If you’re able to captivate an audience with musicality, lyricism, and energy, they’ll love you forever — look at J. Cole. Arrested Development (AD) is a group that can naturally captivate an audience, after 25 years in the game, without thinking about it. On Thursday night at The Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., they shut it down.
Lead vocalists, Speech, Fareedah and Tasha Larae belted out AD favorites like “Tennessee” and “People Everyday.” The Grammy award winning group commanded the audience with bright colors, patterned wardrobe, dynamic dance moves, audience participation and bursting with flavor personalities.
A group that has changed the game in hip-hop music by adding elements of other genres, such as alternative and reggae, Arrested Development has a lot to say about the significance this tour, how they work together and social issues, such as #OscarsSoWhite, Stacey Dash, and artists who are consciously woke.
In your Instagram account bio, you have the hashtag, #BlkHistoryMonth — What is the significance of Arrested Development touring during Black History Month, specifically?
Fareedah: For me, the first thing that came to mind was that there was a time in history where we couldn’t perform. We weren’t performers. We “performed” to uplift our spirits, and once we got on stage, we had to go through the back door. When you look at the evolution of Black people on stage, we’ve come a long way and it’s a blessing to be in this position.
Speech: These particular dates just so happened to drop during Black History Month, but for me, I’ve been consciously thinking about this month because the whole nation has their mind thinking about our contribution, our state — where we are. For me, I was like, ‘We need to drop our next few records in this month,’ so that while people are talking about Black issues we can drop these records, which are packed with a lot of subject matter that is important for us as a people.
Tasha Larae: For what we do, every time we jump on stage, we take that celebration with us… It’s like we say this in the music, but it’s truly, the truth — it’s a celebration of life, it’s a celebration of death, and it’s a celebration of our ancestors. All the things that they had to go through in order for us to even be where we are right now. Granted, things aren’t the best, but we aren’t living the say that they’re living right now. We don’t have those issues now, we have the repercussions of those issues, but it’s not the same thing, so for us to be able to jump on stage and do that, it’s us giving our thanks and appreciation for what they did.
How would you describe your musical style?
Speech: We call it ‘life music,’ literally. It’s everything. It’s a mixture of hip-hop, of course, that’s the basis of it. Some blues, some rock, some funk, reggae. The new album, it’s got a little bit of everything, afro-beat, R&B. We’re not afraid to experiment and go different places. That feels natural to us.
A lot of your music revolves around black reality and similar concepts, how do you feel about the recent #OscarsSoWhite movement, and how does this translate to the music industry?
Fareedah: It’s not to be confused with the idea that things should be, necessarily, segregated. I think back to Stacey Dash’s comments, [about BET and Black History Month] it’s not that we are separating ourselves, we are uplifting ourselves. Having an awards show for us is just showing you that ‘I don’t need you to give me validation and recognition.’ It’s taking your power back, taking your power into your own hands. Recognizing that it’s necessary isn’t a bad thing, and you can’t erase the fact that it’s necessary.
Tasha Larae: To even do that doesn’t mean that if I’m going to uplift myself and my people, it doesn’t mean you have to put somebody else down in order to do that. It’s sad, but if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it? By default, it’s already segregated. That’s just been engrained into the fabric of who America is, so it’s caused things like this to happen. We have to do something, or we’re not going to be celebrated at all and the image of Black people will continue to be degraded.
Why did you decide to drop two albums in one month?
Speech: It was really important to do it because we’ve been sitting on a lot of tracks. Some of the tracks are 4 or 5 years old. We were trying to wait for the music industry to heal. We just got tired of waiting, so we were like, ‘Let’s drop some music,’ and then we were thinking about when to drop it and then Black History Month.
As a group, you’ve won Grammy awards, Soul Train Awards and NAACP Awards, what’s next?
Speech: I would feel so good to get another Grammy. That would be a really big accomplishment. It would silence anybody thinking it was a one album wonder, and that to me is very important.
Fareedah: I agree and disagree with the Grammys thing. The Grammys thing would be great because it’s the world’s validation. Coming off the #OscarsSoWhite thing, it’s kind of the same thing with the Grammys, only because it’s the music equivalent to the Oscars. What I would want is a band like AD to reach the consciousness of the masses in a way that some of the other music out there reaches it, like a Future or a Beyoncé or a Jay-Z, Sam Smith. There’s a climate in music right now, where a band like Arrested Development and the messages that we bring aren’t the top of pop culture right now.
Thoughts on J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar as examples of artists people like, but who maintain an element of consciousness in their music for this generation?
Fareedah: I think they’re the closest thing to it right now. I love them because they have a bit of balance. They are balancing the turn up in our culture with the turn up of your mind. They’re walking that line. They’re talking substance and they’re talking about the other stuff, and sometimes, that’s necessary.
Listen to the whole interview here: