Exclusive: Arrested Development discusses past, present, and future

Remember this?

That was the final single to hit the top 10 for Arrested Development from their 1992 debut album, 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of…

Prior to the release of that single, they were on top of the world. The album’s success garnered them a Grammy award for best new artist and best rap performance. They were also named band of the year by Rolling Stone Magazine. They put out 3 singles that hit the top 10 on the Billboard Charts.

Most importantly, they were putting out great music. The album was released in 1992, just a year after Tupac Shakur’s debut album, a year after NWA’s final album, and the same year as Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. In other words, rap was at a very sensitive and scary point in the mainstream.

In some ways, that is how Arrested Development was able to gain notoriety because of that. Still, they certainly didn’t always hit on the positive subject matter. In fact, many of Speech’s lyrics were about just the contrary, including three of the song’s biggest singles.

“The alternative rap thing definitely wasn’t our decision,” he said. “That was the writers calling us alternative because our message was fresh and different from 90 percent of rappers in the hip hop game. I like to think of us as broadening the definition of hip hop.”

They certainly did that with this set of classics. There’s no question that the impact of 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of… was there. They were poised to keep going, and to continue making classics. If alternative rap was a thing, they had pretty-well solidified themselves within the confines of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.

They were making songs that sounded upbeat, but didn’t necessarily have upbeat lyrics to go along with it. “Tennessee” is about the death of Speech’s grandmother. “Mr. Wendal” is about a homeless guy. “People Everyday” is about getting into a fight while on a date.

“I think that’s one of our fortes,” Speech explained. “When youl isten to some of the music and really dissect the lyrics, some of it has an undertone of grit to it. It has a happy energy, but at the base of it, there’s a real foundation there, a real grit, a real hip hop sensitivity to what we’re talking about.”

Either way, the concept worked, and it got them into elite company.

It ultimately wasn’t because of the album’s commercial success. They deserved to keep going because of the album’s technical and critical success. It wasn’t just a popular album, it was a really, really good album. But even so, strange as it may be, the music business doesn’t always cater to talent. It caters to what is hot at the time. For some reason, Arrested Development fell off the charts with their follow-up album, 1994’s Zingalamaduni. It was a good album, and did well overseas, but the album flopped in the United States.

The album felt a bit more stripped down than their debut, but it still had the Arrested Development sound that people fell in love with on the first album, and included Speech’s unique delivery. A couple years later, the band took a break.

It wasn’t until 2000 that another new album would hit, but the break didn’t do anything for their commercial success, at least not in the United States. Since 2000, they have continued to tour and make music along the way, compiling an astounding 7 albums as a group (not to mention Speech’s solo work). They haven’t found the success in the United States that they’d prefer, but they are still selling to huge crowds in other places in the world, particularly Japan.

Fast-forwarding to 2012, the group is still together, and still making music. Their style has developed and progressed in a god way, but you can still tell it’s them.

This track got the attention of producer Khao Cates, who is best-known for his work with T.I., Rick Ross and Young Jeezy. Arrested Development, while a hip hop band, is rarely categorized with that group. Because of that, the fit didn’t seem like something that would be there, until Cates heard Speech’s changed-up rhyming style.

“I’m sitting there, listening to ‘Living’, any I’m like, ‘who is that rapping on the track?’,'” Cates said. “After that I called Speech up and told him ‘man, we should work on something together’.”

They did, and they still are.

“We wanted a big sound,” Cates said. “But we still needed something that takes it to another level with the new age/urban twist, all while still being Arrested Development.”

The song “Living” proved they could still sound like their old selves with a bigger sound, but Cates wanted to take it to another level. Their newest music video for the song, “Out to the World” is as good an example as any. Not only does their new music sound bigger than their music from the 90s (or even 2012’s Standing at the Crossroads, which was amazingly recorded on a laptop), their message sounds just as big.

What’s tougher: making a smash hit record, or staying together after the hometown success falls to the wayside? For Arrested Development, it has to be the former, because they’re having the time of their lives, and have (more or less) managed to stay a full group for over twenty years.

“It really is a family environment. We have a lot of fun, we make jokes,” said Tasha Larae. ” We have very different viewpoints on life, religion, politics, and all that in general, but the fact that we respect each other enough to hear what the other has to say helps a lot.”

No matter the reason, the group continues to not only work together, but to make good music together, and do it in a collective family environment.

No, they haven’t seen the success they saw with their debut album. Not in the United States, anyway. Despite their successes in Australia, Japan, Canada, and parts of Europe, they’re still working on gaining back the popularity of their home turf. Although, that’s not to say that popularity is their prime objective, it’s clearly the music and the method that comes along with it.

“We don’t want to be looked at as just 90s,” Speech said. “We’re still here, and wanting to make people think of us as relevant. There’s so many places where we go where the stuff is celebrated. We’d love it if people here at home celebrated it too.”

Whether Americans take notice of their new content or not, their first album will always be celebrated. Those lucky enough to encounter their less-heard follow-ups should have reason to celebrate once they listen.

Tags: 3 Years 5 Months & 2 Days In The Life Of A Tribe Called Quest Arrested Development De La Soul Exclusive Interview Khao Cates Rick Ross Speech T.i. Tasha Larae Ti Young Jeezy

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