With Arrested Development, Speech released a debut album that was regarded by the icon-hungry critics of the time as the second coming of Sly & The Family Stone and a second album, Zingalamaduni, that has since become synonymous with crushing, soul-deadening failure. Of course, it's not really Speech's fault that the same critics who deified him savaged him an album later, but he didn't help matters by recording a patronizing anti-abortion song and generally behaving in public like a creepy acquaintance who can't wait to tell you about this really groovy Bible-study group he's attending. Speech's first album was a commercial non-entity, so for his second album, he's clearly trying to establish himself as a niche artist, going for a folksy, positive hip-hop-soul thing along the lines of Lauryn Hill and The Roots. Backed by a live band professional and boring enough to make a go of it on the wedding circuit, Speech half-croons and half-raps the lyrics on Hoopla, rarely venturing beyond the familiar, blandly positive cliches of a good-natured but uninspired reggae band. Speech covers 4 Non Blondes with "The Hey Song," and if anything, actually manages to make the song less funky than it already was. Espousing vague "positivity" with the grim determination of a reformed alcoholic peddling 12-step homilies, Speech has made, in Hoopla, a hip-hop album bland and tame enough to be played on any easy-listening station. Hoopla has a few scattered moments of goodness, like the sweet first verse of "Yeah, Yeah," but those moments inevitably descend into easy-listening pap. In his insufferable liner notes—Speech sends more shout-outs to God than a league of Christian college-football teams—Speech hints at an Arrested Development reunion, which would be preferable if only because Hoopla's out-of-control vibes could have been reined in had the singer/rapper continued working with invaluable Arrested Development vibes controller Baba Oje.

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