Arrested Development: Filling A Void In The Industry


Since the group’s founding in 1988, Arrested Development has been blessing the world with their infectious melodies and grooves. Their first album, 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days…in the Life was released in 1992. The album’s title was a reflection on how long it took them to establish a record deal.  During the same year, they became one of the major success stories in the music industry.

Founded in Atlanta by rapper Speech and DJ Headliner, the group were described by Rolling Stone as a “progressive rap collective fusing soul, blues, Hip Hop, and Sly & the Family Stone-influenced funk with political, socially conscious lyrics.” At that time, they mutually agreed to make the transition to a more positive, Afrocentric theme after hearing the legendary Public Enemy.

This album went onto spawn the hit single “Tennessee,” a strongly spiritual track that hit #7 on the US pop charts and #3 on the R&B charts and sparked the album to sell over four million copies. The two follow-up singles, “People Everyday” (a rewrite of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People”) and “Mr. Wendal” performed extraordinarily well. With accolades pouring in from all sides, Arrested Development ended up winning Grammys for Best Rap Album and Best New Artist, going on to be named Rolling Stone’s Band of the Year. After breaking up in 1996, the group reunited in 2000 and since then they’ve been releasing music internationally.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Speech, co-founding member of Arrested Development about what the group has been up to recently and to speak on their brand new album, Strong.

Speech spoke on the urgency and importance to do a different record than what the public has been hearing in the music industry lately.

“We wanted to do a very concise record,” he said. “A record we felt that was filling a void in the industry right now. There aren’t many people really talking about the things that are happening or have happened as far as worldly issues. We wanted to write about those issues. The reason we entitled the album Strong is because we feel it’s one of the strongest records we’ve ever done.”

“We came right out of the gates with a song called ‘Bloody’, and then we just move on throughout the record with everything from songs with a rock edge to old school, classic Hip Hop from the ’90s then to party songs to songs that have a message. A song like ‘Haters’ was really a stretch for us to do.”

Arrested Development’s new album is being released on Speech’s record label, Vagabond Records. For many years now, the group has garnered a strong following in Japan and the first single to be released from Strong entitled ‘The World is Changing’ is currently #9 on the music charts there.  Speech suggested experimentation was one of the deciding factors in making this record a personal success for the group.

“We definitely wanted to experiment,” he said. “On this album we went with a harder edge, it’s a lot more straightforward, in your face lyrics. One Love brought a lot more to this album and he brings a certain style with him. Eshe and Tasha are doing more vocals on this album and it brings a certain R&B style to it. We continue to push the boundaries compared to our other material and the rest of our catalog.”

Arrested Development as a group consists of Speech, Montsho Eshe, One Love, Tasha Larae, Rasadon, Baba Oje, JJ Boogie and Za. This ensemble has been part of the group for the past eight years with the exception of Baba Oje, he is one of the original members and Tasha Larae. Tasha Larae has been with the group for two years now and this lineup is a slight variation from the original collection of artists. Their last five albums – Heroes of Harvest (2002), Extended Revolution (2003), Among the Trees (2004), Since the Last Time (2006) and Strong (2010) – were well received in international markets and have been released under Speech’s Vagabond records.

Speech discussed how much the music scene has changed since the early ’90s and the resurgence of conscious artists regaining a voice again in the mainstream.

“There is so much that has changed from how people receive the music to the actual respect they have for it,” said Speech. “I believe it’s a lot less than what it used to be. There is less balance as far as the subject matter that’s being promoted in the industry today. It leads to the fact that many companies have consolidated into one so you have these huge conglomerates where there are few diverse opinions and attitudes.”

“For me, K’naan is a great example of how conscious Hip Hop is on the rise again.  He’s coming with a different perspective whether he addresses issues on where he’s from, Africa or other places and he is getting great recognition on an international scale now.”

Recently, the group performed cuts off of their album live at the Essence Music Festival held in New Orleans, Louisiana. They were well embraced by old and new fans alike. Their plans include touring the US, Europe, and Australia for the rest of 2010 into 2011. Currently, they’re looking to establish more placements on the American and international airwaves.

“We’re touring right now,” said Speech. “We’re planning to go to Australia at the end of the year.  We’re doing a lot of places in Europe. But we’re touring and promoting this record in the United States right now. We’re reaching out to do more interviews to let people know that we’re back and we’re doing new music.  We’ll be hitting the UK real hard later on this year. We’re going to do London, Birmingham, Manchester, and many places on the outskirts of the country.”

“Many underground stations here in the States are playing us as well as internet, college radio and radio stations that has freer format are playing us. Overseas, Germany, France and Japan are really promoting our new record right now.”

Strong is Arrested Development’s ninth studio album and it’s sure to be one of their best efforts to date. The video for their single “Greener” has been picked up by Vh1 Soul.

To learn more about Arrested Development and the new album visit www.arresteddevelopmentmusic.com and www.vagabondmusiconline.com

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