An ‘anti-hip hop’ hip hop album of cult-like pedigree.
Elle J Small 2009
Four things make newcomer Speech Debelle stand out from the rap pack: her articulate flows, her poetic swagger, her cinematic beats and, of course, her gender. While Speech Therapy is highly unlikely to go platinum, it is destined to become an album adored by musos, critics and intellectuals.
As soon as Speech Debelle’s first verse drops on opener Searching, the stark contrast between her honeyed tone and mature lyrics makes this 25-year-old Londoner stand out.
Over a lounge-like guitar and heady percussion, Debelle sounds sweet and innocent until you focus on the actual words, “2am in my hostel bed/ My eyes turn red/ My belly ain’t fed/ I got butter but I ain’t got bread/ and I’m smoking on my last cigarette…”
On the surface, Speech Therapy is simply a fresh female rapping over honed, diverse production. Look deeper and you’ll hear Speech lay her soul bare as she retells countless heart-wrenching life stories.
The ultimate tearaway is dissected over goose-bumping production on Bad Boy, “He’s made a couple G selling weed and selling E’s…/ He’s got a deadbeat Dad who beats his Mum real bad/ His Mum sits home all day drinking and smoking fags…/ He’ll probably do jail time/ If he makes it to 25…”
The most touching number though has to be the dub-influenced Daddy’s Little Girl. On this honest-to-the-core cut, Speech divulges the hurt caused by her father’s absence.
In contrast, Spinnin is all about the dancefloor, with its bumpy, contagious, ska-influenced beats. While Working Weak sadly lacks both captivating lyrics and mind-blowing production, making it – no pun intended – weak.
The comparisons between Speech and her infamous label mate Roots Manuva (who features on mediocre number Wheels In Motion) are glaringly obvious. Intelligent, raw, poetic, honest verses cruise over high quality, orchestral production.
Gender aside, the main difference between Speech and Roots, though, is the former hasn’t quite honed that hit-making formula, yet. To her credit, Speech Debelle has masterfully created an ‘anti-hip hop’ hip hop album of cult-like pedigree.