Rarely has a group risen so high and fallen so fast as Arrested Development (AD). This captivating musical collective stormed to the top of the charts with an exhilarating brand of countrified rap that mixed the spirit of Sly and the Family Stone with the political charge of Public Enemy, providing a positive alternative to more confrontational gangsta stylings. Their debut album “3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of...,” which chronicled the time it took the group to get a record deal, sold four million copies and sparked three top ten hits: “Tennessee,” “Mr. Wendal” and “People Everyday.” It also won two Grammys, including the coveted Best New Artist award in 1993, the first time hip-hop had ever taken that prize.
And then it all abruptly fell apart, as internal feuding over control, direction and money belied the group’s idealistic vibe. By the time Arrested Development began work on their second album, they had split into two camps and were communicating with each other through agents and managers. After just two albums of original material, Arrested Development called it quits. Now mostly reunited, the members of this pioneering band reveal the full story of a group who flew high, fell far, and survived to tell the tale.
“The truth is that it has been 20 years removed,” explains AD’s front man Speech. “A lot of beefs that we had, in fact to be honest, all of the beefs that we’ve had, have been reconciled for a while now, say about 10 years or so. We all respect, and even love one another to some extent. When you’ve lived through such highlights and such amazing journeys that we’ve been through with each other, you have a kindred spirit. you know what you’ve been through with each other, and no one can replace that, so there’s a certain bond that comes with the territory.”
AD continues to be a music group that respects women, promotes family, spirituality and male responsibility. Their music addresses consciousness, the earth, African self-determination and love. They call their live shows celebrations. They celebrate the power of life, the certainty of death and struggles of the ancestors. This month, the group released with a mixtape called, “Standing At The Crossroads”.
“From the very beginning, we always wanted to do message music and include the spiritual component to the music,” explained Speech. “It one thing about politics, but then to me, the essence of everybody is our spirit. Our spirit is what tells us what to do. It’s what drives us in the morning and the evening. I became a Christian 17 years ago, and that helped me to really understand a lot more about spirit; what we were created for, purpose and how we can shine the light that God has planted inside of us to the world so that people can also see their way around as well. So its an amazing thing that I was introduced through God.”
Arrested Development premieres on TV One’s series “Unsung” on Aug. 13 at 9 p.m. The episode repeats at midnight. AD’s 20th Anniversary Tour comes to Philadelphia on Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. at The Blockley Pourhouse, 3801 Chestnut St. For information, call (215) 222-1234. For a free download of 13 of AD’s new songs, visit http://newarresteddevelopment.com/.