Speech Debelle ‘tantil before I breathe’

‘tantil before i breathe’ is the third album from Mercury Prize-winning rapper Speech Debelle: an emotionally-crafted independent project that explores her developing self-awareness, healing and liberation. Her own release was accompanied by a digital cookbook and memoir filled with intimate stories documenting the highs and lows of the poetic South London lyricist's journey through life and the music business. This Society of Sound special edition is the pre-mastered audio. Bowers & Wilkins sound engineers described the audio at this state as having “very good sound stage, imaging depth and space, with very good overall spectral balance”.

Featuring the singles “The Work,” “Terms & Conditions” and her latest, “Strange Ways,” Speech Debelle's 10-track album expands on the soul-searching themes of her 2016 breathe. EP as she examines a voyage of becoming; the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional work done to “recognise the scars, uncover the reasons, then let the light in and become whole.”

Nuanced production by Wayne Lotek, Nick Trepka, Plutonic Lab and Speech herself crafts a soothing, progressive soundscape on tantil before i breathe, filled with tender keys, ethereal strings and gently rousing drums for her signature vulnerable honesty to flow through in husky tones, additionally collaborating with the likes of Neil Cowley (Adele, Emeli Sande), Simon Ashdown, Baby Sol, Shingai Shoniwa, Realism, Self Taught Beats and Nutty P to season the mix.

Speech Debelle kicked in the UK music industry’s backdoor in 2009 waving her sensitive, introspective debut album, Speech Therapy, which won the Mercury Music Prize for British album of the year, beating the likes of Florence and the Machine, Kasabian and La Roux for the prestigious award. Her Kwes-produced sophomore album, Freedom Of Speech (2012), commanded further critical acclaim while expanding Speech's captivating flair for poetic testimonies, playful narratives and dynamic rumination on power, politics and pleasure.

She later stepped away from music for a few years to grow and develop her other passions; her zeal for cooking tantalised the nation with her inventive recipes as a semi-finalist on Celebrity Masterchef, while her socially conscious drive saw her curating a moving exhibition of art by prisoners for the Koestler Trust’s The Strength and Vulnerability Bunker at London’s iconic Southbank Centre in 2013. More recently she performed in aid of housing and homelessness charity Shelter, and became the voice of H&M’s 2017 Bring It On recycling campaign.

Speech's love for music and food combine in her weekly podcast, The Work Brunch — as she cooks and discusses music, life and inspiration with a range of esteemed guests including Lianne La Havas, Nitin Sawhney, Shabaka Hutchings and Mikill Pane — and now the emotive wordsmith offers further intimate truths and lessons in her cookbook memoir. “Music and food are art - they heal and inspire,” says Speech Debelle – the songs spanning her three of her albums tell a story of abandonment, artistic process, critical acclaim, record label mistakes and, eventually, healing.
"I've been an open book since the beginning, it made sense to put that into something tangible. I've experienced so much in my career that I wanted to share some of the stories. These are the lessons I've learnt about the business and myself; the journey with the two has been parallel,” Speech explains. "The healing happens when we're ready. There'll be that one lover that'll show you what you need to show yourself. The conversation you've been waiting your whole life to have with your mother or father without even knowing it. That look in the mirror one day when you see yourself as beautiful. Your skin, bones and soul.”

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