Selected by Dan Grunebaum


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 April 26-27.

Concert Listings
394: Regurgitator
393: Art Garfunkel


392: Belle and Sebastian
391: Super Furry Animals
390: Ben Folds
389: Elton John
388: Dido
387: Papa Roach
386: Beast Feast 2001
385: Summersonic
384: David Sylvian
383: Maxi Priest & Big Mountain
382: Fuji Rock Festival 01
381: Roxy Music
380: Bo Diddley
379: John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussain in Remember Shakti
378: Paul Weller
377: Coolio
376: Backyard Babies
375: Marcus Miller
374: Black Crowes
373: Megadeath
372: Dionne Warwick
371: Arrested Development
370: Mouse on Mars
369: Duran Duran
368: Linkin Park
367: Maceo Parker
366: Japan Blues Carnival 2001
365: Ben Harper
364: Cheap Trick
363: Stephen Malkmus
362: Mogwai
361: Weezer
360: Marilyn Manson
359: Green Day
358: AC/DC
357: Richard Thompson
356: Bob Dylan
355: J. Mascis
354: Leigh Stephen Kenny
352/3: Limp Bizkit
351: Boyz II Men
350: Reef
349: Park Tower Blues Festival
348: Roni Size
347: Compay Segundo
346: Incognito
345: Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes
344: Bad Religion
343: Japan Soul Festival 2000
342: Rocktober 2000
341: Richard Ashcroft
340: Motorhead
339: Festival Halou
338: Ricky Martin
337: Taj Mahal
336: Asian Dub Foundation
335: Lou Reed
334: Earth, Wind & Fire
333: Sting
332: No Doubt
331: Camel
330: Fuji Rock: Smash Talks
329: Summer Sonic
328: Mt. Fuju Aid 2000
327: Salif Keita
326: Buena Vista Social Club
325: Bill Frisell
324: Maxi Priest
323: Lenine
322: Rage Against the Machine
321: Tommy Flanagan Trio
320: Smashing Pumpkins
319: Pet Shop Boys
318: Japan Blues Carnival
317: Gipsy Kings
316: Steely Dan
315: Pshish
314: Big Night Out
313: Femi Kuti and the Positive Force
312: Harry Connick Jr.
311: Sonny Rollins
310: Speech
309: Santana