Straight from the heart of South London has emerged a new breed of MC. Someone who blends all the best qualities of any truly, poetic lyricist with instrumentation synonymous with the likes of The Roots (of course to a different yet rather equal musical calibre). But she is so unique that placing her and her debut album under one confined category may be an insult. This, of course, is Speech Debelle and her album is titles Speech Therapy.
What this talented young rapstress delivers are lyrics in such a style that you almost forget it is rap that you are listening to. Each rhyme is thought-provoking and is delivered frequently, usually line after line after line…after line. Very dynamic too, as even when she is being light-hearted, she can still deliver punches that will wind you.
Instrumentation is major on this album as well, with no synthesized pop crap poking its head out thanks to production from Wayne Lotek and Aussie-owned Plutonic Lab; yep, ain’t nothin’ but live music right here in every sense of the term.
The most abundant instrument you will catch here is an acoustic guitar playing very laid back and crisp melodies (and providing extremely mellow intros), especially on Buddy Love, Live and Learn, Searching and Go Then, Bye. Along with the electric guitar, piano, live drums and occasionally saxophone, the album is given a very organic feel which you can genuinely vibe to from the heart instead of your ass.
Every song is deep and meaningful, so there are no brainless party anthems here. The Key sees a very funky, jazzy beat laying down the musical basis for Debelle to explore the concepts of ambition…and lack of ambition: “For every Malcolm X there’s a President Bush/For every ambitious soul there’s a couch potato.” Her delivery is straightforward and concise, yet often witty and humorous, and never loses its sense of thought-provocation.
The world of Hip Hop is undoubtedly very patriarchal, and we see these man-to-man beefs, usually between testosterone-fuelled rappers…and occasionally towards a boy’s absent father. But hearing the female’s take on growing up without a father is something which tends to be very underrepresented in Hip Hop, and Debelle has no fear whatsoever in delving into such a lyrical world over a very mellow yet sharp guitar and organ combo on Daddy’s Little Girl. A rarity in Hip Hop, this cut alone shines light on an area which has barely seen it.
As mentioned before, Hip Hop is very patriarchal. The inequality in representation between male and female artists is astonishing, yet with Speech Therapy, Speech Debelle takes on the challenge with a vengeance and shows that integrity does not have to be replaced with constant explicit sexuality in order to gain recognition. Accompanied on only two joints (Roots Manuva on Wheels In Motion and Micachu on Better Days), the unique way in which this chick spits razor blades is bound to cement her place in the UK scene, and hopefully the world.