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Friday, 4 September 2009

Searching... for Speech Debelle at Fenchurch

When I heard Fenchurch were hosting a live session with Speech Debelle at their flagship store at Seven Dials, there was no question as to whether it was worth checking out. I had to go. Fenchurch + hip hop!

I'd like to point out that I'm not riding on Speech's Mercury award nomination success, as I was there watching her perform after the B.Supreme show in April! Spotting her a few weeks later in the Observer Music Monthly I knew I should probably have stuck around longer to catch all of her performance...

Speech is a Mercury Award nominee who is beginning to make a name for herself in the UK hip hop music scene for her softly spoken voice, honest and poetic lyrics and feel good live beats - she performs with an acoustic guitarist, drummer and bass player. It's like hip hop crossed over with a jazz band, a female Abstract to an English Tribe Called Quest!

Fans will be waiting with baited ears for whether she's won on Tuesday, but to keep them excited she performed a few numbers off her album at Fenchurch as an intimate warm up gig before the winner is announced.

Free drinks were available for attendees, as well as plenty of cool freebies to grab (not sure what was more popular, the free alcohol or the Fenchurch branded lighters!).

It was warm inside the shop, which had all its interior shifted to make room for the band setup and the radiant lighting setup. People packed around in a circle, to which Speech remarked "Why are you in a circle?" making us spread the shape so everyone could see.

The performance started early and the filled room with the introduction of Searching. When she finished, everyone clapped, only for us to find out it was the sound check! Ha!

A few drinks later, if you were able to get any, the show kicked off at its correct time, now with slightly clearer acoustics. Like any true artist should for their fans, Speech performed a good few tracks (no 'two songs and we're done' stylee), including her latest single Spinning, Better Days and Badman.

Speech's performance style is unlike typical 'hip hop.' No jumping up and down, amping of the crowd, but a lot of introverted, personal moments (albeit in front of an audience) while performing. While she spits her lyrics she looks at the floor a lot as though she's thinking about every lyric she's saying, a huge contrast between the showmen you see trying to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Instead it was like sharing her inner thoughts with the people in the room set to melodic and upbeat tunes.

Maybe it's the current attention she's getting, I don't know Speech's performance history. Frequently she'd make the occasional well received joke though, and it was like watching someone happy to be where she is, doing what she likes doing, and that's performing. Her band should also be credited too, those guys know how to make a live jam sound good. This was a different kind of vibe, a rarity these days in hip hop, and it's good to see humble performers.

The audience loved the performances, as did I. As did some of Speech's friends that turned up to show their support too! I'd only heard Searching - Amazon did a free [legal] download of it on promotion, and another song I never caught the name of, this opened my eyes and ears. Yes, the newspapers are making a deal about her because her style crosses over into what could be considered an easy listening market, but at least seeing her perform live (and in full) I now know what the deal is about, and it's made my mind up about buying the album too.

Click below to listen to samples from Speech Therapy, and if you like it, buy it and show support!

Something about the setup at Fenchurch reminded me of when King Apparel opened their shop doors to Guru. But there was no rivalry between the two shops (situated next to each other), in fact, King Apparel staff were also in the building. Hip hop love!

You can visit Speech Debelle's website at for more info on her, as well as links to her Facebook and MySpace.

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