He's a smooth soul man with lyrical finesse, and he all but invented the thoughtful brand of hip-hop later embraced by acts such as Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. Still, ex-Arrested Development frontman Speech has barely been heard from since his Atlanta-based band split several years ago.
Thankfully, he's abandoned the ultra-low-key profile and released a solo disc. Hoopla is a simmering blend of soulful beauty, lyrical vision, and melodic strength. Sparked by the easygoing southern-styled gem of a lead single “Clocks in Sync with Mine,” the disc has a spirit of freshness and a positive vibe flowing throughout.
The rapper's aim is dead on target in numerous cuts here, tracks like the infectious “The Hey Song,” which incorporates a chorus from 4 Non Blondes' “What's Up,” and “Slave of It All,” a morality play with spiritual overtones.
Musically, the set isn't as combative as rap's hard-core side, but it's hardly mellow either. Speech's influences can be frequently be heard, from the echoes of Marvin Gaye and Prince floating about, to the undeniable homage to Sly Stone on the funk-fueled “The Mountain of Lonely.”