February 17, 2016 Arrested Development – Changing the Narrative (Album Review)
Arrested Development has been heading the American Alternative Hip Hop genre since 1988 as a positive, thought-provoking brand of music. Weathering the ups and downs of the music industry, a break-up, and the changing climate around them, Arrested Development has survived it all. After honing their skills, sound, and signing with Chrysalis Records, the band released their debut in 1992, 3 Years, 5 Month, 2 Days in the Life of…, an album which would go platinum in Canada, the US, and the UK, backed up by the powerful singles “People Everyday,” “Revolution,” “Tennessee,” “Mr. Wendel,” and “Natural.” They continued their streak by releasing 1993’s Unplugged, which went gold in the US, and won two Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, and were also named Band of the Year by Rolling Stone magazine.
However, 1994’s Zingalamaduni did not fare as well in the US, despite going silver in the UK. With successful solo careers sprouting for members of the band, by 1996, Arrested Development had seemed to be over. Thankfully founder Todd “Speech” Thomas reunited the band in 2000 and Arrested Development has been going strong since, releasing albums and touring internationally. Now, in February of 2016, they unleash a pair of albums, entitled Changing the Narrative and just a few weeks later, This Was Never Home. With the lineup of Speech on vocals/turntables, Dancer/Vocalist Fareedah, Vocalist Tasha LaRae, Vocalist sampler 1 Love, Bassist Za, Guitarist JJ Boogie, and Drummer Smok, Changing the Narrative is out now for free download via www.adtheband2.com
Co-produced by Speech, Za, and JJ Boogie, Changing the Narrative is a 13-track celebration of positive vibes. Beginning with “It’s a Star Time,” as the drum-roll ignites the track, followed by the light bass beat and the tables start turning. This opening cut sets the album’s tone as the group calls their brand of music “life music,” meaning they talk about every facet of life. Next is the track “Unstoppable,” featuring Reggae Singer Omar Perry. Featuring a light Funk/Hip Hop beat with horns accompanying, the group sings of going for yours despite the highs and the lows, and to not get caught in the stereotypes that come with race.
Moving on to “Get Up,” featuring Independent Artist Tracie Cieara, a horn riff brings in the track followed by another Funk retro beat as the group sing about making a plan to not listen to naysayers, and look to God to help make your way. Arrested Develop takes a jab at Gangsta Rap, taking a more common beat of the genre, and juxtaposing their positive lyrics in “Devoted to the People.” This song raps of the state of we, as a people, and that we need to be devoted to lifting each other instead of tearing down. A horn riff dominates “Let’s Build” as the harder-edged Hip Hop beat accompanies. Like the song says, the melody builds on itself, rising as the group sings about the virtues of getting an education and learning from life.
Being the inventive artists that Arrested Development are, “Right Direction” has a Caribbean flavor with some interesting vocal samples accompanying. The rapping is hyper with rhymes coming at a breakneck speed with the message of doing right by other people regardless what other people do. The Jazz-flavored “Better Days” comes in with a hard bassline. As the tune opens up, the group makes the melody by snapping their fingers and vocal instrumentals while singing about pushing through society’s darkness to make a better way. “I Knew It” features R&B/Soul Singer Jaye “Jahah” Berry as his soulful voice shines with a retro beat, again with the bass front and center. The group’s message is the power that faith can have on a person. A voiceover brings in “I Don’t See You at the Club.” The hip bluesy club melody underscores the title with a mix of beats and horns in this tune of balancing fun with maturity, and Arrested Development leaving their legacy in the clubs while not getting caught up in the club scene mess.
The upbeat style of “Stage Sex” is infectious with its retro Disco vibe as the group repeats the title using the psychology of using the word “sex” to get the attention when, in fact, their singing about the euphoria of the give and take of performing and audience participation. An opening horn riff begins “Smile,” which features Rapper/Pop singer Elle Ranae in this anthemic piece of the virtues of smiling to uplift and lighten moods. Slowing down the pace for a bit, “U2” says that everything starts with you, from your personal feelings to the progress of society. Closing Changing the Narrative is “Open,” a dynamic, multi-layered beat as the group exults God’s decision to let us be born, so that some of us may die to make a difference and open people’s eyes and hearts.
Arrested Development has made a mission of lifting through their music in an era where so many missions are to tear down and segregate. Changing the Narrative continues that legacy. True, the group has a hard row to hoe when the norm is wanting to see the trainwreck instead of helping the train get across the track, but with this album, they are going in the right direction. Now, be on the lookout for This Was Never Home to come soon. CrypticRock gives Changing the Narrative 5 out of 5 stars.