The talented Speech Debelle returns with new album 'Freedom Of Speech', her second album following her Mercury prize winning debut 'Speech Therapy'. It was certainly a great victory for hip hop seeing Speech Debelle receive her award in 2009, the industry recognising her talent and propelling her into the spotlight. There's no doubt Speech displayed great flow and lyrics in her 'speech' delivery and being a female rapper made it even more special. However, there's no guarantee winning a Mercury music prize is a recipe for commercial success and in fact, it has been seen a bad omen for some.
It seems a long time coming for Speech Debelle's second album. Since 2009 there weren't as much sales as predicted for her debut and we saw a brief departure from her record label Big Dadda too. However she did return to Big Dadda and released 'Freedom Of Speech' through them, which I was really pleased about, as both her and the label truly complement each other. This is because Speech's second album is experimental, eclectic and alternative in a hip hop sense that personifies the label perfectly. Being signed to an independent has given Speech all the freedom to lyrically be herself and provide messages that aren't compromised. There's no doubt that having commercial exposure from the Mercury's has provided an opportunity to expand her musical influences sonically providing a real synergy of sounds, from electric guitar to piano, as well as hip hop beats, that only the UK could allow. Realism features on two of the best tracks on the album 'Blaze Up A Fire' (also featuring Roots Manuva) and 'Eagle Eye'; otherwise it's all Speech, carrying her unique and gifted flow throughout the album.
Overall, this is an interesting album and for me, angst is the main theme throughout. It's hard to categorise this as a hip hop album as it's so diverse; however if you put it in context with contemporary UK sounds, it certainly has a place with the voice of the youth. Therefore, 'Freedom Of Speech' may appeal to a whole new audience but it may be too eclectic for a typical hip hop crowd. One thing is for sure; Speech's second album is a slice of UK creativity that highlights a musician expanding hip hop expression. One has to applaud her artistic integrity; however, her specific style may limit her appeal to a mass audience.