LADY CHANN : THE UK QUEEN OF DANCEHALL TALKS PIRATE RADIO, UK GRIME, BEENIE MAN, AND DANCEHALL ROOTS

Lady Chann has been at the forefront of UK dancehall and grime since the early 2000s, beginning her career in the training grounds of pirate radio AND SUNCYCLE CREW. Lady Chann quickly became synonymous with the thriving london hip-hop sound. We catch up with Lady Chann to celebrate the release of her new track ‘Black Sheep‘

Have you ever been to Amsterdam?

No I actually haven’t yet, I have been to rotterdam for a show with a load of other artists form North west london but that was ages ago. I wasn’t even called lady chann back then I actually went by the name baby chann but the event was wicked. Would love to come to Amsterdam and check out the museums.

Music is clearly In your veins- your dad was part of the legendary Exodus sound system back in Jamaica which is beloved by the likes of Vybes kartel and popcaan. Back when you were growing up what was your home radio tuned into?

SO MY PARENTS SPLIT UP WHEN I WAS FOUR SO IT WAS VERY DIFFERENT IN EACH. MY MUM WAS HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY REGGAE AND MY DAD USED TO HAVE THE REGGAE CRATES BUT IT WAS VERY ECLECTIC. IT WOULD ALWAYS BE REVIVAL ON SUNDAYS WHICH I HATED BUT IT WAS ALWAYS A BIG MIX OF GENRES. MY MUM WASN’T REALLY INTO MUCH DANCEHALL BEYOND SHABA RANKS, SO I GREW UP TO A LOT OF HIS TUNES. SHE WAS A MASSIVE MICHAEL JACKSON FAN SO ‘BAD’ WAS ALWAYS ON ROTATION. SMOKEY ROBINSON, THE TEMPTATIONS, THE JACKSON 5, PRINCE, AND PHIL COLLINS WERE ALWAYS ON REPEAT. I WAS BRINGING IN A LOT OF MADOnNA but THE BASE WAS ALWAYS REGGAE.

AS SOON AS MY FRIENDS STARTED SHOWING ME MUSIC WHEN I WAS A TEENAGEr, HIP-HOP & DANCEHALL PRETTY MUCH TOOK OVER. I LOVED LADY PATRA AND OF COURSE, THE QUEEN, LADY SAW. THE FIRST HIP-HOP I LISTENED TO WAS A LOT OF DMX, HOVE, AND WU-TANG. THEN IT MOVED TO BEING A GRIME AND GARAGE THING.

‘Topper top’ is obviously an absolute tune,to have yourself, Teddy bruckshot, Killa P, and Sir Spyro all one track is an absolute madness. what do you remember from recording that tune and did sharing a tune with those man make you want to bring it that much harder?

It’s weird because, no it actually didnt ahah. Spyro just hit me up and said I have this riddem, he sent it to me and I knew it was the hardest riddem. I came into spyro’s studio and he explain that the ideas was to have myself, killa p, and teddy bruckshot on the track.  I turned around and saw that stormin was there and thought to myself ‘oh mad I guess stormin is on the track too’, it was then that I figured out that stormin & teddy bruckshot was the same person! We both smashed out the tune and killa p sent his verse over.

That was back in 2015! The track came out in 2017 and just kept on doing the rounds on pirate radio stations. I really love that tune, I always refer to it as my little monster because it’s still getting loads of love from radio 1 and people who are only just discovering it now. 

One tune I really wanted to ask you about was ‘Time’ a crey rock riddem by Tony Anthem ft Skibadee. You’ve never been one to just stick to one genre so what did you think when you heard that beat for the first time?

So that record was signed by an indie label called Rat Records in Norway. I started off with a studio session with skibadee, (shout out skibadee! what a legend!), He couldn’t believe that I was the powerful  voice he heard and instantly thought this beat would work. We sent that off to the label and distribution was focused more on the baltic areas which led to some really cool shows in sweden and finland. 

Is there any up and coming artist that you would love to work with or that you think would sound sick on a track with you? My suggestions would be Murkage Dave!

I love dave! He used to book me back when he was a promoter back IN Manchester. I would love to work with the legend mike skinner, But my big one is actually not Even a Uk ARTIST.  My brother is an artist liaison, he crossed paths with pop smoke and approached him about a month or so before he passed away. He mentioned to him that his sister was an mc. I hadn’t been a ‘fan’ of new artists in ages but as soon as I heard him I was an instant fan. Nothing ever got put in stone but it was on the cards for a while there. A few weeks later I scrolled through insta and saw that he had been shot. I was so gutted man, what a talent.  

What beats stand out to you now? You’ve spit over so many different genres – if someone sends you a beat pack, what catches your ear and makes you think ‘yer this is hard’?

IT’S A TOUGH QUESTION BECAUSE IT REALLY DEPENDS ON MY MOOD. REALLY IT TENDS TO BE AS SIMPLE AS ‘IF IT’S HARD THEN IT’S HARD’. I COULD LOVE A CLASSICAL BEAT TOMORROW AND THEN A GRIME ONE the next day, IT REALLY SHIFTS EVERYDAY. AS LONG AS I CONNECT WITH IT, I WILL HAVE A CRACK AT IT. IT USUALlY DOESN’T WORK FOR ME IF I TRY AND SELECT A  CERTAIN VIBE BECAUSE THE PRODUCER IS GOING TO MAKE A BEAT THat REFLECTS WHAT HE IS FEELING AND I’M GOING TO WRITE REFLECTING HOW I FEEL AND THEN YOU MARRY IT UP. SO I’M NEVER REALLY LOOKING FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAT JUST A NANG BEAT, AND I ALWAYS KNOW WITHIN THE FIRST 15 SECONDS IF IT’S THE ONE. 

How important was pirate radio in influencing your desire to set out and do this music thing?

PIRATE RADIO WAS HUGELY INFLUENTIAL FOR ME, MUCH LIKE IT WAS FOR ANY MUSICIAN IN THE GRIME, DANCEHALL, DRUM & BASS SPACE AT THAT TIME SIMPLY BECAUSE THE MAINSTREAM RADIO JUST DIDN’T PLAY THOSE GENRES BACK THEN. SO PIRATE RADIO BACK THEN WAS THE EQUIVALENT OF SPARRING. IF PERFORMING LIVE IS OUR VERSION OF BEING IN A BOXING RING THEN PIRATE RADIO WAS LIKE THE PLACE YOU WENT TO BE SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE THAT WERE BETTER THAN YOU, JUST AS GOOD, OR WAY SHITTER THAN YOU. THEN EVENTUALLY AFTER A WHILE YOU WORK YOUR WAY UP AND THEN YOU WOULD FIND YOURSELF IN A ROOM WITH THE BEST.

ORIGINAL ARTWORK FOR 2&6 MADE BY STU MASON

I’VE BEEN BLESSED TO BE ON PIRATE RADIO WITH D DOUBLE E, SKIBADEE, ROLL DEEP, AND ANYONE ELSE YOU CAN THINK OF. SO NOW THERE IS MORE CHOICE IN WHERE OR WITH WHO YOU PERFORM, BECAUSE ONCE YOU’RE THE HOT ONE ON THE BLOCK EVERYONE WANTS YOU ON THEIR SET. I find it amazing how artists come up now- I can’t imagine not having to do the graft. 

If i’m not mistaken, your evolution from Baby Chann to Lady Chann came when the legendary Beenie Man announced you as ‘Lady’ onstage. what do you remember fROm that night or is it just a dream blur now?

No I definitely remeMBEr that! I wAs back home doing a pirate radio session and we did a remix of beEnie man’s tune ‘hMM hMM’. I PUT MY BARS ON IT AND IT JUST WENT EVERYWHERE IN THE HOOD. LATER ON I WAS BEING INTERVIEWED ALONGSIDE MY SUNCYCLE FAMILY AND THE RADIO PRESENTER SAID THAT BEENIE MAN WAS JOINING THE SHOW LIVE. THE PRESENTER PLAYED HIM MY VERSION OF ‘HMM HMM’ AND AFTER IT WAS DONE IT WENT SILENT UNTIL BEENIE JUST SAID… ’MAD!’.

HE INVITED ME TO JOIN HIM THAT NIGHT AT A SHOW HE WAS DOING AT THE STANFORD REX TO PERFORM THAT TUNE. THIS WAS ALL THE WAY BACK IN 2006. BEHIND THE STAGE WE QUICKLY WENT OVER THE TUNE TO MAKE SURE I KNEW WHEN TO COME ON. ABOUT AN HOUR INTO THE SHOW, HE ANNOUNCED TO THE AUDIENCE ‘DOES ANYBODY KNOW AN ARTISTS CALLED BABY CHANN?’ AFTER A FEW CHEERS HE SAID ‘WELL WE ARE GOING TO BRING HER OUT TO DO THIS TUNE, BUT FROM NOW ON SHE IS CALLED LADY CHANN’. I LITERALLY JUST THOUGHT TO MYSELF ‘IS THIS FUCKING REAL?!’. MAN I WISH THAT WAS IN THE DAYS OF INSTAGRAM BECAUSE I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE THAT FOOTAGE.

Do you think your music changed with your transition from Baby Chann to Lady Chann?

DEFINITELY. AT THAT TIME I WAS VERY DANCEHALL BASED AND I WAS THE ONLY MEMBER OF SUNCYCLE (CREW) THAT REALLY LISTENED TO GRIME. IT STARTED TO BECOME A LOT MORE OF A FUSION SOUND. I DIDN’T WANT TO BE PUT INTO A DANCEHALL BOX AND WHEN THE RECORD DEALS CAME THROUGH AND I STARTED BEING MANAGED BY ROLL DEEP’S MANAGER, MY SOUND BEGAN GROWING AND EVOLVING AS I DID. 

YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY A PROLIFIC WRITER,PURELY BASED ON THE STYLE OF MUSIC YOU MAKE- YOU MUST HAVE TO WRITE AT LEAST 5 TIMES AS MANY BARS PER TUNE THAN ANY OTHER MC. HAS IT GOTTEN EASIER TO WRITE OVER THE YEARS OR HAS IT GOT HARDER TO FIND THAT INSPIRATION?

I WAS TRAINED BY THE BEST, SUNCYCLE REALLY TAUGHT ME HOW TO ACTUALLY WRITE SONGS IN STRUCTURE. I TRY NOT TO WRITE ‘BARS’ I TRY MORE TO WRITE SONGS AS A WHOLE. DON’T GET IT TWISTED IF I’M AT A RADIO SET AND I NEED TO SPIT BARS… I HAVE THE BARS, BUT I NEVER THINK OF INDIVIDUAL BARS AND SAVE THEM FOR LATER. 

I think it’Is important to bring up a hero of the scene we lost in 2020, the legendary Black the Ripper

I saw him so many places and always said hi but we never took the time to have fun or get to know each other. So when he dieD it hurt because it just came out of left field. I started thinking of all the times I had bumped into him and wished we could have had that time. Just tragic man, may he rest in blissful peace.  

IS THERE ONE SET, VENUE, OR PERFORMANCE THAT YOU HOLD IN YOUR MIND AS BEING THE BEST OF YOUR CAREER?

I LOVE OUTLOOK! I WAS BLESSED TO BE ABLE TO PERFORM THERE 3 OR 4 TIMES. ONE TIME I WAS ON THE MAINSTAGE BECAUSE I CAME OUT DURING MALA’S SET JUST BEFORE I WAS MEaNT TO START MY SET WITH CONGO NATTY AND IT WENT OFF, EVERYONE WAS SINGING THE HOOK TO ‘TOPPER TOP’ AT ME. IT WAS AMAZING. I LEFT THE STAGE AND JUST THOUGHT ‘THAT WAS EPIC’. Shout out to exit festival in Serbia as well though.   


Leave a Reply