In our contest-obsessed culture, it’s easy to tune out awards hoopla. But England’s Mercury Prize has done what a meaningful award should do: shine a light on an artist who deserves it. Twenty-six year-old Speech Debelle was virtually unknown before she won the prize last month. Her debut record, Speech Therapy, is filled with hopeful, street-sassy rapping over organic beats. Brushes, upright bass, piano and clarinet back up Debelle’s rhymes about growing up in London. She’s had some tough times, but doesn’t let it get her down. The best track, “Spinning,” opens with her staccato flow: “This is for the tat on my wrist/ this is for the black of my fist/ this is for the S in my lisp…” and leads into an irresistible schoolyard chorus: “The world keeps spinning… nobody knows where it will take us, but I hope it gets better.” With this delightfully catchy song, you feel like it is.
- Leital Molad