VH1s I Love the 90s opted to poke fun at Arrested Development as a short-lived fad. Though the Georgia-based outfit mayve been regurgitated by the Pop market, they have continued to have no problem finding cult-followings, and arenas of fans to hear them overseas. Plenty of groups who gained success in more recent years, would kill to be where the group is today.
In an effort to rebuild the fanbase in the U.S., front-man Speech is releasing his third album, The Vagabond in a ten-year tradition of populist-minded, musically dynamic LPs. AllHipHop.com and Speech discuss his solo-career, the group, and the way Hip-Hop chooses to remember a group that was warmly embraced a dozen or so years ago. Ever the gentlemen, Speech delivers right to YOU
Speech: The title is The Vagabond, it comes out on November 1st, on Blue Hammock Records, which is an indie out of New York very music lovers type of record.
AllHipHop.com: My mother used to call me a vagabond when Id mess up the living room. Why that title?
Speech: I called it that because the record goes all over the place. It has Hip-Hop, it has some World music influence, and it has some Soul. I think it sorta shows my diversity as an artist.
AllHipHop.com: You get airplay on Adult Contemporary radio stations. Do you feel that your diversity is a blessing and a curse?
Speech: I think its only been an advantage. Because my experience is diverse. I go do like Folk festivals, I get invited, and I absolutely love em. Its like people out in nature, and Im one of those who really love this, drum circles and cultural lessons, and kids playin outside. Im from that. From my experiences, the things Ive gotten to see, its just incredible. At the same time, Ive been invited to do your Hot 97s in New York or you name it. I have all the experiences, and I feel that a lot of artists dont get that chance, except to be a VIP in the club. I get to experience that, but I get to experience so much more. Im excited about my journey in the music.
AllHipHop.com: I really liked your album, Hoopla. Its just a good record to drive to or whatever. I also thought that you going towards Folk and Rock, Hip-Hop mayve lost you, or even resented you
Speech: I dont know. Its really hard to say, brother. I felt like its happened at some points. But at the same time, when I meet cats like yourself, or a gangbanger from Los Angeles who runs with Ice Cube, and I meet him face to face, and hes like, Yo, I dig Hoopla. [laughs] Its cats that I wouldnt expect be into it, are into it. That lets me know that if they can hear it, people are more diverse than people think they are. People get into a lot of stuff. Whatever moves somebodys soul and spirit, thats what they end up gravitating towards and vibing to at that time in their life. My music has been able to do that to some of the most unexpected people.
AllHipHop.com: On that album, you did, in my opinion, a brilliantly produced cover of Bob Marleys Redemption Song. Like Wyclef, will you be continuing the cover? Does Vagabond have any?
Speech: Let me see, I did. I covered a Beatles tune on this record, Across the Universe. I didnt even know the song, actually. But I was asked to record the song for a TV commercial in Japan, and the TV commercial was really big. Other than that, theres no covers on this joint.
AllHipHop.com: So its true that Arrested Development is back in order?
Speech: That is right, man! Its been cool, because we stopped doing music in 1995. We got back together in 2000. A lot of people dont really know that yet, especially in America. Weve only focused on overseas. To give you the history Jake, in 2000 we released an album, and it did incredibly well. We did a lot of touring, sellin out different 20,000 seaters, and on and on. Then, we released our second album [in Japan], but we released it to some other foreign countries, so we added Europe and Australia. That album was Among the Trees, and we had a number one single with that called, Honeymoon Day which was above U2, it was above Usher, so we get a lot of love. Now were finally gonna do a record for the States. Ive got these cats who I really respect as people and artists, cat named Mike Mangini who did Joss Stones records, and the first Digible Planets record. Then, I got a cat named Sam Hollander, just an old-school Hip-Hop lover, like myself. We started producing some stuff, I think its really hot.
AllHipHop.com: Recently, I interviewed Big Shug from the Gang Starr Foundation. He said that in the mid-90s on EMI, you were very demanding and known to ego-trip. Looking at a statement like that, have you changed any?
Speech: Ive definitely changed. Maturing, getting more wise, learning how to deal with this industry and deal with people one-on-one in a better way. But you know, one of the things about life that Ive learned from youth and I talk about it on this album in a song called Scandal is being a leader of things, a leader is always gonna get some nay-sayers and is always gonna get some flack. Im a follower of Jesus, so I feel like if Jesus Christ, who didnt commit any sin, would still have people disagree passionately with him, then I feel like Im in good space. So if I feel like I have people that disagree with me, Im all good.
AllHipHop.com: No doubt, I shouldnt have brought Shug in either. Im just using him as an example.
Speech: Nah, its all good.
AllHipHop.com: Overseas listeners have heard you extensively. But for those of us who havent really checked for Arrested Development in the last ten years, what elements of your high points, such as Mr. Wendell or Tennessee still live in your solo and group music today?
Speech: Really, I think a lot of that same spirit is what we do to this day. Like we tour a lot. Last year, we did 200 dates out of a 365 day year. This year, were doing close to that already. The main thing we feel good about is that our general spirit in Arrested Development is very much the same. We havent changed the musical formula. If you feel Hoopla youll probably feel this record just the same it has the same energy just new music. For us, we always knew what we were trying to accomplish, we just stayed doing it ever since.
AllHipHop.com: Living in Georgia, and being a Southern Hip-Hop artist, you delved into a natural sound different than 2Live Crew or Geto Boys, but certainly had elements that I feel Outkast and Nappy Roots would pull from. Do you assume any credit in the Souths success today?
Speech: I like to think that. And a lot of those cats, when Ive met them out in the streets or wherever, or at shows, theyve given that type of love like, Yo, youve inspired us. But to me, I feel like Im just one of many. Im grateful that Ive inspired. But in other words, Tribe, Jungle Brothers, De La, P.E. inspired us. Now, were just one of the groups that inspired others. I dont feel like this groups wouldnt exist if it wasnt for us or that type of thing. I moreso feel like we had a bid in it. No one group does everything. We just played a part in inspiration.