The hip-hop group Arrested Development is synonymous with classic conscious rap music that was created to spark thought, conversation, and healing to listeners all over the world. At the helm of this musical ship is its pioneering frontman, Speech.

Speech took some time out of his busy music schedule to speak to Rapzilla about a variety of topics such as their new music, the state of music, his faith and ministry, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. In part one of this interview series, we’ll see what Arrested Development is up to now and how they influenced the culture around them.

A.D. was formed in the late 80s and had a great run until about 1996 when they disbanded. After a few years away from the changing hip-hop industry, Speech along with some new members came back in 2000. Since that time they have released nine different projects.

However, it is 2016 that sees the band really moving quickly. In February they dropped two albums, Changing the Narrative and This was Never Home.

“We’ve been waiting for the music industry to get to a better place. The industry has been sick for quite awhile…” Speech said. “After awhile we felt there was no point to keep waiting. The music is still relevant, still fresh, and it needs to be heard.”

The first project is to help get the audience’s feet wet. Changing the Narrative is free because it features a lot of samples. They didn’t want to go through the hassle of clearing them all, so they just put it out. Speech came from that era and just wanted to do it out of love.

This was Never Home was released to make up for what they were giving away for free. The goal was to let people know that they are still here and still relevant.

“We wanted to be part of the dialogue and the narrative,” Speech said.

The first album deals with waking up from the American dream while the second offers solutions to some of the trash the media blasts toward the youth.

The first single and music video off of,This was Never Home is “Out to the World.”

“Out to the World” offers a sort of healing to the hip-hop landscape. Speech feels that it is anthemic and pulls people together to remind them of the power of love.

“Love is literally the most powerful force that we have…” he said. “There’s so much division that we feel like the song can help to spark another discussion of just our commonalities as a human race. In the video, we mixed faces in with each other and wanted to present a picture of more of what are our commonalities as opposed to our differences starting from ‘I love you’ and not, ‘I disagree with you’.”

Love is at the base of so much and yet covered by the things that divide. And in trying to get our points across its so easy to forget WHY we were trying to get the point across in the first place. LOVE erases the obstacle (if even for a moment) and reminds us of the humanity. Sometimes we must pull back from words and remember our hearts. #OutToTheWorld From the NEW "Arrested Development" album #ThisWasNeverHome Available Now If you like it pls share!

Posted by Speech Thomas on Monday, February 29, 2016

A.D. has a worldwide audience that has brought them to Japan, Australia, and parts of Europe. The fanbase in these areas is strong, but for some reason, America is the toughest place for them to break through.

Speech doesn’t mind it because he knows they are dealing with a new generation that may have not even been alive when A.D. first came out. New audiences and young people are now discovering the music and they are growing once again.

“We have that battle,” he said. “I look at these releases as if we’re starting from scratch and I look at it as if we are an indie, no-name band.”

However, Arrested Development is used to adversity. When they first started shopping their debut album, 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of, they were having some difficulty.

Speech was able to get in touch with De La Soul’s, Posdnuos, and get his feedback on the record. He said A.D. “had something” but he couldn’t help them at the time. It was that small feedback that gave them the fortitude to keep pressing on until they made it.

The sound’s and message of Arrested Development were nothing new individually, but when put together, people had never heard anything quite like them.

“Just like anything that’s original, it never really is original. It’s a mixture of things brought together, and that was us as well,” the emcee said.

He said a lot of A.D.’s sound was derived from Public Enemy. They swapped out some of that more militant anger and molded it together with a group like De La Soul. De La had a bit of a message but was also very musical. Two other influences were the Jungle Brothers and Fishbone because they helped them smash stereotypes for what Black people did.

As Arrested Development and some of the other conscious artists started growing, the music industry began to rapidly change around them. The market was starting to be flooded with the next wave of hip-hop, gangster rap. While the themes of violence, partying, drugs, and the like were not new to hip-hop, all of a sudden it was the mainstream and everyone else fell into the background.

It was at that point that Arrested Development began to struggle with record sales and the industry around them. They soon called it quits in 1996, but the story wasn’t over yet…

Check back with Rapzilla next week to read part two of our interview with Speech where he discusses the segregation of hip-hop, the influx of media’s influence on music, and their struggle.