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.

By Danny Canter

More from
« Previous Album