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This is an Interesting Arrested Development

By Staff | Aug 26, 2008

Arrested Development has been charting new waters in hip-hop for nearly 20 years. Not only is their music a backlash against gangsta-dominated music, but their philanthropy sets them apart, too. They were the first African-American artists to donate money to Nelson Mandela. Arrested Development also composed music for Spike Lee’s X. They will be playing at Huntington’s V Club on Friday, Aug. 29, at 11:30 pm. We spoke to the band’s leader, Speech. For more info, check out  www.arresteddevelopmentmusic.com.

Graffiti: Tell me about your latest CD.

AD: Oh, man. It’s exciting. It’s called, “Since The Last Time.” We’re also recording a new album we hope to release this fall and I have been doing a solo album, too, “The Grown Folks Table.” It’s basically a coming of age album, since I will be turning 40 in October. I still love hip-hop, but there are a lot of things I’m passionate about; I have a lot of material. I’m going to address things that aren’t being addressed, but in a palatable way. Things like, being a parent and not relying on fame to validate you. In the black community, a lot of the men are leaving the women to raise their families by themselves. It’s overwhelming to the women and the children become angry and disenfranchised. I talk about the realities of being a father and husband and by being there, you become a “celebrity” to that child and wife.

Graffiti: Your music has always sought to spread culture to other cultures É kind of how Paul Simon’s “Graceland” did. How did you decide your music would be more than a catchy tune?

AD: For me, it was my background. My mom’s the owner of the Milwaukee Community Journal, the black newspaper for Milwaukee. My mom and dad talked about community issues around the breakfast table. I learned when you give back, it opens up opportunities. When you help, not just blame someone, things get better. If you decide to leave things as they are, things get chaotic — not just for that neighborhood, either. It’s more gratifying to me than just putting out some dance song. Dance is important, but dance songs are a dime a dozen. There’s a deeper way to reach people. That’s more rare, it’s like a pearl.

Graffiti: Do you play any instruments?

AD: Just the turntables. My dad owned a nightclub when I was 13. I am a trained vocalist and your voice is an instrument, too.

Graffiti: Do you come from a musical family?

AD: My mom can play organ. My dad’s nightclub was a business for him.

Graffiti: How old were you when you got into the music business?

AD: I was 8 or 9. My dad helped pay for me to release vinyl records when I was in high school. I was popular; people would pay me to have my band play for them.

Graffiti: What’s your take on the music industry today, with the CD sales game vs. downloads?

AD: It’s in deep labor pains. The fruit has yet to be seen. With the digital world, it’s changed the playing field. People are shopping on the Internet. It opens up the scope for the independent artist. But there are a lot less major labels — fewer opportunities for radio and video. There’s a lot less diversity on the radio. The hip-hop you hear, it’s mainly the dirty south sound.

Graffiti: Have you had other jobs besides being a musician?

AD: No. I do my solo career and produce. My dad owns a corn roasting business and we do help run that two weeks a year.

Graffiti: What music do you listen to?

AD: Everything from Coldplay to Braille, an independent underground hip-hop artist. I’ll listen to Lil’ Wayne, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Jurassic Five, Kanye West and blue note jazz.

Graffiti: Who are you musical influences?

AD: For each record, I’ll have a different influence. For my solo album, it was Braille and Kanye West. For the Arrested Development album, it was Coldplay and Queen.

Graffiti: You have made a point of giving money to special causes and not spending it on jewels. Do you think you’ll be able to influence other bands to do the same or is it too entrenched?

AD: I definitely know we are changing things. I believe in the power to influence. We’re making a huge difference with our friends. We don’t let everyone know all that we do. We gave money to the Sudan, to human trafficking organizations, to prevent slavery and sex slavery. We help with homelessness groups. We’re causing a ripple.

Contact Tamar at tfleishman@graffitiwv.com