Speech Debelle has won the 2009 Mercury Prize for her album Speech Therapy. Quite a surprise, perhaps; but a good result, I think: it’s been a long time since a hip-hop album last won, and even longer since a woman last won — and it’s nice to see one of the lesser-known nominees win. Congratulations, Speech!
Video: ‘The Key’
And so we come to the début album by London rapper Corynne Elliott, alias Speech Debelle — and I may be stuck for much to say about it. The thing is, I’m just not into rap. Like jazz, I can’t appreciate it properly; and that’s bound to affect how I judge Speech Therapy. We’ll see how it goes…
Of all the albums on the Mercury shortlist, this must be the most intensely personal. Debelle’s lyrics draw on such experiences as her father walking out on her and her mother (‘Daddy’s Little Girl’), and living in hostels (‘Searching’). ‘This is my speech therapy, this isn’t rap,’ she says on the title track; and there’s a strong sense of catharsis throughout the album. But there’s hope and celebration on tracks like ‘Buddy Love’.
So, Speech Therapy isn’t my cup of tea; but, with its acoustic backing and personal lyrics, it’s a distinctive rap album.
Video: ‘Working Weak’ (live)
Read my other Mercury 2009 posts here.