been sent to a drama class by her local education authority which had just chucked her out of school). "It was so like my own life", Sovereign remembers. "I didn't hardly have to act..." And having reversed the career trajectory pioneered by Eminem's 8 Mile, by making her thinly-veiled autobiographical film before embarking on her international pop career, it was only a matter of time before she signed a huge international deal with Universal records.

The only problem with her sudden rush of new recording commitments on the other side of the Atlantic is it means the album she's finished will now not hit the streets till next year. With rougher street tracks like the thrillingly punky 'Public Warning' and the savage 'Blah Blah Blah' combining with the more accessible singles to inflame public demand, isn't she being a little cruel making everyone wait even longer?

"I take my time with things", Lady Sovereign replies phlegmatically, "it just makes people want it more".

www.savethehoodie.comWith her brilliant new Basement Jaxx-produced single, "Hoodie", the self-styled "biggest midget in the game" proves there are no height restrictions when it comes to joining the fashion police. Tired of being told what she should and should not wear to the shopping centre, LADY SOVEREIGN dishes out some sartorial advice of her own - putting those who'd like to ban her favourite item of clothing firmly in their place. "I'm just looking at your garms - you've been on too many catalogue sprees", she taunts Piers Morgan and home secretary Charles Clarke, before inviting Trinny and Susannah, Cherie Blair and the rest to "fling on an Adidas hoodie and just boogie-woogie with me". As the upbeat dancefloor vibration for which Basement Jaxx are globally celebrated locks in with LADY SOVEREIGN's acerbic flow, the result is a killer one-two that'll have anti-sportswear bigots everywhere out for the count."I'm all about standing up for the hoodie", laughs SOVEREIGN, in a brief pause between transatlantic recording excursions. "They wanna have a moan about people that wear them, but I wear them all the time" - here her speaking voice takes on the edge of menace familiar from her formidable MC-ing style - "and I don't like the way some other people dress". In the US, LADY SOVEREIGN is currently, to borrow a phrase from her last single "9 to 5", "huge like Katie Price's boobs". From covers of music magazines Fader and Urb to Missy Elliott to Jay-Z, who's been rifling through his little black book to come up with suitable producers to hook her up with (including his own producer Young Guru), America is waking up to what Britain already knows: that 19 year-old LADY SOVEREIGN has got what it takes to take on the world. "The first time I played there was in Chicago", she remembers. "And I must admit I was surprised - it was mad fanatics singing along from the first song. Then someone saw me at a show in New York and went back to Jay-Z and told him about me... I don't know what was said, but hopefully it was complimentary, because he got in touch with my manager, and the next thing I knew I was going to Def Jam for a meeting". For someone who grew up listening to her mum's Salt and Pepa albums on a cassette walkman, coming face to face with Jay-Z over a board-room table was always going to be a big occasion, but LADY SOVEREIGN could not have known quite how big. She turned up to meet the multi-platinum rap overlord turned CEO, only to find Usher and L.A.Reid waiting for her as well. "I don't normally get nervous" she insists. "I'm not one of those screaming little girls like [she squeals] 'Oh Usher... Jay-Z!' But I didn't want him picking me up by the scruff of my neck and throwing me out of the window".

Initially, the atmosphere was "quite relaxed", but then she heard the words anyone else might have been dreading. "OK", said Jay-Z - a man five foot one inch LADY SOVEREIGN now describes as "a gentle giant" - "spit something on the spot".

"I was almost shaking", she remembers. "I just did like three lots of 16 bars - a couple of them were freestyles - and then all of a sudden the room was silent. Then I could see Jay-Z had this really happy grin on his face and he started whispering to all the other people...". And now LADY SOVEREIGN is the toast of American hip-hop elite, as proved by Island/Def Jam confirming that they will be releasing her debut album in Spring 2006 with collaborations being mooted with everyone from Missy Elliott's Soul Diggas to Full Force and Young Guru. Prior to her US album release, November sees the release of SOVEREIGN'S "Vertically Challenged" EP in the US, which features an exclusive remix by The Beastie Boy's Ad Rock.

Growing up in North West London's Wembley/Neasden badlands on the notorious Chalk Hill estate (a now-demolished monument to low grade public housing stock which also gave the world Oscar-nominated actress Sophie Okonedo) seems to have been the perfect preparation for life in the global hip-hop fast lane. "It was good - I have no complaints about it" LADY SOVEREIGN insists. "I saw the odd bad thing go on - I was a kid and I got up to mischief - but I'm not one of those crying little gangstas who does nothing but moan about how rough their area was. Yeah, my area was rough, but I prefer to talk about the good things - like how carefree and united it was - and if I do talk about the bad things, I'll try and make it funny".

Making it funny is LADY SOVEREIGN's speciality. And the distinctively low down and dirty delivery mechanism with which she launches her witty verbal sallies ensures they rarely - if ever - miss their target. It wasn't always that way however. By her own admission, she used to have "a cheesy little voice", until "One day I was just sitting there, doing my lyrics, and I just went...[she slips into the throaty guttural vocal style which is now her trademark] 'Yow' and I was like [delighted intake of breath] there it is".

Having met her DJ on a So Solid Crew internet forum in her mid-teens, LADY SOVEREIGN progressed from rapping into the microphone of her personal computer to going round to his house, doing a half-hour live set and putting it on the internet for people to download (a tradition she's continued with such sought-after exclusive tracks as her classic fake tan anthem "tango", not to mention her hilariously savage attack on Jentina's "Bad-Ass Stripper").

She first hooked up with producer Medasyn after he saw her starring in a low-budget educational film about a troubled teen finding redemption through her skills as an MC (she'd been sent to a drama class by her local education authority which had just chucked her out of school). "It was so like my own life", Sovereign remembers. "I didn't hardly have to act..." And having reversed the career trajectory pioneered by Eminem's 8 Mile, by making her thinly-veiled autobiographical film before embarking on her international pop career, it was only a matter of time before she signed a huge international deal with Universal records.