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Arrested Development

by Luke Wainwright

The name of Arrested Development could have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bringing intelligent life to the hip-hop scene in 1992 with its debut, “Three Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of . . . ,” this Atlanta-based unit deftly detoured around gangsta rap’s dead end while keeping the messages relevant. Four years, two Grammys and two albums later, the life of Arrested Development came to an abrupt halt. Some said it had fallen victim to record-label mergers; others placed the blame on the controlling tendencies of AD’s outspoken leader, Speech. Most agreed, though, this was a sad development.

As a solo artist, Speech didn’t reach the heights of AD, but he did find himself a devout flock in Japan, where his album “Spiritual People” went gold. It wasn’t surprising that when AD did decide to reunite last year (minus singer Dionne Farris and DJ Headliner) it staged its return at the Summer Sonic fest near Fuji. Furthermore, the latest release, “The Heroes of the Harvest,” has only been released in Japan (although this is probably due more to record-label woes than market loyalty).

While Speech still likes to preach from his pulpit, the new AD sound is more collaborative, a dense mix that covers a wider territory — from New Orleans to South Africa — and graciously lets in other voices. On “In Da South,” a phat funk celebration of a ride below the Mason-Dixon line, the diversity comes to the fore as all the AD players throw down.

For AD’s upcoming gigs, expect a sweaty show of righteous raps, silky smooth musicianship and tight choreography. And cross your fingers for a performance of their Rastified version of “Hit the Road Jack.”