Speech Debelle - Freedom Of Speech

It could be considered as slightly preachy, but it’s important to ask these questions.

Label: Big Dada

Rating: 7

Having won the 2009 Mercury Prize with her debut album, Speech Debelle certainly had more to prove than others with the difficult second album. With the female hip hop landscape fairly sparse, especially in the mainstream, the return of Speech Debelle may be somewhat welcome; a more grownup, soulful Nicki Minaj without all the bubblegum and Barbie references.

Immediately, ‘Freedom of Speech’ transports you to hip hop of the past, with a clear retro sound with ‘Studio Backpack Rap’. It’s catchy and bounces along like a British Salt-n-Pepa. It’s clear from the themes and delivery that Speech Debelle believes in her message. ‘Blaze Up A Fire’ showcases her pure confidence and ability to show her determination to deliver that message.

‘Elephant In The Living Room’ steps away from the 90s sounding tracks with beautiful instrumentation and a soulful lament. When the tracks on ‘Freedom of Speech’ swaps 90s for swelling string instrumentation, it’s much better and you take the idea that Speech Debelle’s trying to portray far more seriously. The production updates her sound, reminiscent of the variety that DELS packs into his songs. Kwes, a London producer who has worked with DELS, has helped her create and channel this new sound. It’s refreshing how much emotion Speech Debelle can put into her songs; switching from mournful to outraged. With guests like the brilliant Roots Manuva and perfect production, it’s a well rounded album.

‘Freedom of Speech’ is clearly political, standing up to hardships of the modern world, tackling issues in a very mature way with intelligent and insightful lyrics. Every track on the album makes you think, and it’s rare to find an album that tackles so many issues head on successfully the way the late, great Gil Scott-Heron did. It’s not an album to listen to if you want an easy ride; its themes and Speech Debelle’s delivery is not easy listening by any means, but it’s not meant to be.

It’s an album that asks you to look at the riots, protests and destruction that many of us condemned with an open mind and ask why it happens and what we can do to stop it. It tackles many issues, many that you perhaps hadn’t considered in detail. It could be considered as slightly preachy, and at times it may well be, but it’s important to ask these questions and tackle these issues and this album does what it set out to do - make people think.