Vertically Challenged EP

Vertically Challenged is too slim, especially with the remixes excluded. "Cha Ching," for all its loopy ardor, is nearly a year old — a lifetime in this Internet galaxy. But the EP suitably reps Lady Sovereign’s ample cockiness and lyrical zing, at least until her vaunted Def Jam debut drops in 2006. As an emcee, she cracks wise in a fearless and smart aleck way, but slathers her boasts and put-downs in charismatic self-deprecation: "J. Lo’s got a body but you can’t see mine ’cause I wear my trousers baggy."

The beats sputter out of Challenged like the sound from a teenager’s half-crushed iPod — on "Random," rhythms clatter like crushed beer cans, and an air-raid siren whoops over lyrics copped from J Kwon. Sov whispers through "Fiddle With the Volume" like a pug-nosed English femme version of David Banner while referencing Swedish rayon enthusiasts ABBA. Like her occasional partner-in-grime M.I.A., Lady Sovereign’s music has knowledge of the Web’s breathlessness and freedom of assembly. Hip hop, pop, dub, the deification of Missy Elliott — it’s all game. Sov’s so hyper that she falters sometimes, like when her ambition outpaces the craft. But she’s still too spunky to ignore.

Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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