Episode 25: Speaking with Speech
While I believe we are all given individual talents and skills, and I believe we have a duty to use those talents and skills to the best of our ability, very few of us are blessed with a calling. It is so rare that we are hit over the head with a pre-chosen destiny, that we have no choice but to follow that path all the way through. Some authors, songwriters, and artists experience this. Where they feel as though they are simply a conduit for their medium. It’s exactly why I am doing this podcast. And it is this calling that emerged within one of the founders of conscious hip hop, Speech Thomas.
Creating Arrested Development in the early ’90s, Speech saw fame, fortune, and success at a very young age. But that didn’t mean it came overnight. Speech started out like most rappers, speaking about all the typical things. But once he came to Atlanta and found another like-minded voice in the hip hop community, all that changed. Thanks to the influence of groups like public enemy and BDP, the conscious rap genre emerged. And thanks to groups like Arrested Development, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and many others, a new stream of thought founds its place in the hip hop world. This voice was different, this message stood for something and as soon as it was recognized for what it was and the impact it was making, it was promptly shut down. Back to the same stereotypically images the entertainment industry wants you to see, especially that of black life and culture.
But Speech never let this slow him down. Despite struggles within the band and a solo career that never materialized stateside, Speech kept with music and the mission. Most recently taking a big leap into the field of Documentaries, Speech has chronicled the systematic exploitation of the black image in a 3 part docu-series out now. And coming out this week is his groundbreaking new documentary “16 Bars”. This full-length feature film takes you inside County jail, spending time with inmates, and producing an album that gives a voice to those who don’t have one. And what a voice!
His compassion for his fellow man has given Speech his calling, and that calling keeps him constantly moving, growing, and speaking. Check out my recent conversation with Arrested Development frontman, 2 time Grammy winner, and one of the most conscious humans you will ever meet, my man, Speech….