Lady Lykez is an MC that refuses to be put into any musical box.
Despite being strongly associated with the grime scene through which she honed her craft, the North London rapper has just dropped an EP produced by Hyperdub’s Scratchclart (aka Scratcha DVA) – a vibrant amalgamation of high-energy dancehall and UK gqom, as well as grime sounds.
Lykez first met Scratcha over a decade ago, when she’d head to his studio to lay down verses with friends and quickly stood out amongst her peers, gaining her stripes by battling and clashing boys from her local area.
She still flexes this technical ability and impressive wordplay, and it can be heard all over the new 'Muhammed Ali' EP, switching from patois to grime bars, experimenting with different styles, flows and deliveries, spitting hard over spits hard and fast over Scratchclart’s signature UK gqom drum tracks
Lykez also takes influences from a wide range of places: Eve and Missy Elliot to Mad Cobra, Buju Banton and old school Elephant Man – as well as hip-hop and dancehall inspired by her father’s Jamaican roots and her North London upbringing – and teams up with acclaimed rapper Lioness, which sees two powerhouse MCs go back-to-back with skills and flows.
Clash caught up with Lykez to find out more about her new project…
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You obviously started MCing at a really young age – how did your youth inspire the music you make now?
I started spitting when I was like 11 and I got really inspired by my older cousins – they were spitting all the time, they were into the old school garage scene and stuff like that. So I started out with them – it was really competitive.
So I was around garage and then it was all about grime and clashing, then a bit of rap as well. I was inspired by a lot of American artists – I used to really love Eminem. People like that, they really inspired me along the way.
Eminem especially when it comes to lyrical content. I just love his old stuff, his Shady stuff – I loved his honesty, even though it was so controversial and crazy the stuff he was saying about toxic relationships and stuff like that. Like Stan, I loved it. And his flows, the way he used to ride the beat...and I'm really into wordplay, I like a punch line. I love clever lyrics. I really think of myself as a writer, even in school I was really good at creative writing. I love words.
And this EP seems to be quite a new sound for you – is that how you see it?
I love it – it's a lot more clubby, and for me I've always liked doing different things too. So for me it's really refreshing.
My dad is from Jamaica, born and bred, so I feel like a lot of him has come out in me on this EP. I love dancehall – it’s the stuff I party to – I've always loved it so I thought: 'Right, I’m going to express that through this project.’
And I also wanted to bring in a bit of everything else too. Like the ‘Muhammed Ali’ remix with Lioness – the last verse is just crazy spitting. I thought, I can do the dancehall thing, the bashment thing. I feel like this EP is more about vibes, it was just fun.
Why do you think you wanted to go for that sort of vibe?
My friend Scratcha – he produced the project, put together the whole thing and basically made it happen. With him, back in the day, I used to do the dancehall thing on some if his grime stuff, this is years ago, when I was maybe 15.
I hadn't done it for years but Scratcha has always loved that side of me, that versatility, so when this came around and we did the first version of ‘Muhammed Ali’ I think a lot of people were shocked. But I'm not an artist you can put in a box – I keep telling people, you don't know what to expect.
Even Toddla T said: "Wow, I've never heard you spit like this!" It's a good thing though, surprising people.
Lioness’ bars are quite a contrast to yours on that track. Do you enjoy working with other women rappers?
I like bouncing off other female MCs, as long as I think they're dope. Lioness is sick, she's such a dope MC and such a nice person as well. I felt such good energy whenever she came down to the studio, it was really nice.
I even said to her the other day that she inspired me to spit on this track, not in the dancehall fashion but take it back to the grime.
When I first came out there wasn't anyone in terms of female MCs. And no matter how talented you were if you were a girl people didn't pay attention. Or there could only be one female MC [on a track, at a show etc] – me and my manager were pissed, trying to break down doors and say: “Look, we're here!”
I remember I even did a track called 'Nobody Can' where I literally called out all the guys in the industry, like: "Come on, I'll cuss all of you!"
It was'nt really personal to the guys, it was more a statement: “Lykez is here.” The industry has changed a lot, I'm very thankful.
The ‘Muhammad Ali' EP is out now via Hyperdub
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