Review of Speech Debelle's album Speech Therapy.
Are you like me in that you've grown very, very tired of British hip-hop? The same mockney accents used to project the pseudo gangster alter egos of the baggy clothed suburbanite? Well it's not all bad. I mean Roots Manuva, who guests on this release, has been holding the torch of fresh British hip-hop for some time, though it has to be said his impact has waned for me in recent releases. Here we may well have a breathe of fresh air in the stagnant Brit-hop scene. From Big Dada, the label also home to Roots Manuva among others, comes Speech Debelle. A 'Sarf' Londoner with a penchant for jazz, honest lyrics and no pretence what so ever. Her debut 'Speech Therapy' has come along to tap us on the shoulder and take note.
Produced by label head honcho Wayne Lotek (Lotek Hi-fi) I initially expected a more rigid approach to the music on 'Speech Therapy'. Not so. Opening track 'Searching' sets the precedent. An acoustic guitar (played by Lotek's brother), fluttering drums and sustained piano touches make this release sound like a new Tortoise effort. Very nice. A hip-hop release that has reached beyond the standards without compromising Debelle's voice, both as a vocal aesthetic and lyrically. Her honest insights and dry sense of irony make for a wonderfully constructed sound. 'Better Days' sees pop-rock oddball Mikachu on guest vocals. This is the kinda collaboration that happens all too rarely. Not only that, but the feel of the track is of the two of them, and its not like they've had to meet each other in the middle either. As the album rolls on there are times when Debelle achieves what we all hoped Lily Allen would manage if she had spread her wings and grown up a bit. 'Wheels in Motion' features Rooty-toot Manuva. A bit of an obvious move considering the label, but never the less these two work together well. It's also nice to not hear Manuva rapping. He's on backing vocal and chorus, and its all singing.nicely done. 'Finish this Album' might sound like a filler for the sake of quantity, but this was the first track Debelle presented to Big Dada some five years ago.
Now at this point, I will say this. As the record progresses, it starts to feel a tad samey. Which is a damn shame. Debelle has helped restore a certain amount of faith in the British scene. It will be interesting to see where she goes from here. Who she collaborates with in future and generally where her sound takes us, and the listener. Speech has understated way with her words which allows the listener the opportunity to pay heed to what she is saying. 'Speech Therapy' can't be far from the truth. Pure sentiments and roots deeply set in honesty, this album feels like an artist getting things off her chest. Coming to terms, coming of age, etc. Now all too many artists have succumb to this trap and made careers from the same problems album after album. Lets hope this wont be the case for Speech Debelle, cause there's a lot of promise in this young Londoner. I for one hope she fulfils it.