Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy
The debut LP from recent Big Dada signing Speech Debelle is out now! Speech Therapy is an intimate look into the world of one Speech Debelle and through her hushed and rhythmic hip-hip tones this 51-minute creation will hit you from the freshest of angles in a boldly blunt manner. In my February interview with Speech Debelle it was instantly apparent what this young diamond from London stood for and where her musical journey had brought her so far, but now here’s a chance to read a little more about the actual music itself.
At 51 minutes long, the 13-track Speech Therapy starts where it all began, with the track Searching. A lot has already been said about this understated track with its subtle innocence, and it certainly sets the mood for the album. The intricate strings and keys dance around the bouncing bass and steady beat, whilst the cypher pulls all the rhythmic strings together, as if bringing the composition into total alignment. It’s beautiful.
The Key comes next and will get your head nodding immediately. Lovely combination of brass and double bass. One thing that is extremely evident from this album is the organic vibe – it’s plain to see that this was an important element during the creation process. So what we have, essentially, is real instruments coupled with a very fresh sounding voice/flow – definitely not your typical hip-hop album. Micachu appears as a guest vocalist on the track Better Days, and it is a real stand out track indeed. It has attitude and energy, but in a controlled manner. The beat is heavy, as is the bassline, but nothing is overcooked – it’s extremely appealing and Micachu‘s vocals pair up with Speech’s flow just fine.
The track Spinnin’ takes the album in a different direction. It’s very upbeat, and although the lyrical content is no less deep or real than other tracks, it most certainly does have a more uplifting atmosphere to it. Whatever way you want to look at it, it’s very catchy and I really appreciate the continued raw instrumentation that is thus far ever-present. Solid stuff. Go Then, Bye is a track that will strike a chord or two with most listeners – it’s brutally honest. A ballad of sorts, it’s a deep reflection of relationships and how they can and do affect us – although granted specifically this is obviously something extremely close to Speech Debelle and events in her own life. Musically it is exquisite – well produced and constructed, it’s unique in its style and execution. Check out the video…
Daddy’s Little Girl is a steady track with a focus on lo-fi beats and a narrative that speaks some very open truths. It’s a strong track with very conscious lyrics – which shouldn’t be taken for granted considering that half the emcees out there today struggle to say much worthwhile beyond a few grunts and jabbering on about cars and jewellery. Given it is the debut LP from Speech Debelle, her lyrical content alone is awe-inspiring, but she’s been lucky enough to work with Big Dada and producers like Wayne Lotek, who have really helped to make this album what it is. Bad Boy has some real attitude about it. The drum break is fierce and the bassline steady – when that chorus kicks in, so will your foot and then your head – nod away!
Roots Manuva appears on Wheels In Motion, giving his instantly recognisable voice an airing during the chorus. There’s a nice piano part to this track, under the bass and beats. Collectively between these aspects of the track, and of course Speech’s verses, it comes together to create a pretty damn fine laid back hip-hop affair. I’d expect by now for it to be apparent that this is no ordinary hip-hop album though. I’m not even sure if that should be the correct genre to use, but it may have to do. There’s no denying the skills of Speech’s flow, but unlike a lot of emcees, it appears her focus (consciously or not) is on the actual content of her flow – as if the skill and style then just follows naturally. Live & Learn is currently one of my favourite tracks on Speech Therapy – but I should mention that this changes on a weekly basis! Those organic beats and instruments really help Speech stand out, such a good choice that was. I wont even waste any more of your time on this one, give it a listen…
Welcome the ragga’esque rhythms on Working Weak. The subtle levels of instrumentation on this track might not be immediately apparent, but give it time to flourish within your ears and it’ll come. Nice summer track indeed – lay back and get it on. Buddy Love kills it with the acoustic sounds and island vibes. I would say by this stage of the album (and after having listened to the whole thing enough times for the past however many months) that Speech Therapy will be one of those growers that people will return to again and again in subsequent months and years. Naturally I don’t want anybody to sleep on this, but at the same time I think we may see a bit of an effect ala The Wire – people will catch up… in time!
The penultimate track is Finish This Album. It encompasses those ever-present instrumental core virtues of bass, some lead, steady beats and then warm and strong strings over them. Seems an appropriate way to begin the album wind down and warm rhythms within this track carry the listener gently onto the track with the same name as the album, Speech Therapy. Baroque sounding with its acoustic intro, it switches up with a slow, yet heavy kick drum and snare. There’s an air of confession about the track, with a narrative as honest as the rest of the lyrical content found throughout. It’s soft and most definitely not over-bearing in any way – quite a soothing outro that really does hit a note.
There are a few points I want to get across and reaffirm about Speech Therapy. Notably it should be realised that for a debut album, this creation really sets a tone. The idea that an emcee can combine seamlessly with raw instrumentation and deliver something that sounds so unique and complete is, to my belief, quite astounding. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to suggest that this is necessarily the best album you are likely to hear all year, but what I am suggesting is that this album presents quite a few unique qualities that should do more than enough to grab some attention. Speech Debelle is not an emcee like Lil Wayne or Jay-Z, nor is she a singer like Amy Winehouse or Erykah Badu – she’s just Speech Debelle, and this should be embraced. This album is also a grower and I would urge people to give it repeat listens. The lyrical content is there from the beginning and is indeed extremely refreshing, but the music and all it’s little intricacies will become more apparent after a few listens and it is very rewarding – especially with a good sound system or some decent headphones. The conclusion: get Speech Therapy, it’s a great album.
Upcoming Live Dates:
24 Jun 2009 – Point Ephemere, Paris
26 Jun 2009 – Glastonbury Festival, Pilton
17 Jul 2009 – Latitude Festival, Suffolk
18 Jul 2009 – Soundwave Festival, Croatia
26 Jul 2009 – Secret Garden Party, East Anglia
15 Aug 2009 – Bloom Festival, South Gloucestershire
28 Aug 2009 – Tauron Nowa Festival, Poland
11 Sep 2009 – Bestival Festival, Isle of White