Speech's third album, an ambitious knockout of sprawling, invigorating music influenced by hip-hop, soul, ragga, alternative, and folk, was released in Asia just one year after 1999's Hoopla (though it waited two years for a bulked-up American release). It begins with a vigorous polemic on the state of music (from what sounds like a sampled Baptist sermon), but Spiritual People is no less enjoyable for the scattered "message" songs present. "Brought to You By...(Music & Life)" offers a few apologies for his extravagant lifestyle (still no match for Tommy Lee no doubt), then delivers a fantastic hook that deserves a slot in the Top Ten at least. "Cruisin' in My Super Beetle" is a super pop throwaway oddly reminiscent of Matchbox 20 (though it, too, offers a few hints about the fine line between relaxation and taking things for granted). Unsurprisingly, Arrested Development fans will find a lot to love here, much more than on his previous solo albums: excellent songs with clear, positive messages like "The Simple Love of Life" and "Always in Love," the latter an earnest, string-laden anthem with the lyric "I really love you, I want children with you/be with you always, always in love." "Livin' in the Real World" is postmodern folk with an alternative bent, while "Jungle Man" and "Y-O" meet jazzy hip-hop halfway to A Tribe Called Quest. "Burning Rage Inside," a halfway apologetic anthem to jealousy, has a smooth AOR production sounding like latter-day Steely Dan, even while Speech lets it all hang out. Fortunately, the songwriting's tough enough to stand up to such a varied sound, while Speech's delivery and musical personality prove so strong that he ties it all together easily. Just like Stevie Wonder, one of his prime influences, the subtleties of Speech's music don't suffer when tied to universal themes, the type of songs most contemporary artists wouldn't touch.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush