Gold star: Can Phreeda Sharp conquer the female rapper throne?

Phreeda Sharp

Phreeda Sharp: 'I’m more than just rap'. Photograph: Eleonore de Bonneval

Since Ms Dynamite vacated the UK female rapper throne back in 2006, no bona fide heirs have claimed the same crowning commercial success.

Take Speech Debelle who fizzled into obscurity after her Mercury Music Award triumph of 2009. Or E8-born Shystie who, despite a collaboration with Azealia Banks, is still smouldering on the fringes.

While feisty Brit Lady Leshurr is making noticeable gains, with her single Blazin’ reaching the top spot of the MTV Bass Chart, in Hackney there are fewer spoils to brag about.

But French-Ghanaian Hackney-based rapper Phreeda Sharp, boisterously undeterred, has a simple formula for scaling the slippery pole of pop: “You just need to make shit hot music and have fans who love you. If your music’s hot you’ll be successful.”

When we meet she’s in “leather chick mood” and has spent eight hours over the weekend having her hair braided. The impressive results stretch almost to her knees.

For Phreeda, real name Mary Martin, 24, Victoria Park has become something of a spiritual home since moving there in 2009: “It just fits me. It fits my music. It feels natural for me to be here.”

Her recent mixtape, Ruby, Sex and Vultures (released on Bad Jane Nation and downloadable for free) is brazen, unapologetic pop whose sugary melodies and bombastic sub-bass have been crafted with sweat-box nightclubs squarely in mind.

The neat and glossy production comes courtesy of a smorgasbord of collaborators and a breadth of tastes results: there’s the lurching pop-step beats of single Gold Car, the dancehall stylings of Juju Dollar, and hints of continental techno and Inner-City-esque piano house stabs on Illa 4 Rilla.

Martin is part of a burgeoning troupe of London-based ‘fem-cees’ and has ambitions of spearheading the ‘renaissance of rap’ that she spits about on her track Spilla: “There are other female rappers in the UK doing their thing, but this is my way of reviving female rap the way that I want to do it.”

Her take on a Jay Z megahit turns the original on its head with its sassy chorus line “I’ve got 99 problems but a prick ain’t one.” Are there consciously feminist overtones here?

“I’d like to give women the balls to say what they want to say and be ok with it. When I first came out, people were trying to mould me into something that I’m not. 99 problems was my way of saying that I’m gonna do what I need to do and I couldn’t care less about anybody else’s opinions.”

Beneath the aggression of the tracks though, is a lighter touch: “I like to keep it playful. Even when I’m trying to get my point across about being a strong female and the problems we face there’s humour in there. It’s fun feminism.”

Martin likes to keep on top of all aspects of the Phreeda brand’s creative output: “I’m more than just rap – I write my music, I direct my videos, I style, I design. I have to put my own stamp on things.”

Phreeda Sharp is playing at the Jazz Café, Camden, on 6 June and her mixtape is available for free download at