When Speech Debelle’s debut album won the Mercury Prize in 2009 it took even her label by surprise.
Reports told how Big Dada hadn’t pressed enough copies of ‘Speech Therapy’ to meet the demand created by the win, and a dejected and angry Debelle promptly left the label.
Since then, the two parties have made up and the south London rapper has taken a full year to create ‘Freedom of Speech’.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a record of realisation, reflection and eventual euphoria. ‘Speech Therapy’ was classically old skool,
with nods to the ever-playful Del La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest; ‘Freedom of Speech’ is more overtly impassioned, angrier and far less cute,
like on ‘Elephant’, in which a brow-beaten Debelle faces her fears over cinematic strings, and ‘Blaze Up A Fire’,
which was perfectly leaked after the London riots and speaks of social revolution.
For ‘Shawshank’ and ‘Angel Wings’ she revisits her acoustic-lilting innocence, but Debelle is best when ranting, which is most of the time.
looking especially repulsed by being offered a go on a joint.
Some of the group even begin running and leaping over the gear that is being loaded in on a trolley as music pumps
loudly from one of the two studio’s the group have in the building.
“He’ll learn, mate. He’ll have to,” says Skittles of the building’s new tenant.
“Just wait until next week when the metal bands come in or the cover bands that just play the same songs on loop,
like some house version of ‘Lady in Red’, I tell ya man. Speech Debelle That is hell.”
Within the group’s two studio rooms are mountains and mountains of records.
Whether those are being played, music is worked on for beats or bars are being spat, it seems to be a continuous and thriving hotbed of activity with members constantly rolling in and out.
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