What’s so likeable about London’s newest hip-hopper Speech Debelle is her youth, the lack of bling and her resistance to shouting and cussing her way through masculine hip hop beats as many of her female predecessors. She may be on the Big Dada record label which also hosts Roots Manuva but judging by this debut album she’ll soon not only be competing, not only to become the label’s most prominent hip-hop talent but also possibly the UK’s.
Speech Therapy, opens with ‘Searching’, at first feeling like a polished singer songwriter tune with its finger picking acoustic guitar before introducing her soft flowing rhymes and polite beats. It’s both a hip-hop tune disguised a folk song and a folk song disguised as a hip-hop tune. From the off you know you’ve got something different and even when track two reveals the record’s true character, it retains a soft on the ear feel with its modesty, restraint and clickity clack beats, not to mention Debelle’s use of intelligent language and conscious opinions.
‘Spinnin’ is as catchy as sin and would grace any top 40 countdown. The dub-like ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ is a hearbreaking address to her father and his absence in her life, (“I am daddy’s little girl, that makes me tough, he never held my hand”) and a call to arms for all suffering ex-single parent children. ‘Wheels In Motion’ features an unmistakable but fabulous contribution by labelmate Roots Manuva, especially when his baritone slowly ooooohs it’s way over her wicked fast delivery, a rare case on a hip-hop record where one of the only two ‘featuring another MC’ track is actually used to the right effect rather just for the sake of it, or to have another name on the cover art sticker.
The subject matter is as it should be, she’s written about what she knows, London working class issues, teenage angst, young love and waster boyfriends. ‘Buddy Love’ with its acoustic reggae rhythm tells of her boyfriend is also her best friend and is packed full of beautiful couplets, notably ‘I laugh a lot, you bring me so much fun, you tell me that you lucky, but I’m the lucky one’. This is mature stuff both lyrically and musically from such a young head coming from such a congested environment and can be admired for its honest commentary and musical flow from the opening chords of ‘Searching’ to the final beats of ‘Speech Therapy’.