Pho­to­graphy : Ty Faruki

I need to start this review with a dis­claim­er. Speech Debelle changed my life. Some­times people come into your life and you know, just know, that you knew them in some oth­er time and place, and that they have been sent into this cur­rent one for a reas­on. I’ll stop there before I’m accused of hav­ing been smoking my vinyl sleeves, but this is 100% the case for me when it comes to UK rap roy­alty Speech Debelle. This review, how­ever, is unbiased and true.

His­tor­ic­ally, the UK record­ing industry has done BAME artists dirty, maybe they just don’t know how to look after them, but whatever the reas­on, our homegrown tal­ents are often mis-pro­moted, not pro­moted at all, or left to their own devices. This is the case with Speech. Back in 2009 she won the coveted Mer­cury Music Prize for her debut album ‘Speech Ther­apy’, a unique and ground­break­ing mas­ter­piece that took the art of rap and layed it smoothly over clas­sic instru­ment­als and arrange­ments that forced the listen­er to focus on and take in the lyr­ics, a vis­cer­al exper­i­ence no mat­ter how many times you have listened to it. This major win should have been the career launch she deserved, how­ever the record label she was with at the time were unpre­pared. This was in the days before digit­al music was the primary meth­od of con­sump­tion and phys­ic­al CD was still going strong, yet the label did not have enough stock out in stores and poten­tial audi­ences who wit­nessed the win were simply unable to get the record straight after it. She fol­lowed up with 2012’s ‘Free­dom of Speech’ anoth­er great col­lec­tion, but again was not prop­erly sup­por­ted by the label, from which she depar­ted soon after the release.

Speech then took a few years out before return­ing with 2017’s ‘Tantil Before I Breathe’, anoth­er mas­ter stroke full of INCRED­IBLE music­al­ity and lyr­ics that, once taken in, have the abil­ity to change your whole mind­frame, the way you see the world and the way you live your life. You may think I’m being hyper­bol­ic here, but I am not, listen to the records your­self, you will see what I mean.

Fol­low­ing the release of her third album, Speech ‘retired’ from music, work­ing on oth­er pro­jects, but she has now returned to her spir­itu­al home behind the micro­phone and has released her fourth album ‘Sunday Din­ner on a Monday’, which is what I am here to talk about. For con­text, I haven’t writ­ten reviews or done inter­views for many years, and I thought I would nev­er write again, but this record is too import­ant, too much of a cul­tur­al reset for me not to join Speech in com­ing out or retire­ment and pick up my pen once again.

Rap is an art­form, rap­pers are poets. The word­play and use of lan­guage that rap­pers employ is often at a god-like level of intel­li­gence, and this is not acknow­ledged enough.

‘Sunday Din­ner on a Monday’ is a per­son­al record, per­son­al yet relat­able. I don’t want to go through the record track-by-track as I nor­mally would in a review, I want you to listen to it your­self and take what you catch from each track, soak in the mean­ing, let it mar­in­ate and take what YOU feel from it.

As with her last record ‘Tantil Before I Breathe’, Speech has included many sound­bites with­in the instru­ment­a­tion, often giv­ing the track a clear focus, some­times flip­ping a mean­ing 180, but always expertly over­laid, and without ever feel­ing unne­ces­sary.

The zenith of the album, for me per­son­ally, is the track ‘DNA’ in which Speech laments over the bene­fit of hav­ing eld­ers and the know­ledge and wis­dom they can bring to our lives, and the sad­ness that ensues when they are no longer with us.

This isn’t just a record. This is school. Listen and you will learn, I am not being hyper­bol­ic when I say that the lyr­ics can be life chan­ging, for­cing the listen­er to eval­u­ate their own eth­os and vant­age point in life. Please seek out this record, and please give it the time it deserves, this is a mas­ter­piece. Speech Debelle is not just a rap­per, she is a mes­sen­ger, listen to the mes­sages.

Key Tracks: 11:11, DNA, Atlantis, Exer­cise

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Micky Roots

Micky Roots

Micky roots is one of the edit­ors of I am hip hop magazine, a pure hip hop head and visu­al artist he brings his strong know­ledge of hip hop, social con­scious­ness & polit­ic­al con­cern to No Bounds.

About Micky Roots

Micky Roots
Micky roots is one of the editors of I am hip hop magazine, a pure hip hop head and visual artist he brings his strong knowledge of hip hop, social consciousness & political concern to No Bounds.