Selected by Dan Grunebaum
On the comeback trail
A few months back,
irrepressible leader of rap collective Arrested Development, Speech, made a promotional
appearance on Tokyo' InterFM. Responding to fan interest with an on-air rendition of new
tracks off the group's reunion album, Speech was playing to a Japanese audience that has
continued to support Arrested Development even after they dropped out of sight in the US
following a remarkable burst of creative energy in the early '90s.
Kicking off their reunion tour with an appearance at last year's Summer Sonic festival,
the current Arrested Development lineup includes all the original members with the
exception of cofounder Timothy Barnwell. The band had broken up in 1996 after wowing the
world with the revolutionary, socially aware grooves of 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days
in the Life Of. Speech's controlling behavior took most of the blame. But in a recent
SonicNet story, dancer Eshe said all the members bore responsibility.
"You never know how you're gonna react to fame until you actually experience
it," she said. "Everybody had their own personal issues, whether it be greed or
envy or wanting to be in control. I blame each and every member of the group for the
breakup, because none of us was really trying to compromise."
Putting their differences (and a couple of disappointing Speech solo albums) behind them,
the new Arrested Development re-emerge at a time when hip hop is increasingly dominated by
the now reformed gangsta rapper Dr Dre et al. Will AD's proud Afro-centrism continue to
strike a chord in the new millennium? Questionable, but they nonetheless are determined to
forge on and have been in the studio recording tracks for the new album, Heroes of the
Harvest, which is due to be released imminently.
"You'll recognize it right off the bat," Speech told SonicNet about the
album. "We decided to go vintage because our feel is people wanna hear what they
already heard from AD... That was a real challenge for us, because this time around all of
us wanted to be more involved in the writing."
Eshe concurred. "The new stuff blows the old stuff out of the water," she said.
"Now you're really hearing Arrested Development; you're hearing all the voices.
You're hearing me, Baba and Ras; you're hearing our stories, and it just meshes so well
together. We have great chemistry together."
Development play Shibuya AX on May 25 and 26. See
listings for details.