Talking hip-hop roots with one of the UK's best MCs...
Speech Debelle burst on to the scene in 2009, winning the Mercury prize for her debut, ‘Speech Therapy’. Since then Speech, real name Corynne Elliot has been busy working on the follow up ‘Freedom of Speech’ which has another dose of her sharp delivery and socially conscious lyrics matched up to infectious production. Read on for the full low down on her deep hip-hop influences and what it means to be playing with Nas.
If you could travel back to any year to make music when would it be and why?
It would definitely be the 90’s. I loved hip and R&B then. It was super creative then, the drum patterns were infectious. Hip-hop then was about hypnotic beats and the artist being lyrically gifted. I listen to rappers in the 90’s and the wordplay makes me know hip-hop is one the greatest forms of spoken word. In school we learnt about greats like Shakespeare but in hip hop there are so many.
Who are your influences, both past and present?
Definitely Nas. He’s arguably the greatest rapper. I’m a big fan of reggae so artists like Beres Hammond and Sizzla. The artist that’s influenced me the most though is Me’Shelle Ndegecoello.
Who would be the artist, living or dead, that you’d most want to collaborate with and why?
I would say Me’shelle but she’s to God like, I’d be a stuttering failure in her presence. I’d say Lauryn Hill. She seems to have acquired a higher knowledge. Being in the studio would be musically lesson but also a great life lesson.
What would your dream gig line up be?
Damien Marley and Nas opening, then onto Lauryn Hill then Beres Hammond and at sunrise (we’re somewhere in the Caribbean, in my mind!) Me’Shelle Ndegeocello comes on with full orchestra to get us all lifted in the early hours.
What was the first lyric that really affected you?
I would say in hip hop, DMX’s “Slippin” song. It was lyrically journey through his pain.
What was the first show you went to and what do you remember most about it?
I went to see Naughty By Nature sometime in the 90s – it was at The Forum in Kentish Town. I remember Treach came into the crowd and lost his ring then got it back cos’ everyone was on the floor looking for it. They asked who wanted to come on stage and rap and my friend literally lifted me off the ground. I went up, spat like 8 bars and the crowd went nuts but honestly, it wasn’t anything I said, it was just the cute factor!
What was the first track that really blew your mind?
That’s easy, Michael Jackson ‘Human Nature’. It was the song that made me want to make music. I was (and still am) so sonically effected by it that I knew I wanted to recreate that feeling for the rest of my life or at least try to. Even the attempt at is fulfilling.
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