Pro­mot­ing pride in self

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The year was 1992. The first Bush was in of­fice, the in­ter­net was barely a whis­per and on the ra­dio, an eclec­tic, At­lanta-grown mu­si­cal col­lec­tive was cap­tur­ing the pub­lic con­scious­ness with a south­ern-tinged tune, iron­i­cally ti­tled “Ten­nessee.”

They called them­selves Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment, and the next few years would see the en­sem­ble group rise to the top of the charts on the strength of down-home hits like “Peo­ple Ev­ery­day” and “Mr. Wen­dal.” By the mid’90s how­ever, the group seemed to van­ish just as fast as it ap­peared, leav­ing a hole in the bur­geon­ing so­cially-con­scious mu­sic scene that would stand empty for years.

On Oct. 14, their unique brand of alt-hip hop will re­turn to the stage as the group plays the main stage at At­lanta Pride. The group will join hip hop artist Dej Loaf, R&B icons The Pointer Sis­ters and other artists per­form­ing for the city’s largest Pride cel­e­bra­tion.

So­cial me­dia raises in­ter­est in group

The per­for­mance is the group’s first Pride show and comes at a par­tic­u­larly aus­pi­cious time: so­cial me­dia has raised in­ter­est in both ’90s nos­tal­gia and the com­mu­nity is­sues Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment cham­pi­oned way back when.

“With ev­ery­thing go­ing on in the world right now, our mes­sage is even more rel­e­vant to­day than when we first came out,” said dancer/vo­cal­ist Fa­reedah Aleem.

That mes­sage in­cludes tol­er­ance, re­spect and un­der­stand­ing for peo­ple re­gard­less of pol­i­tics and other di­vi­sions.

“Re­gard­less of your race, your gen­der, your back­ground, as long as you are liv­ing a pos­i­tive life and up­hold­ing your com­mu­nity, we should all sup­port that,” she said.

Aleem will join founder Speech, as well as

Oc­to­ber 13, 2017

Fa­reedah Aleem, sec­ond from left, and Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment per­form on Satur­day, Oct. 14 on the Coca-Cola stage in Pied­mont Park for At­lanta Pride. (Courtesy photo) newer mem­bers like vo­cal­ist Tasha LaRae for a set that will in­clude some of their clas­sics as well as ma­te­rial from newer al­bums.

“We don’t ac­tu­ally get a chance of­ten to per­form in At­lanta,” Aleem said. “We’re re­ally ex­cited to have a home­town crowd.”

Evo­lu­tion of a group

Make no mis­take, the group has kept busy over the years — just not state­side. The Afro­cen­tric clan spends most of its time tour­ing over­seas, en­joy­ing pop­u­lar­ity in Asia and Europe in par­tic­u­lar, Aleem said.

In Amer­ica, mean­while, their main­stream pop­u­lar­ity peaked in the early ‘90s.

Back then, the group gained run­away suc­cess with their fresh­man al­bum “3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of…”, a col­lage of anti-misog­y­nist rap, bluesy-sing- ing and acous­tic soul, ut­tered from a group that in­cluded African dancers and even a res­i­dent spir­i­tual el­der. Lyrics were laced with ev­ery­thing from calls to help the home­less to spo­ken prayers for sur­vival in an un­fair world. Crit­ics and au­di­ences alike em­braced the group’s sound as a re­fresh­ing con­trast to the gangsta rap emerg­ing at the time.

But it would be years be­fore artists like Erykah Badu and The Roots truly main­streamed con­scious­ness hip-hop. By then, in­ter­nal con­flicts and a se­ries of poorly chart­ing al­bums had taken its toll on the two-time Grammy-win­ning group. The orig­i­nal Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment split in 1995, ac­cord­ing to LaRae. Speech and other mem­bers pur­sued new projects be­fore the group re­sumed.

“The band got back to­gether in the early 2000s and now con­tinue to record and re- lease new mu­sic,” she said, point­ing to such re­cent al­bums as “Chang­ing the Next Amer­ica.” “Var­i­ous mem­bers have kind of come and gone to keep the le­gacy.”

Don’t ex­pect to see the same old faces dur­ing Pride.

Speech, the be­spec­ta­cled artist who founded the group and who is eas­ily among its most rec­og­nized faces, con­tin­ues to lead as the only re­main­ing orig­i­nal mem­ber. Other orig­i­nals such as Head­liner have gone on to solo work, start­ing fam­i­lies or as in the case of the ubiq­ui­tous gray-haired el­der Baba Oje, retirement, Aleem said.

In their place are mem­bers like Aleem, who joined 12 years ago, and LaRae, who’s been with the group for a decade.

De­spite the chang­ing per­son­nel, the group con­tin­ues to fo­cus on lyrics that up­lift com­mu­ni­ties and pro­mote pride in self and gen­eral pos­i­tiv­ity.

Aleem said they’re par­tic­u­larly ex­cited to bring their woke-soul mes­sage to new fans look­ing for mu­sic that re­flects their con­cerns.

“A lot of the problems that were present back in the ’90s are still present now,” she said. “When we talk about the truth, it’s al­ways go­ing to be rel­e­vant.”

Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment will per­form on the Coca-Cola stage, one of three stages now play­ing mu­sic through­out the park since the Pride com­mit­tee added the Nis­san stage this year.

“We are thrilled to be able to of­fer a third stage to fes­ti­val go­ers this year, and we are es­pe­cially proud to be able to ex­pand our lineup and pro­vide great en­ter­tain­ment across all three of our stages. We have so much tal­ent in our com­mu­nity and in our al­lies — to have the op­por­tu­nity to fea­ture th­ese per­form­ers and show­case their sup­port, is es­pe­cially ex­cit­ing,” At­lanta Pride Com­mit­tee Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Jamie Ferg­er­son said in a press re­lease.

“While many other large Pride cel­e­bra­tions have moved to tick­et­ing por­tions of their fes­ti­val, thanks to the sup­port of At­lanta’s LGBTQ com­mu­nity and our spon­sors alike, we can stay true to our com­mit­ment of keep­ing the fes­ti­val and our en­ter­tain­ment free of charge.”

By DIONNE N. WALKER

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