Hip-hop trailblazers Arrested Development (USA) Celebrate the twenty fifth Anniversary of their Influential debut album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of by performing highlights from the album, plus a special encore of Arrested Development greatest hits and memories. Arrested Development are performing two exclusive headline Shows in Sydney & Melbourne giving fans the opportunity to relive the unique, vibrant sound that put Southern Hip-Hop on the map.
Their iconic 1992 debut album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of heavily explored themes of spirituality, afro-centricity and unity, offering a peaceful and refreshing alternative to gangster rap styles currently dominating the charts in the 90’s. Founding members Speech & Headliner presented a raw, honest approach to song writing that pushed the album to achieve platinum sales in Australia. The album boasts three chart topping singles including People Everyday, Mr Wendal and Tennessee. Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to Speech ahead of these dates. Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to Speech about these dates and everything else that’s happening for the band.
Happy twenty fifth anniversary what better way to celebrate than with two shows in Australia?
Yeah, exactly, we’ll be there, we’re looking forward to it!
Do you wish the tour was a little bit bigger this time round?
Definitely, we want to come to Adelaide and Perth next time, we’re celebrating this twenty fifth anniversary of our first album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of and we’re going throughout Europe and then do Australia then New Zealand. We want to come right back because we love Australia and it is one of my favourite places to be and we want to come to all the other cities that we missed because like I said the Australian people are awesome.
Does it make it harder logistically given the size of the touring party?
No, no it is totally fine, the cost is fine and I don’t know why we aren’t going to more cities. I think it had to do with our scheduling, maybe we had booked some shows in New Zealand first then did some Australian shows. We’re going to Asia straight after so maybe that was the problem but I will be honest I always love going to as many cities as we can in Australia as I love being there and performing for the people.
Twenty five years is a significant milestone for any band, what has the secret been for Arrested Development in keeping it going for so long?
As you well know we had group member changes and there has been times where there has been turmoil in the group. At the same time what has kept us together is passion and at the end of the day we really love music. For me especially I feel like music that has these types of messages and it is a very important factor in life. I’ve always loved music that inspires me and the soundtrack of the life I am trying to live, I feel that music can be that for a lot of people. There’s just a lot of passion behind it.
3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of was such an important album for its time, did you think that it would have such an impact?
Look, we thought it was a special record but at least for me, I can speak for me, I never thought that it would this type of impact but I hoped it did, I hoped it would. I did feel like the songs should resonate with the world, if given the chance it had the types of messages that I believed that were very important. Songs like Tennessee that mixed hip-hop with melody and lyrics of spirituality mixed with the raw realities of black life mixed with prayer. To me it mixed a lot of elements that had not been done in hip-hop and as a hip-hop fan I was really hoping to break through.
Do you still see yourself as a trailblazer?
Oh definitely, we do! I do! I can speak for myself that we are still trailblazing and we have a new song called Where I think is really hitting some new ground. We had a song recently I Don’t See You At The Club, again I think it is some of the most ground breaking material in hip-hop right now. I still feel very positive about what we bring to the table. I feel that our shows are extremely important to hip-hop, like what we do and how we do it is extremely important to the craft of hip-hop to me.
Do you still find it frustrating even with new music that it isn’t as easy now to get your message heard or do you just have to power on?
Yeah, it is both, it is frustrating but we keep on going. I’ve seen a lot of people stop and a lot of people not have any income to keep it going, I’ve seen a lot of people lose inspiration because a lot of hip-hop that is really popular is not super inspiring to some of us who have seen much more brilliant days of hip-hop and much more diverse subject matter going on in hip-hop and a lot more textures musically. I think it is both of what you said and is extremely frustrating but you have to keep on going. To me the alternative choice is basically to quit, yeah we could do that but if you still have so much passion in your blood why do that. I do love it though and I would do this for free, I knew that I loved music this much and that still remains the same. I feel like there are stills where we still do stuff for free and there is still a passion there.
It sounds like more than just a show but a celebration?
Thank you, we agree, we’re about to do a show that is meaningful on numerous levels. Its fun times, it is that simple that we really want to have a party and yet we want to impart concepts and wisdom and honour for ancestors that really have contributed a lot to the world. Sometimes we’ll give a dedication to Bob Marley or Miriam Makeba or who knows, we just bring up people. Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, we love their music yet it is a hip-hop concert. At the end of the day there is a lot of beats, a lot of rhymes, a lot of dancing and high energy stuff so it is a pretty eclectic mix of concepts and vibes.
Did you always intend on slotting in a solo career?
Not at all, I really wanted Arrested Development to be my conduit that I use to make music and successful music. When we broke in 1995, it wasn’t an official break up, more like we just stopped making music, it just fizzled out. I felt this itch to keep writing so I wrote the most what I felt was my first album as a solo artist was very rebellious record against mainstream thought at the time. I wanted to make the most diverse record I could, a lot of hip-hop and a lot of singing on there and a lot of escapism lyrics and political lyrics all at the same time which was being done. Lauren Hill hadn’t come out yet, Fugees were not out yet and it was a very in my opinion a precursor to things that would later come out like Dre or Laura Hill and The Fugees maybe Black Eyed Peas a little bit, stuff like that. I think it was a pretty bold record and just to continue it and do solo music after that I think gave me an outlet to stay creative and to continue to make music that meant something to me.
There always seems to be so much happening politically in America do you still feel angry with where it is at currently? Will a lot of that frustration end up in your new songs?
There is a famous quote as a black person who is conscious you are always angry and that is true. There is always an underlying anger at the injustices you have to face. I was followed by police about two weeks ago and I thought I was going to lose my life and I’m not joking. I literally thought to myself even while I was driving I could lose my life right now and that is an undercurrent that you have to deal with as a black person in 2017.
It has been that way for decades and so it is an underlying frustration and an underlying anger and at the same time I have kids, wife, I have an incredible career, I have an amazing group of friends, I have an awesome business that I do outside of Arrested Development which is an art school. I have these beautiful blessings to and it is tough to balance all of it because there are things that do frustrate and elevate your consciousness to another place, yeah it is a trip.
We have this absolutely ignorant president and an incredible disappointment not only to us as Americans but in my opinion to literally every citizen on this planet. We have mass shootings with people being slaughtered for no reason other than a nation that has a fascination with guns and violence. There are a lot of things that frustrate and I could go on longer but why do that.
What is on the horizon for Arrested Development?
We’re definitely still recording and we are working on a movie script for a feature film. I went in to a prison recently and started recording music with inmates and I want to release that. I documented that with some partners of mine, we want to release that because we think it is a really powerful statement about gifts that human beings receive and being able to use those gifts, not for their own pleasure but to find their own purpose in life so they can become more productive citizens in this world. It is called Sixteen Bars and I’m really excited about that. More music, the movie script and Sixteen Bars is what’s happening.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch Arrested Development on the following dates…