Speech, the lead rapper from Arrested Development, sat down for his first interview with VladTV.
Speech on Forming Arrested Development as a Response to Gangsta Rap (Part 1):
In the opening clip, Speech spoke on the diversity and balance of Hip Hop acts in the 1990s before describing his upbringing. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Speech revealed that his mother owns the “Milwaukee Community Journal,” which is the largest Black newspaper in Wisconsin. In addition, his father owned a nightclub called “The Fox Trap.”
Coming from an entrepreneurial household, Speech added that his parents were civil rights leaders, regularly rallying Black businesses together and staying engaged in the Black empowerment movement. Due to his father being a nightclub owner, Speech grew up in a musical atmosphere and started DJing at his father’s club when he was only 13. Speech also formed his first rap group, Attack, which was the first rap group from Milwaukee to release a major record.
In 1987, Speech moved to Georgia to attend The Art Institute in Atlanta. While his rap group was popular in Milwaukee, no Hip Hop act made it out of the city at that time. Speech met Arrested Development member Headliner the same week he moved to Atlanta after he responded to Speech’s search for a DJ. Before settling on Arrested Development, Speech revealed that the group was originally named DLR (Disciples of Lyrical Rebellion) and then Secret Society.
Speech also explained that although the group were fans of Gangsta Rap, they wanted to offer an expanded view of the African American culture and image. He also added that authenticity helped propel careers during the time. Speech said that although there were as many as 20 people in the group at one point, only six members were signed.
Speech on Prince Suing Arrested Development $100K for Sampling 1 Word on ‘Tennessee’ (Part 2):
In this clip, Arrested Development co-founder Speech opened up about the group being signed to Chrysalis and planning to drop “Mr. Wendal” and “Natural” as their first two singles. However, after the loss of Speech’s brother and grandmother, he wrote the song “Tennessee,” which he reveals is the last place he was with both of them. He then explained that it’s the most profound song he’s ever written, adding that it’s like a prayer, much like their song “Take Me to Another Place.” Speech also explained that he was worried that “Tennessee” wouldn’t take off, but MTV helped speed things up after playing their music video.
After “Tennessee” became a breakout hit, Speech called the feeling surreal since he was coming out of Milwaukee and Atlanta, which were cities that hadn’t had a buzzing music scene. After sampling one word from Prince’s “Alphabet St.,” Speech revealed that Prince charged him $100k right after the song peaked. While he originally was upset at the fee, he realized later on that Prince did him a favor by not seeking ownership of the song or having it pulled off of shelves. He referred to Prince as his favorite artist and described meeting him at Paisley Park.
Speech (Arrested Development) on Why He Turned Down $1M Coke Commercial (Part 3):
Speech from Arrested Development spoke on following up on the successful “Tennessee” record with two more Gold singles, “People Everyday” and “Mr. Wendal.” While he sampled Sly & the Family Stone for “People Everyday,” Speech said he initially wasn’t very familiar with the band’s music but became a fan because the band’s energy reminded him of what Arrested Development was doing. Speech added that the song was a response to what he referred to as “energy of ignorance vs. consciousness” and recalled not being accepted and challenged because he wore dreadlocks and dashikis.
Speech also said “Mr. Wendal” was inspired by the various homeless people he came into contact with due to the group’s recording space being on an Atlanta street that had a lot of homeless people. After highlighting that half of the “Mr. Wendal” proceeds were donated to the National Coalition of the Homeless, Speech reminisced about being one of the few Hip Hop acts that toured overseas and Arrested Development being many foreigners’ first introduction to Hip Hop music.
In this clip, Speech reflected on the diversity during the early 1990s in hip-hop and entertainment. He spoke about rap being an educational tool and a lens through which listeners got a sense of life in other states and regions – something people had little access to pre-internet. Later, Speech talked about Arrested Development’s early success and why he, on behalf of the group, turned down a million dollar commercial deal with Coca-Cola.
Speech on Headliner Suing for 50% Ownership of Arrested Development, Dionne Farris Quitting (Part 4):
In this clip, Speech recounted Arrested Development winning the Grammy for “Best New Artist” and being the first hip-hop group to receive the award. Speech noted how prior to their Grammy victory that a movement within the hip-hop community rose up to fight for recognition and respect by the Grammys. This included telecasting the hip-hop related categories which Speech says his group was an early beneficiary of as one of the first hip-hop artists to receive their award on air.
Speech also reflected on some of the mistakes he made during Arrested Development’s peak and recounted working with Spike Lee on the soundtrack for the classic Malcolm X film and Arrested Development’s music video shot in Brooklyn for the movie’s soundtrack.
Speech addressed the tension within Arrested Development, which he says started early on when they began touring. He then addressed Headliner suing him for 50/50 split of the group, which Speech says he didn’t see at the time. Speech went on to speak about how the situation caused a rift with members of the group, and he added that they eventually settled for a 60/40 split. Speech then spoke about Dionne Farris quitting the group during an argument backstage at the Fox Theatre right before they were set to go onstage. Fast forward to ten years later, and Speech says they were seated just seats apart at a Prince show. Speech explained that he passed Dionne a note during the show, which led to them reconciling. To hear more, hit the below clip.