I met Crystal Palace/South West London-born, Mercury Prize winner, one of my favourite MCs at the moment after a gig at the Poolbar Festival in Feldkirch, Vorarlberg, West Austria, behind the scenes: Speech Debelle everybody!
(Words and Photos by Christina Burger, erschienen auf skirmag.com)
Hi! Nice to meet you. During the show you mentioned that you love the landscape round here, as what kind of place does Austria strike you?
I think Austria is a peaceful place, from what I see, I don't know, I have been to the ghetto, you got ghetto round here?
Not really, not like London, there is a huge difference.
That lake we had dinner at earlier, I don't know why it's that colour, it's a beautiful colour, you know what I'm saying, we don't get that, you got mountains that you see every day, maybe you don't realize how beautiful it is ‘cause you see it every day.
It's true, maybe we don't always appreciate it enough.
It makes me believe that there wasn't a big bang. It's not real, because it can't be by accident, this can't be so beautiful, somebody created this, with a very artistic eye.
On your new album you speak your mind about the riots, why that topic?
In 2011 the whole world said ‘Fuck it!'. Egypt, Tunisia, America, all around the world people said ‘Fuck it!". It might be different places but we all get tired sometimes.
So how do we live the message?
I think living the message is understanding that by accident is by design, uhm, I think if you believe that you must accept that you gonna have to listen to the messages that you receive and to the things that you do to make sure that they are fulfilled.
How did it come about that Tinchy Stryder covered your song ‘Spinnin' for the Olympics? Did you do this for the money?
They must have liked it, man. There was a cheque, that's what we do, that's how we get paid, the money was good.
Do you watch the Olympics? I actually know some Londoners who fled the city for the time of the games.
It's actually very peaceful in London right now. Everybody is scared to go into the centre.
Flashback ... your first album is about looking inside, the second about looking outside, right? Is that like you growing up?
Definitely, the first album I wrote when I was like 19. This album ["Freedom of Speech"] was like about 10 years later, ten years is like you grow up. When you get to nearly 30 you stop asking yourself so many questions, everything is not so emotional.
You are doing a documentary about homeless people, is that right? How have been the reactions to this project so far?
It is done, this one-hour documentary was aired on television in the UK in May. In the UK the government that's in now has made some major cuts, all the fundings for housing, the arts. That means if you're young and you got nowhere to live the government says: ‘We don't care!' So it's a very important issue. The reactions were very good, I think a lot of people experienced that, because you know, even if you come from a wealthy family, you might fall out with your family. Everybody needs help in their life sometimes.
What are your fans like?
It's mixed you know. When I started I was only speaking to black people, and then I did shows and I saw all these white people and I was like ‘You understand, you get it!', and it changed everything. I realized that we are all the same.
You being a woman in the hip-hop world, was that ever a struggle?
No, it's not a struggle, I don't carry any bags and I don't lift anything, I get men to do everything for me, it's perfect!
Good attitude, I like it! What about touring, what do you like, what do you hate about it?
Touring is, uhm, what I don't like is that it's very unhealthy, the alcohol, lots of unhealthy food, you have to make sure you keep exercising, I make sure that I don't eat that much you know, on tour there's little time where you don't do anything and the thing you do in between is you eat, you get to make sure that you don't eat out of boredom. And then you got good times, it's brilliant that we are truly blessed to be able to go to all these beautiful places. And you know when it comes to performing, I do it for one hour and that's it.
You really dig cooking, is that right?
I'm an amazing cook, I think I'm better than everybody. I especially like to cook Jamaican food, it's tasty, spicy!
When I was waiting at the station today, thinking about the questions I was to ask you I saw that Austrian cookbook and thought you might like it, here you go! Thanks for your time!
Thank you, this is perfect!