Speech Debelle, Speech Therapy

Ian Gittins

By Ian Gittins

on 06.15.11 in Reviews
An intriguing mass of contradictions from a Mercury Prize winner

The surprise winner of Britain's 2009 Mercury Music Prize, Speech Debelle's Speech Therapy is an intriguing mass of cryptic contradictions. Debelle is a rapper, but her music is not hip-hop; her autobiographical lyrics talk of homelessness and family estrangement, yet she admits to a comfortable — if fatherless — middle-class upbringing. If anything, Debelle is a performance poet, with engaging tracks like "The Key" and "Better Days" seeing her deliver personal home truths in halting, heartfelt cadences over jazz-inflected acoustic guitar, double bass and percussion. The Mercury failed to lend Speech Therapy the breakthrough it deserved, but Debelle remains a niche artist of talent and distinction.