After the win, it's time for a new Speech Debelle
Friday 18 November 2011
She beat Florence and the Machine, The Horrors, Kasabian and Friendly Fires. So what happened to the British rapper Speech Debelle, who won the 2009 Mercury Prize and then vanished into thin air?
Her catchy 2009 single "Spinnin", taken from her winning album Speech Therapy, has now been re-worked by Tinchy Stryder and Dionne Bromfield, to be the official Olympic anthem. But apart from an appearance on BBC's Young Voter's Question Time during the Conservative Party Conference in Salford this year, where has Speech Debelle been?
The south London singer, 28, whose real name is Corynne Elliott, has kept a low profile ever since Speech Therapy failed to make the Top 40 despite her Mercury win.
Now she is returning with her second album, Freedom of Speech, which will be released early next year, on the same record label, Big Dada, with whom she previously fell out while upset over her dismal album sales.
"Winning the Mercury Prize happened so early on in my career that I didn't have a chance to build a fanbase," Debelle tells me. "I was still doing a nine-to-five day job until the album came out and I hadn't been touring like most other winners. It was early days for me. I think sales of my album weren't as high because it was not a pop album." So is she now set to become a star after all? "I was never determined to be a star in the first place," she says. "I just want to make classic albums."
While the confessional Speech Therapy documented the trials and tribulations of her private life, including living in a hostel for the homeless – her new album tackles wider issues such as political revolution and love.
The first signs that she was about to resurface happened in August, when she decided to give away a new track, "Blaze Up a Fire", featuring Realism and Roots Manuva, about political revolution, in the aftermath of the summer riots.
Although she wrote the song long before the Tottenham riots even happened, she decided her lyrics summed up the oppression and frustration of many young people who were expressing themselves destructively. She released a statement to say: "I wrote this track months ago for my second album and it wasn't due for release until next year. But after the events of this week I want to give it away right now."
"Studio Backpack Rap" is available as a free download from http://snd.sc/sOwpEU
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