Courtesy of Creativeman
Best known as the leader of alternative hip hop group Arrested Development, Speech sets
down in Tokyo for two nights of Afro-American consciousness and soul-drenched grooves at
Akasaka Blitz in April.
Sporting dreadlocks and a roots-centric attitude, Speech and Arrested Development blew a
fresh wind into hip hop at a time in the early ' when rap was increasingly dominated by
gangsta gang-bangers like Dr Dre and Snoop Doggy Dog. Arrested Development had come
together back in 1988 when Speech (born Todd Thomas) partnered with fellow Art Institute
of Atlanta student Tim Barnwell.
Arrested Development debuted in 1992 with Three Years, Five Months and Two Days
in the Life of, a socially aware, spiritual consciousness which blew away most conceptions
of rap at the time. Not only did Speech take a positive attitude towards the battle
against racial discrimination, in contrast to the atavistic aggression expressed by his
gangsta peers, but Arrested Development eschewed electronic, sampled sounds for a funky,
organic approach which paid tribute to the great history of black music.
Even in Tokyo bars, hits from Three Years such as "Tennessee" and
"Everyday People" were ubiquitous in '92/'93, as the album went on to earn
several Grammys and top numerous polls.
When AD's 1994 follow-up Zingalamaduni failed to strike a chord with the public,
Speech disbanded the group and launched a solo career, debuting in 1996 with the
self-titled album Speech on Capitol.
He followed that up with last year's Hoopla, a record three years in the making,
which boasted a well-received cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." While
failing to make the commercial splash achieved by Arrested Development, Speech has shown
consistency in his conscious lyrics, laid-back vibe, and affection for live bands rather
than samplers and turntables, all of which make his shows something out of the ordinary
when it comes to hip hop.
Speech plays Akasaka Blitz on