20 years ago a group from Atlanta, GA emerged onto the hip hop scene and changed the game. Their music did not blend in with the gangster mentality that was dominating rap at the time and their look was more afro-centric and eccentric, than thuggish or hardcore. Grammy award winning group Arrested Development introduced the rap game to the simplistic country life and a sense of unity that was somewhat lacking from the music. (but lets not forget the afro centric movement that groups like A Tribe Called Quest were a part of)
They fused soul, hip hop, R&B, and folk music while elevating the social consciousnesses of young people with their lyricism. For those who watched their story on the TV One bio series, Unsung, they were not perfect, as no hip hop group is. They had the typical group fallouts, including their major fallout with former AD member and singer/songwriter Dionne Farris, who’s the featured vocalist on their popular tune “Tennessee.” But, one thing is for sure: whenever you put Speech, Montsho Eshe, One Love, Tasha Larae, Rasadon (aka Don Norris),Baba Oje JJ Boogie, and Za together, there is going to be a revolutionary party.
I personally witnessed that revolutionary party during their recent performance at Chene Park in Detroit. The ethnic vibe that the group personifies was definitely present. One of the background singers came out dancing to an African chant as the group’s leader Speech hyped up the crowd with old school hip hop phrases. Then they went into their smash hit “Mr. Wendal” from their first album, 3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days in the life of…
Only AD could write a song about homelessness and have people dancing all over the place. Then they had the audience pumping up their fist in a black power and shouting during the militant joint “Revolution” which was featured on the Malcolm X soundtrack.
AD member One Love showcased his amazing flow on the spiritual tune “Give A Man A Fish” and they dedicated their song “Mama’s Always On Stage” to all the mother’s in the room.
The only bad part about the concert was that the group only performed a few songs from their past albums before the show was over. After about 7 acts came and went, AD was the last act to perform, and by then the crowd started to dwindle, which is a shame considering the important role the group has played in shaping the core of hip hop music.
But, they ended the show on a high note, performing their hit song “People Everyday, which samples the Sly and the Family Stone song “Everyday People.”
The group is making their way back to the U.S. mainstream and released their tenth album Standing At The Crossroads last month.(Check out the album here) They are currently on tour celebrating their 20th anniversary so be sure to check them out if you have a chance. When a hip hop group can make it 20 years, and still get a crowd jumping, then you know their music meant something.
Check out their new single and their classic hip hop tune “Tennessee” below.