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When the right pounces on rap as contributing to the downfall of America, you have to wonder if it's because of people like Speech.

Far from the gun-toting, gangsta-leaning, jock-grabbing stereotypes the mainstream media hype when discussing rap, Speech combines dope beats with politically aware lyrics.

His self-titled debut album is Speech's first project since the breakup of Arrested Development, perhaps the most influential rap group of the last five years.

This album picks up where Arrested Development left off, with Speech singing about the state of black folks. The lyrics are simple, fresh, and to the point, as with the song, "Ask Somebody Who Ain't (If You Think the System's Workin')." It begins with Speech getting out of the car at a fast-food restaurant. He notices a woman, about thirty-five, with three kids, applying for a job. She was, he says, "Down with that Ramen Noodle show. Sorta like a college student."

She pulled her boot straps/But her boots were torn/And her feet were worn out from all the bull crap/This country promised her the pursuit of happiness.

For Speech, the son of journalists, rap is more than just singing about the streets or making money. It's a way to bring light to a country that seems to be perpetually in the dark about its problems. Arrested Development, he said, was about bringing political and spiritual awareness together with music.

It sounds as though he hasn't forsaken that mission. "A lot of songs out now are the equivalant of a two-second sound blurb on the news, instead of a full-length film that reflects who we really are," says Speech. "This album, in many ways, illustrates my frustrations with the current environment.

"I was never able to categorize my sound, so I just call it Life Music to, like life, show that it's a mixture of everything," Speech says. "It blends hip-hop, funk, soul, jazz, and folk elements into one thing. If people must have a definition of what it is that they can work with, that's it."
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Author:McKissack, Fred
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Mar 1, 1996
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