Interview: Speech (of Arrested Development)

Interview: Speech (of Arrested Development)

2 Years, 1 Month and 19 Songs later Speech finally finished his latest solo-effort. After the classic work with the group Arrested Development and some, unfortunately slept on, but great solo releases, Speech returns with ‘The Grown Folks Table’ featuring Chali 2na, Theory Hazit, John Butler, Arrested Development and more.

2 Years, 1 Month and 19 Songs later Speech finally finished his latest solo-effort. After the classic work with the group Arrested Development and some, unfortunately slept on, but great solo releases, Speech returns with ‘The Grown Folks Table’ featuring Chali 2na, Theory Hazit, John Butler, Arrested Development and more.

About: Speech
Preview: Speech – Clocks in Sync With Mine

We all know Speech as the frontman of Arrested Development. But who is Speech? Who’s the person behind the artist? 

I’m mainly a regular kind of guy, that happens to be famous. I really enjoy music (of course), but i also feel a big need to be balanced with more than just music. (Like: family, Spirit, friends, being at home and doing house and yard work etc.)

It’s no secret that religion is very important to you. But can you tell me something about the way your parents raised you? Did you grow up in a religious family? 

My parents raised me to be honest, respectful and hard working! (especuially the hard working part) J My mom was more religous than my dad, and my grandmother insisted on me going to the baptist church in her small town of Ripley Tennessee. So I was raised within a church environment.

How important is religion/spirituality for your music?

 It has become more & more important as i’ve realized that i can’t honestly separate the two any longer. I used to be against doing “spiritual music” but I believe we are in the last days, and I have a new conviction that people should speak what they believe, (especially if it’s about Jesus) so that their beleifs will have an influence on the way popular culture turns and sways.

You seem like a very consious person (for example because of several blogs on your site and bulletins on Myspace). Can you name a subject or several subjects you are really consious/concerned about nowadays? 

Mostly awareness and being in the moment. I learn about various causes that are effecting people NOW. Those issues I tend to become a vocal publicist for. Knowing that everything we do makes a difference, whether seemingly BIG or Small! And whether seemingly right or wrong. We are the change we want to see!

You are pretty active when it comes to solo-releases. What’s the biggest difference between making music on your own and making music together with the rest of Arrested Development? 

To me not too much, it’s just another vehicle to express myself. I figure that I’m only here fora bout 80 years, I want to share with people my life, in the hopes that something I’ve done will have an affect on others. (i’ve seen that become a reality, numerous times now) Whether solo ir AD, for me, it’s all just a vehicle to speak!

Do you feel like you have more freedom when you work solo?

Sure. There is not as much of an expectation, and history to my solo work.

You’re a lot on the road (touring etc.). Is it hard to be constantly travelling  and not being home all the time? 

My life works in modes. I have tour mode, home mode, church mode etc. (I co-lead a ministry here in Atlanta called the Greater Atlanta church of Christ) I basically have to “switch channels” depending on what the need is.

If life is a river, which one is you? And why?

I’m in a canoe riding the waves. I’m usually in the midst of the battle of life, I’m not too much of a sideline person.

About: Arrested Development
Preview:  Arrested Development – Since The Last Time

How was it to be in a group that makes -let’s call it- ‘positive hip hop’ in an era of gangsta-rap? 

We still are to this day! J  It’s my calling (i believe) My parents raised me in an activist home. I heard and saw the issues that affect blacks in a reall way, so it was natural to me to speak out for change and awareness.

Even Wikipedia calls Arrested Development ‘an alternative to gangsta-rap’, but how do you personally think about gangsta-rap and artists related to the genre? 

We really never liked that comparison. We are another perspective of hip hop and black life. I understand the need for free speech in music. And I only get concerned when the balance is lost and people are only fed songs about Strip clubs, drug dealing and guns. (which is mostly the case NOW in mainstream  Hip Hop)

It’s been 12 years between Zingalamaduni and Since The Last Time. LL Cool J would say ‘don’t call it a comeback’, but still people (mainly in the US) think Since The Last Time is a reunion of AD. Truth is that you came back before to record albums as Heroes of the Harvest and Among the Trees.
But why did you guys decide to wait a few more years to globally release an album?

Honestly, we had no choice. I would like to say that we waited, but the labels in the U.S. have been resistent to AD for over 13 years. We had to release this record (STLT) on my own boutique label…Vagabond.

What about the future of Arrested Development? Any plans for new music? 

Yes, we are sorta working on a new album now. I sy sorta because, I am messing with some concepts and the group has yet to hear a lot of them. Abd yet, the whole group wrote about 7 songs just recently in the studio, which of course will also beo n any new release we do.

About: The Grown Folks Table

What can we expect of your new album?

 This is my ode to hip hop and lyricism.

And what about the title? Do you feel ‘grown up’ in this stage of your life or something?

 I am grown! And it’s about speaking honestly as a hip hop lover growing up!

Your site says The Grown Folks Table is ‘primarily your version of Hip Hop’. Can you describe ‘your version’ of Hip Hop? 

I love the days of hiphop when people had something to say, because they knew this music is powerful and effective in changing the world! That’s the school that I’m from. I can’t act like I don’t know my music will reach those in Africa, or Europe, Asia etc. I know I have an influence! What will I do wit hit? That’s how I approach my music.

Compared to your other releases, there are a lot of guests on The Grown Folks Table. Why’s that?

 I rarely have had the inclination to have a bunch of guest, so this was my ode to taht concept of recording. I loved the outcome of it as well. It borught many various influences to my vision!

Very cliché, but I still wanna hear it from you: how do you think of the state Hip Hop’s in nowadays?

I think it’s horrible! It’s the biggest the genre has ever been as far as popularity and financial potenitial, And yet hip hops direction and goal is lost to corporations and the corporate mindset. When ever rappers mention Clive davis, Tommy Motolla, and Jimmy Iovine in their raps, you know we are in a corporate era of this underground “from the streets” music! J   The whole term “Street” has transformed into a corporate caricature of so – called “urban culture”. And now youth are simply playing or acting a part or role, that they beleive they are supposed to play in order to be “cool”.

Can you name some artists and/or albums that you dig a lot lately?

M.I.A., K’naan, Buck 65, Filastine, K-os, Plan B…etc.

And can you name some of your biggest influences in music?

 Sly, Prince, De la Public Enemy… to name a few.

And how do you think about the effect of Internet and downloading on music?

It’s good & bad. Music is cheapened now, it’s a weak time for music. So people bascailly want it all for free. It lacks value today. No art work, no excitement of going in to a record store and smelling the vinyl, staring at the art work for hours as you listened. Etc. The expereience is cheapened.

Do you think Obama, as ‘the first black president’, influences Hip Hop?

YES, Obama has influenced the world to have hope again!


Words by: Danny
More info: Speech

Just an ordinary guy always on the hunt for extraordinary music. Not just as the founder of The Find Magazine & Rucksack Records, but also as a freelance music journalist (bylines at Tracklib, Bandcamp, Wax Poetics, DIG Mag, among others) and—above all—out of love for all kinds of good music.