Speech Debelle (photo: artist)

Garlic Instead of Riot

Interview
by Theresa Beyer

Corynne Elliott aka Speech Debelle, just released her second, musically thoroughly exciting album. Freedom of Speech is full of intelligent wordplay-flows. Besides personal lyrics she doesn't hesitate to comment the global oil crisis or the protest movements of the London youth in summer 2011. Are we longing for political and self-confident female hip hop?

[Theresa Beyer]: Speech Debelle, in «Blaze up a fire» you describe the revolutional energy of 2011. How much of that do you see in the world of 2012?

[Speech Debelle]: Things seem to calm down and the protests have become part of our history. But only in some countries... I mean Switzerland doesn’t really riot. But it don’t gone stop, everything is going in cycles and maybe now we are entering a calm cycle.

[TB]: But imagine the worst case of calm: we would all be egoists who don't care about what’s going on in the world. How would you try to wake us up with your music?

[SD]: I don’t know if I need to do that, I shouldn’t be an example and tell people how they have to live their lives. It should be everybody’s own choice. I always try to explain when we go performing, that when I say «Blaze Up a Fire», it’s not supposed to be about setting buildings on fire. I always talk about the fire within us, the spirit, that can be sometimes destructive and stagnant.

[TB]: Is hip hop made for expressing this kind of feeling?

[TB]: Do you automatically feel connected – for example – to the hip hop-voices in the Arab world?

[SD]: Yes, that’s interesting about 2011. I come from London – that’s supposed to be in a rich country and people in Africa are acting in the same way. So it’s an interesting connection that young people all over the world have the same problems. There is a connection.

Speech Debelle

[TB]: I have the impression that right now you try to avoid to answer political questions. What does annoy you about that?

[SD]: Well, there are a lot of questions that I have to avoid. I got asked questions in interviews that honestly I can’t answer to and I have to be careful that I don’t sound just ignorant. I don’t know anything about the riots, I don’t know the reasons. I’m 29 years old, so I wanna stay away from this.

[TB]: So what about the people who identify themselves with you and who consider your political lyrics as credible? Don’t you think they expect a statement?

[TB]: Ok, so I try to talk about music again. Your song «Spinning» from your last album is covered by Tinchy Stryder and Dionne Bromfield as first official Olympia song.

[SD]: Yes, I really feel honoured about that.

[TB]: Which song would you cover if you should?

[SD]: I don’t know... If I really like a song then I don’t like to hear me on it. So it’s difficult, because it's hard to listen to a song with me and fully enjoy it, because I listen to every word, so when I say a word my brain is saying it too. So if I do a cover, it should be a song that I probably don’t like that much.

[TB]: You have a cooking show on YouTube...

[SD]: Yes, that’s right, I love cooking. More than eating the food...

[TB]: You recommend your secret spice blend from Jamaica. Which spice blend is your music?

Published on March 14, 2012

Last updated on July 09, 2019

Biography

Theresa Beyer gehört seit 2011 als Editorin, Kuratorin und Mitherausgeberin des Buches «Seismographic Sounds – Visions of a New World» zum Kernteam von Norient und beschäftigt sich mit Themen wie Queeren Musikkulturen, experimenteller Musik in Städten wie Belgrad oder Neu Delhi, und reflektiert in Vorträgen über die Chancen des multilokalen Kuratierens. Neben ihrer Norient-Identität ist sie Musikredaktorin bei Radio SRF 2 Kultur.
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