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Speech Debelle Wins Mercury Music Prize

Speech DebelleLondon rapper Speech Debelle won the 2009 Mercury Music Prize last night for her debut album Speech Therapy. The album, which the Sun will no doubt enjoy pointing out had sold only 3000 copies up to yesterday, beat off stiff competition from Florence & the Machine and Bat for Lashes to win the coveted award. It says here on the press release, anyway.

“It means a lot to me because it’s an award judges give solely on the strength of the album,” she said. “Before they said my name I had a moment of doubt, I thought ‘what if I don’t win? What about all the people who supported me?’ and then they announced my name and I didn’t have time to react, I was being mobbed.”

She is the first woman to take home the award and £20,000 prize money, since fellow London-born rapper Ms Dynamite won in 2002 with her debut album A Little Deeper.

Although it seems a shock choice, the Mercury is notorious for not always being a strict meritocracy. There is often a wilfulness about the decision, and given last years was won by a traditional rock record (Elbow’s The Seldom Seen Kid) then it was likely an outsider would win it.

The album, while not bad, really isn’t pulling up any trees in originality. Then again, as it was up against fellow contenders such as Glasvegas and La Roux, originality certainly didn’t seem an overriding issue for the judges this year. It will catapult her career into the mainstream for a while, but is no guarantor of future success; previous winners like Roni Size and Gomez were not able to translate the publicity into mainstream sales.

So, six weeks of a late summer for her or the first step towards immortality? Time will tell.

One other thing. the prize money is the same in 2009 as it was when it started in 1992. Don’t these people factor inflation into things?


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