Interview by Scott Preston
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Speaks thru music to the world. Speech one of the vocalist for this collective says, Our people have been through so much turmoil and strife for hundreds of years now. We get on stage every night with the mission to broaden the perspectives and give inspiration to rise above the stereotypes and materialism.” Unsurprisingly, then, the Grammy award winning group Arrested Development has been devoted to nudging folks in the direction of freedom and spiritual evolution for over 15 years.
The group describes their sound as “Life Music.” A.D. respects women, and promotes family, spirituality and “male responsibility.” They are about consciousness, the earth, African self determination and love. They define themselves as hip-hop artists but also just artists.” They are dancers, vocalists, turntablist, drummers, and everything in between. Arrested Development is and has always been a communal music community with any number of talented members on board, picture your family reunion but more musical. Speech may be the most known member of the group, being the front man, but Dionne Farris, Eshe (Black Life), Rasa Don (Raz), Baba Oje (the elder), Nicha and many others have contributed much to this Kalidescope of image and sound. (from arresteddevelopmentmusic.com)
Cincy Groove: How did Arrested Development first get together?
Speech: Back in 1987 I went to a school called The Art Institute of Atlanta. One of the first members I put in the group was a brother named Headliner. He and I started talking and doing these 2 man shows together. We would bring people on stage to do African dance, graffiti, some rhyming. It really started to grow from there because some of the people that came on stage we would invite to come to the next show. Thats basically how the group grew into what it is today.
Cincy Groove: Did the group have a different approach to this last record “Since the Last Time” compared to your earlier ones?
Speech: Yes, we all did. We worked with a producer, Sam Hollander, out of New York. He is really an old school hip hop professional. We really have been going at this record with a feel good, party attitude. We want you to be able to put on the record with a gathering of friends and have some music with a good vibe to it, but at the same time have some messages in the songs also. We didn’t go as heavy on the messages this time around with this record, because we weren’t feeling so heavy. We were feeling pretty good about where we were in our personal lives.
Cincy Groove: How did you feel about all the attention the group started to get with that first record you put out “3 years, 5 months and 2 days in the life of…”
Speech: It was encouraging but also scary because it was our first album and it was a lot to live up to. I was being compared to Bob Marley at the time which was very scary for me. But of course it felt good to get those awards and recognition from your peers.
Cincy Groove: What do you think about the state of hip hop today compared to the late 1980’s early 1990’s? The message doesn’t seem as positive as it once was.
Speech: Its definitely not as influential to the community in a positive way. Mainstream hip hop is less diverse musically and lyrically. The subject matter now is very one sided. In the past with hip hop you had more of a balance. You had 2 Live Crew talking about getting some booty, you had N.W.A. talking about gang reality, then you had groups like MC Hammer, Young MC, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Arrested Development. Pretty much every topic that could be discussed was being discussed.
Cincy Groove: How do you feel about the internet as it relates to the music industry?
Speech: Its really the last hope for any diversity to shine through. A lot of fans rely on the internet to know whats going on out there. It definitely gets over saturated, but at the same time I think its the last hope for independent artists to expose their music to the masses.
Cincy Groove: I noticed Arrested Development spent a lot of time overseas in places like Japan performing and releasing records. Was there a reason you spent so much time over there and not here in the U.S.?
Speech: They liked us over there and they didn’t like us here. Sad but true. There was a time period after our second album where we stopped recording. I started doing some solo touring in Japan. People over in Japan were really liking my music and the U.S. just wasn’t feeling it. When we did get back together, we shopped around our music to record labels in the U.S. and nobody was interested. We ended up getting a lot of interest in Japan.
Cincy Groove: I also see you have a solo record coming out soon.
Speech: I do have a solo record coming out later this year called “The Grown Folks Table”. Its coming out on my own label, Vagabond Records and Tapes, its a very exciting time for me.
Cincy Groove: It really seems like everything is finally coming back around full circle for Arrested Development.
Speech: Arrested Development is really getting a lot of love at our shows. The crowds today remind me of how it was in the 1990’s. A lot of energy, love, and respect. Its a very exciting time. Its really encouraging to see a lot of young fans coming out to the shows to see what we are about who weren’t old enough to know who we were when we started.
Cincy Groove: Do you have any advice for a young performer who might be just starting out?
Speech: I have a lot of advice. First just do it for the love of the music. A lot of artists today and trying to find ways to make money. Just find your own voice and be true to yourself. That way you will have a better longevity in the business and you’ll be able to sleep at night.
Speech (lead vocals)
Rasa Don (drums/vocals)
Baba Oje (group elder)
1 Love (rapper/vocals)
JJ Boogie (guitar)
Arrested Development tour dates:
For complete show details visit arresteddevelopmentmusic.com
Jul 17, 2008 Highline Ballroom, New York, NY
Jul 19, 2008 2012 Festival Wroclaw, Poland
Aug 30, 2008 Hookahville Legend Valley, Thornville, OH
Sep 05, 2008 3rd Annual Raleigh Wide Open Raleigh, NC, USA
Sep 26, 2008 Ferst Center, Atlanta, GA
Oct 10, 2008 Bassline, Johannesburg, South Africa
Oct 11, 2008 West End, Cape Town, South Africa
Oct 15, 2008 Irish Village, Dubai, UAE
Oct 17, 2008 Rock Bottom Cafe, Bahrain, UAE