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Louise Harman, aka Lady Sovereign, is hardly your typical rap sensation. Raised in the London neighborhood of Wembley by punk-rock parents, the pint-sized, 19-year-old emcee turned to hip-hop after getting kicked out of school at age 15. Since generating underground buzz through online demos, the self proclaimed "white midget" has toured with Basement Jaxx and D12, and last August was signed to Def Jam by Sean Carter himself.

Jay-Z's favorite rapper officially hits the states with Vertically Challenged, an infectious EP that showcases some ridiculously bass-heavy tracks sparked by Harman's rapid-fire flow. Fusing dancehall and electronica with a tinge of sass, Lady Sov comes across as a new-millennial Shorty No Mas, confident enough to poke fun at the tropes of American rappers and grounded with a sly, self-aware sense of humor.

Simply put, Vertically Challenged is the type of record that Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes has to be smiling down upon. Standout tracks include the rousing Eminem-esque "Random" and the sparkling posse cut "The Battle." Adrock of Beastie Boys fame flexes his production muscle on the Smallstars remix of "A Little Bit of Shhh" and Ghislain Poirier, the eclectic Canuck producer, provides a banging remix of "Fiddle With the Volume."

Lady Sov benefits greatly from the texture and luminance of the beats she rides over, which are sometimes akin to a rave taking place in a casino or arcade. Her lyrics are simple and straightforward, often in the form of quips and boasts but imbued with a playfulness lacking in hip-hop from this side of the pond.

At eight cuts (representing five actual songs), Vertically Challenged is a nice introduction to a potential rap superstar, albeit a bit short. Look for Lady Sov's full length in the spring of 2006. It will feature production by Missy Elliott and Timbaland and could very well alter the hip-hop soundscape to the tune of a UK Stankonia.

M. Solis

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