Arrested Development

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Arrested Development


“ No more consciousness, just blingin’ it, blingin’ it / World massacres happen, no one rappin’ or singin’ it / Corporations and rappers now gettin’ along / We are distracted with girls, women, thongs / No more Public Enemy or remedies / With the oppressed the oppressors are friendly…” – Speech, Bloody .

No more consciousness, just blingin’ it, blingin’ it / World massacres happen, no one rappin’ or singin’ it / Corporations and rappers now gettin’ along / We are distracted with girls, women, thongs / No more Public Enemy or remedies / With the oppressed the oppressors are friendly…” – Speech, Bloody .

Not since Public Enemy or Dead Prez has a group been so crucial to resurrecting hip hop from the detritus of the 21st century, than Arrested Development. They are the hard hitters, the non-compromisers, the injectors of social consciousness, spreading the good word since their 1992 debut album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days In The Life Of…

Spike Lee once made a brilliant, if not controversial observation that contemporary gangsta rap culture is the new millennium’s version on the black minstrel show. Lee was onto something. Tune into MTV or its ilk any given day and the TV sizzles with a parade of high budget theatre where ho’s in metallic bikinis gyrate under Cristal waterfalls while blue skies rain dollar bills, where ringed fingers pull triggers on high-calibre glocks and everyone sheds tattoo tears and drives gold-trimmed Bentleys. But it’s in this toxic fantasy world, which undermines the social integrity and the intellect of modern black America, that Arrested Development’s lead vocalist Speech finds his ammunition.

Arrested Development have forged a niche in the world of unconventional hip hop by presenting a less cynical and militant, more optimistic style of music that assures the listener that hip hop can change, and change for the better.

When I call Speech in Atlanta, Georgia we reflect on the year 2007 when we first met, locked together in a room that looked like a government interrogation box whilst we battled it out over the impact of detrimental rap in the African American community. The question that hangs heavy over the conversation three years on is whether progress been made?

“You know, hip hop music has taken such a turn,” Speech reflects. “I think music has so much to do with how pop culture is and unfortunately with business entities becoming so much more powerful in the world, music has now – in my opinion – taken a back seat to corporate interest.

“Corporations are sort of steering the ship as far as hip hop is concerned. Artists are just sort of falling in line with corporate interest and really talking about the same stuff and it’s actually amazed me how far and how long this materialism has been tolerated. That’s mainstream hip hop. Of course,” he adds, “there are so many great, great hip hop artists that are underground that I really am moved by.”

Indeed, you think the cycle will end but it doesn’t. Maybe it’s a misplaced positivity on behalf of idealists (such as myself)… but it seems that brutal negativity in hip hop has long outstayed its welcome. It’s a sentiment Speech clearly agrees with. “Oh yeah, definitely it’s outstayed its welcome,” Speech confirms.


“We’ll see what happens but I think that we’re in some new times and I’m not pessimistic but I do think it’s worth mentioning that…” Speech stops to contemplate. “I don’t know that ever before has the world been so small, in the sense of media getting out to the people. I’m talking about the mainstream now,” he qualifies. “Mainstream media getting out to the people is pretty much all on the same tip. Through technology the world has gotten so much smaller and so it seems as if a small amount of people – maybe in some big corporations here and there – are able to make some pretty big decisions for a lot of people on the planet.

“I’m not against technology…” he adds, “actually I’m sitting here looking at a Mac computer right now, but nonetheless I think bad usage of technology has…” he pauses,

‘Outweighed its pros?’ I offer.

“Definitely,” Speech confirms.

The state of not only hip hop but the world itself are dissected and examined thoroughly on Arrested Development’s latest album Strong: a resilient twelve track long player that takes as much pride in its complex societal messages as well as its dazzling hip hop beats. It’s the freshest hip hop album of 2010, completed by the group’s hyperkinetic, sharp-as-a-razorblade new rapper named One Love – the polar opposite to Speech’s more composed poetic inflections.

Take the lyrics of track Bloody with Speech’s dazzling phrasing intricacies: “In the democratic republic of Congo, Hutu extremists they massacred many souls / Those Tutsis died, a genocide was full blown / The world they watched and thus the world they condoned.” Juxtapose that against the lyrics of Greener: “Many of us poor so we take the mass transport / Walk streets, bump beats, that’s what the headphones are for / No SUV’s steady spilling mad smoke / All the baller images is just us in the video. Or Freedom’s message: “1906 in Atlanta, race riots / Where the whites massacred blacks, police stayed quiet / We all still livin’ and the blood still talks and the freedom train comin’, don’t nobody walk.”

Now place those words alongside Snoop’s pimp posturing or 50 Cent’s extreme machismo and… need more be said? Strong presents the antithesis to the America you’re force-fed through your television. It’s the real United States, a place where the third world meets the first and brazenly investigates subject matter much of the music industry is fearful of facing in the current economic and political climate.

It’s put to Speech how One Love is such a fascinating contradiction to the group – whether that be in his whip-smart phrasing or a rhythmic restlessness that has made Arrested Development more than just the thinking man’s hip hop group, but also the life of the party.

“Yeah it’s so true,” Speech says. “It was interesting, ‘cause when we were touring a whole lot and the emphasis in hip hop started to change from what you’re saying lyrically to primarily flow, I just noticed a void in what the group presented.

“One Love was always a big guy on flowin’, more concerned about rhythmic delivery than I was and so he would just come on stage whenever we would do a show in town. After a while it just dawned on me. I was like, ‘Well why don’t you just come on the road with us?’ And then it happened organically. He filled a gap. What I didn’t do, he did and what he doesn’t do I do, and like you said it just complemented each other. ”

Coming to Australia for a show at The Espy on December 29 and for New Years at the Pyramid Rock Festival, I tell Speech that Australia are counting down the days ‘til he and his posse arrive and that, without Arrested Development, the hip hop cause – or what Speech likes to refer to as “message music” – would simply be lacking.

“I really, really appreciate that” Speech says. “Like I said, we travel a lot and probably the only place I can think of that we all went to and said we don’t ever want to leave is Australia… that’s how much we love it. Maybe in our future there’s some living time there. Man, I’m so fired up.”

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT play a huge show at The Espy on Wednesday December 29 (tickets from, The Espy bottleshop, 1300 762 545 or Polyester and Greville Records) and also headline the PYRAMID ROCK FESTIVAL – alongside N*E*R*D*, The Temper Trap, Chromeo, Xavier Rudd, Mystery Jets, Gyroscope, Little Red, Lightspeed Champion, Future Of The Left and heaps more on Phillip Island across December 30-January 1. Tickets and info from ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT’s latest album, Strong , is out now.