The Vagabond

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Todd Thomas, a.k.a. Speech, enjoyed brief Top-40 glory in the early ’90s as leader of the Georgia hip-hop collective Arrested Development. He’s continued to make socially conscious yet fun music ever since, blending folksy rap and vintage soul grooves in his campaign for a kinder world. The charming Vagabond feels like a sunny afternoon in the back yard with your best friends. As an MC, Speech’s rhymes are chatty and unforced, and his crooning features a sweet falsetto reminiscent of Prince. Though not above classic rap egotism, he subverts convention in the punchy “What You Give,” dissing a “huffing and puffing” foe, then bragging about his sexual prowess—with his wife! And after all the uplifting messages, including a moving cover of John Lennon’s “Across the Universe,” Speech signs off with “Gone Away,” a poignant ode to his late older brother, revealing the angst behind the positive vibes.