If soulful-everywoman Brits can get over big-time inAmericaby speaking tough and plain, as everyone from Amy to Adele has demonstrated, why can’t an MC go the same route? Maybe because American hip-hop has become a cartoon kingdom, especially with women involved – Nicki Minaj has seen to that. It’s probably more apt to see late-20s London native Corynne Elliot, aka Speech Debelle, as closer in spirit to someone like Rhymesayers artist Dessa, indie by default if not principle – or even Mary or Jill’s down-home advice. The same goes for Debelle, who gets points for her knowing moniker – she can be preachy. “I live for the message,” she brags over jazzy horns, and she can be awkward delivering it, as on “X Marks the Spot,” with its clunky chorus (“You can never be/ We can never be/ It’s plain to see/ That you’re not over your ex”).
But unlike some speechmakers, above it all she’s not. “I gave up sure for unsure – never do that,” she reminds herself over and over again on “Shawshank” over a soft ghost-town skank and bubbly piano. The sonorous strings and smoky-atmospheric haze on the drums of “Elephant” couch some a chorus just as direct: “I can’t do this any longer/ I’m tired/ And if I stay here any longer/ I’ll be a liar.” She’ll keep going, though. Resilience is her subject.