Speech Debelle (1983, London, England) is a British rapper winner of the 2009 Mercury Prize and was formerly signed to the Big Dada record label.
Debelle's debut album, Speech Therapy, was released in the United Kingdom on 31 May 2009. The album has had three singles released, "Searching", "The Key", and "Go Then, Bye". It won the Barclay Mercury music prize in 2009. The Mercury judges said she was a "remarkable new voice in British hip-hop, tough, warm and reflective". One judge, the broadcaster and conductor Charles Hazlewood added: "She's just quietly telling her stories in the most beguiling way."
Speech began writing poetry aged nine and started rapping lyrics in the schoolyard aged 13. Back then, initial inspiration came courtesy of Michael Jackson, which quickly turned to Blackstreet, Mary J Blige, TLC and reggae.
The first thing about Speech Debelle that strikes the ear is a contrast. Her voice is warm, youthful and listenable, and if you heard her in the background you might assume that her lyrics were the same. You’d be better placed tuning into them. In common with her new label-mate Roots Manuva, she’s astoundingly honest in her music, detailing and exorcising some very personal demons. That isn’t to say she’s another run of the mill rapper with more complaints than insights. Quite the opposite. Like all musicians worth listening to, she draws you into her universe and makes you glad you visited. There’s always a thaw to the chillier moments.
‘Searching’ is her debut single, and a perfect example of the offbeat, folky production that will litter the forthcoming album, as well as the whisper-in-the-ear quality of her vocals. One thing is certain, hip-hop has never been done in quite this way before. ‘Searching’ makes you wonder why not.