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Speech Therapy

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Album Review

This album was about five years in the making — that's how much time elapsed between the young Speech Debelle's first visit to London's Big Dada label and studio (home of underground hip-hop legend Roots Manuva) , where she quickly recorded the outline of "Searching," and the eventual release of Speech Therapy, which was largely recorded in Australia at the temporary studio of producer Wayne Lotek. It's interesting to consider how different the album would sound if it had been recorded in London rather than Melbourne; as it is, Speech Therapy is one of the most unique hip-hop albums you're likely to hear. There don't seem to be any samples or turntablism. Instead, the grooves are supplied mostly by acoustic instruments, and many of them are lightly, skitteringly jazzy — notice in particular the soft, jazz-inflected accompaniment that adds an entirely new dimension to Debelle's nervous and unsettled rapping on "Searching" and "Better Days," and notice also the subtle but elegantly complex rhythmic displacements in the lyric to "The Key." On "Bad Boy," sweet strings and jungly drums push nicely against each other, and on the kiss-off rap "Go Then, Bye" a lushly beautiful acoustic guitar and small string ensemble accompany a startlingly angry and unsettled rap. There are, inevitably, a couple of clunkers: Debelle's flow is awkward on "Working Weak," and "Finish This Album" is a bit too literally self-referential. But those are minor missteps compared to the great strengths of this very fine debut.


Born: London, England

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Layering laid-back poetry and stirring confessionals over wandering jazz and soul beats from another era, Brit MC Speech Debelle quickly earned a following for her honest hip-hop concoctions in the late 2000s. Her dreamy style a translucent mask for a hard-edged early life of struggle and sorrow, a sense of life truly lived pervades her music, from her fully formed backing band, the Therapists, to her broken cadences and heart-on-sleeve lyrics. British-born Jamaican Debelle (real name: Corynne...
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Speech Therapy, Speech Debelle
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