LADY SOVEREIGN One of the most intriguing new artists of 2006 has to be this hilarious British MC. Signed by Jay-Z to Def Jam last fall, the quick-witted troublemaker is rumored to be working with the Beastie Boys, Timbaland, and the Neptunes for her debut U.S. album, due later this year. Looking like a spunky hip-hop cartoon with her black and white track suit, cornrows, and sideways ponytail, Sov rolled through an already-impressive canon of U.K. hits including “Random,” “Ch-Ching,” and “Tango” (a laugh-out-loud dis directed at girls with fake tans). Joking with the audience (“You fell in the kitchen? Did you fall off the counter?” she asked an enthusiastic fan waving crutches) and flouting Stateside drinking laws, the diminutive rapper possesses more than enough star power to have a chance to be one of the few U.K. rhymers to make a big impact in America. Download songs and videos on the Lady Sov site, AOL or MySpace.

addCredit(“Lady Sovereign: Barry Brecheisen/”)

SAY ANYTHING Humorously self-aware, surprisingly ambitious,and supremely infectious, this L.A. emo group led by singer Max Bemiseschews simplistic rock & roll melodrama for intricate, tanglingtunes. Rambling in a quivery voice forever balanced between broken andtriumphant, Bemis writhed with a Bright Eyes-like angst throughout hisband’s short-but-sweet SXSW show. Brilliant moments from Say Anything’srecently reissued coming-of-age debut album, …Is a Real Boy,like “Woe” and “Alive With the Glory of Love,” retained their bruisedpower and unpredictability when faithfully rendered at a blisteringvolume. This gig confirmed that Bemis — who’s only in his early 20s –is an infinitely promising and engaging songwriter with a frank, uniqueperspective on love and lust that resonates with realistic ambiguities.Listen to songs and watch videos at the official Say Anything site.

LUPE FIASCO He’s a Chicago rapper most famous for lacing KanyeWest’s current hit “Touch the Sky” with its perfect, slick-talkingfinal verse, and now he’s poised to break out on his own in the comingmonths. The lanky MC has garnered accolades based on undergroundmixtapes (which include a Gorillaz mash-up and the string-ladenChi-town hit “Kick Push” about his love of skateboarding) and his SXSWperformance punctuated his down-to-earth appeal. Working a flawless,liquid flow, Lupe wowed the crowd with breathless passages featuringreferences to Cartoon Network faves and the newest digitaltechnologies. His sometimes nerdy subject matter, which bypassesboring, stereotypical gangster postures, isn’t at all corny. It’srefreshing. Check out Lupe’s skills, including the
bumping new track “Tilted,” at his website.