Arrested Development

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Arrested Development

Like a shining beckon of hope in ’92, Arrested Development rose above the murky waters of early nineties gangsta rap to be named band of the year by Rolling Stone, win two Grammy awards and sell four million copies of their debut album. Fast forward twenty-odd years and their brand of uplifting, soulful grooves are as pertinent as ever. I was lucky enough to sit down with the one and only original founding member, Speech, ahead of their anticipated appearance at WOMADelaide.
“Our music is as relevant as ever. When we first started this band over twenty years ago, we called it Arrested Development because that was our main focus – to stop the arrested development in the US and all over the world. It was and still is the thing we fight against. We’re just as energetic, driven and excited now as we were then.”
Their best-known singles, ‘Everyday People’, ‘Mr Wendal’ and ‘Tennessee’, have truly stood the test of time – and have got the crowd dancing on every one of their numerous visits to Australia. “I like to say Australians are smart people … and they definitely know good music!” Speech joked.
“We are so looking forward to playing WOMAD this year. I love festivals in general, but I like WOMAD especially because of the different influences in music and culture that are in one spot. And I have an appreciation for the vibe, the love there – you can’t beat it! I promise that WOMAD festival-goers are in for a treat. We have unreleased music that we plan to play and put out very soon. We’re really excited – it’s awesomely powerful music, but of course we’ll do our classics as well.”
Since those classics were released, Arrested Development has undergone small transformations – line-up changes and the aftermath of losing the onstage presence of the group’s spiritual guru, Baba OJ. “No matter what, Arrested Development has always had a great energy. I think the music helps to produce it, and although we’ve had different members over the years, that vitality is a constant. We absorb the positive energy from each other.”
To harness some of that energy, Speech has been working with revered hip hop producer Kevin ‘Khao’ Cates: “We’re working on a new album, and I can tell you it will be called Splash. As for the release date, we’re not sure but we’re working on that.
“We love to experiment with the sound. We’re going with a lot of synths on this album – a sort of new style. We’ve messed around with trap beats – it’s interesting stuff we’ve never done before. It’s fresh, it’s innovative. We want people to view it as if we’re growing,” Speech explained happily, but he wanted to make it clear that lyrical content and themes had not changed.
However, times have changed since their inception, but Speech assured me he’s no slouch when it comes to social media and keeping in contact with fans: “By the time we get to Australia in March, we’ll have launched an Arrested Development app that people can download – and it’s free!”
When&Where: WOMADelaide – March 7 to 10
Written by Natalie Rogers