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Singer, London

South London rapper Ms Banks has gone from selling shoes on the shop floor to spitting fire on Fire In The Booth.

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You could say that the best thing that ever happened to Ms Banks was getting sacked from a shoe shop at the age of 18. At a loose end, and with no other options on the horizon, her friend encouraged her to jump in a studio, and see where her rapping could get her. Ms Banks had been rapping since the age of 11, spitting over drum and bass beats, then in her teens that evolved into listening to New York rap, like Jadakiss and Styles P – but she’d never laid down a track. “So, I wrote three covers, recorded them, and put them on Soundcloud... I’ve kinda never looked back.”

Banks grew up in South London, surrounded by musicians. “Everyone in my family loved music,” she tells me. “My mum and her sisters and brother can all sing. Then my dad’s side are crazy hip-hop fans.” After the studio session she was invited to perform at an open mic hip-hop night not far from home in Brixton. It was a success and became a frequent thing she would do, honing her craft at as many open mics and competitions as she could get to.

In her steady rise to critical acclaim, she’s collaborated with Shefflon Don, JME and Stormzy, and released two mixtapes – but her flag in the sand moment came back in April 2016, when she appeared on Charlie Sloth’s Fire in the Booth. Spitting over Kanye West’s “30 Hours”, she unleashed a honest, unapologetic and raw freestyle that made you not want to blink, channeling Lil Kim and Miss Dynamite like some sort of rap telepath. More than a few people started to realise they’d been sleeping a little on Ms Banks.

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In the New Year, she will drop her third project. It will be story-led, focusing on heartbreak, and she describes it simply as “epic.” While the world of rap and grime is still a male dominated arena, Ms Banks is showing that change is approaching fast. “Sometimes female MCs can fall into that trap of feeling like there can only be one queen,” she says. “But there is such a small amount of us, there is going to be way more power if we band together. I hope now women see that unity is the way forward. Just because someone is shining, it doesn’t take away from you.”

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Sometimes female MCs can fall into that trap of feeling like there can only be one queen

That feeling of unity crossed the Atlantic earlier this year, when Ms Banks woke up one morning to see her Twitter mentions had exploded. Nicki Minaj had been listening to her music, and tweeted her appreciation not just to Ms Banks but to her entire fanbase. “That’s what I mean about females supporting females,” explains Ms Banks. “Nicki knows that in order to build a legacy you have to build up the people around you. There can’t only be one. We’ve been speaking a lot, and she is lovely. Let’s just say... 2018 is gonna be crazy.”