Speech Debelle made her mark in 2009 with her Mercury Prize-winning debut album Speech Therapy. and followed it up with her 2012 sophomore project Freedom Of Speech. After sharing about three singles over the course of a year she now returns with her long-awaited album fourth studio album Sunday Dinner on a Monday. The project sees her working with Grammy-nominated and MOBO award-winning mixer and engineer Clinton McCreery with writing and production from Skripture and collaborations with Dem Drums, Jamaican production team Island Wav, Kensaye, and Mark Cake.
The project opens up with “Curry Mutton”, which serves as an audio semi-autobiography of some sort. Over a dreamy and ethereal soundscape, Speech Debelle carefully elucidates the preparation of mutton and other Caribbean dishes as culled from her childhood memories. The allegory is subtle and listeners can appreciate the personification of cooking and how people can grow over time to become better versions of themselves. The previously released “Away From Here” sees her teaming with vocalist Baby Sol for a heartfelt and insightful piece that explores the dichotomy of home and away, exploring connections, roots, and restoration. Over a bouncy and moody backdrop provided by producer Skripture and heavenly sax arrangement by Ruth Sax’, Speech blends a seamless mix of poetry with fiery rap schemes to paint pictures as she journeys along in this life as we know it while Miss Baby Sol adds their somewhat hushed melodic runs into the track giving it that warm touch.
This is followed by “11:11”, a contemplative track that explores Speech Debelle’s persona and the many attributes that make her tick. Over the bouncy and nostalgia-inducing backdrop, she states calmly “I don’t sit on fence, I sit on face/Repeat I’m not like them, I’m real hippy, I burn sage, pull spliff, I suck titty/No clubhouse doing up lippy lippy/Ro taught me well, I heed it quickly” and ties it up with a jovial hook. “Come Your Way” has hints of pop, afrobeats and soul with a dash of hip-hop. Armed with her distinct flow and gift of gab, Speech Debelle delivers pure positivity on the track as she shares her thoughts on love and forgiveness. Far from being preachy, she reminds us that everything is a learning process and she is definitely putting in the work.
“Bless Us” flips the switch into a more moody and somewhat urgent vibe with its ominous textures, sombre pads and sublime melodic hums all laced over a rousing drum groove. Once again, Debelle dives into self-discovery between two individuals who are on the same wavelength while lyrics like “I ain’t afraid to get low, where your feet are stowed/ wanna acknowledge all the steps that you have taken from your South to North node” digs into the idea of being true to oneself and not being afraid to go the extra mile. The production on “101010” goes a bit off-kilter with the dynamic and electronic-dub elements and while it’s easy to get lost in the engaging backdrop, the heartfelt lyrics stay prominent and give listeners an unapologetic look at love, loyalty and social pressures.
“Susu” is a pure display of Speech’s poetic style over a lofi-soul soundscape underpinned by cinematic pads and soul-stirring vocal hums. This is followed by “DNA” and “A Reading”, the former is a dark pad-driven piece that explores personal loss and the memories that keep the spirit alive while the latter is built on a solemn piano riff and sublime atmospheric textures and insightful lyrics that talks about growth and the pain that comes with it. She is joined by vocalist Dylema who closes it with a commanding spoken word performance ripe with soothing melodies. “Atlantis” is a soul/hiphop infused record that showcases Speech Debelle’s versatile songwriting and knack for using out-the-box concepts The production has a bit of lofi, neo-soul and chill hop with a distinctive hip-hop vibe as she delivers engaging verses that explore the concept of self-reliance and belief in one’s inner strength and wisdom. Lines like “You are like a dream/ Many hearts beat for you/You were never meant to breathe underwater” reinforce the theme from a nuanced perspective of living up to one’s potential. The single also comes with a cinematic visual that explores an atmospheric and psychedelic underwater world.
The project closes out with the moody drill sounds of “Exercise” and the atmospheric pads on “Sweet Dreams”. Both tracks have vastly different aesthetics but Speech manages to tie it up with her blend of contemplative and insightful songwriting that aims to uplift and encourage listeners to always look at the silver lining no matter how dark it becomes. Sunday Donner On a Monday is quite dense and leaves a lot to unpack for new listeners. Other notable tracks include the afro-fusion track “Magic”, the neo-soul-infused “Ital” and the sombre guitar-driven “Wayward” which all have different relatable messages ranging from self-doubt, finding inner strength and waking up to one’s true potential.
The live show will tour Bristol, Cambridge, London, Newcastle, Glasgow, Birmingham, and tickets are available now.
Watch “Atlantis” below.