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American rap group. Formed in 1987 by ‘Speech’ (Todd Jenkins; b Milwaukee; rapper), they combined social comment and sampled beats with a non-aggressive stance. Other members included Rasa Don (drums), DJ Kermit (vocals), Nadirah Shakoor (lead vocals), Aerle Teree (poetry and vocals), the dancers Ajile and Montsho Eshe, and Speech's 60-year-old ‘spiritual adviser’, Baba Oje. They achieved US and European fame with their first album, 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of… (Chrysalis, 1992) which won two Grammy awards. Tracks such as ‘Mr. Wendal’ and ‘People Everyday’ combined the social comment of Speech's slow conversational rap with mellow funk samples and grooves. This continued the intelligent, gentle and commercially palatable rap begun by De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest among others, and developed by the Fugees. Their appeal in live performance was proved with the live album Unplugged (Chrysalis, 1993). Speech adopted a different formula for the next album, Zingalamaduni (Chrysalis, 1994); named after the Swahili word for ‘beehive of culture’, it increased their earlier use of African vocals. In 1994 they performed in South Africa before Nelson Mandela but by the next year had split up. In 1996 Speech released an eponymous solo album, but did not achieve his earlier success.
A reflection of Arrested Development's early rap lyrical concern about police repressing free expression. Individual names: Headliner (born Timothy Barnwell) and Speech (born Todd Thomas), first known on stage as DJ Peech.
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