Arrested Development, the Atlanta group that disbanded in 1996 after releasing two albums of socially conscious songs mixing hip-hop, soul, blues and Sly Stone-inspired funk, have reunited.
The group is putting the finishing touches on a new album, The Heroes of the Harvest, expected to be released early next year on an as-yet unnamed label.
Originally including group frontman Todd "Speech" Thomas, co-founder Timothy "DJ Headliner" Barnwell, dancer Eshe, stylist/vocalist Aerle Taree, percussionist Rasa Don and spiritual adviser Baba Oje, the group now consists of all the original members minus DJ Headliner and Taree.
Arrested Development were catapulted to international prominence after the release of their 1992 album, 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of ..., which spawned the hits "Tennessee," "People Everyday" and "Mr. Wendal," and sold 5 million copies. Their 1994 follow-up, Zingalamaduni, sold half a million copies
but won far less critical acclaim than their cutting-edge debut.
Speech said The Heroes of the Harvest is vintage Arrested Development with a twist: It features vocals by all members of the group, and production by Speech, Eshe and Rasa Don.
"You'll recognize it right off the bat," Speech said. "We decided to go vintage because our feel is people wanna hear what they already heard from AD. ... That was a real challenge for us because this time around all of us wanted to be more involved in the writing, and that was different from Arrested Development in the past, when I did most of the writing."
Eshe agreed. "The new stuff blows the old stuff out the water," she said. "Now you're really hearing Arrested Development; you're hearing all the voices. At that time, Speech was the main lead man and you really heard him. Now you're hearing me, Baba and Ras; you're hearing our stories, and it just meshes so well together. We have great chemistry together."
The AD reunion comes after an unsuccessful attempt at reconciliation two years ago. "We all had a big meeting trying to rectify things of the past," Speech said. "It just didn't work out. We wanted to do it and everyone was sort of in it, but the business terms weren't all worked out and people just weren't happy, so we didn't wanna do it."
"Some people wanted to do it, some people didn't, and you never know, some people might not be over it. Everybody is different. They deal with things differently," Eshe said.
Speech said Taree, who recently underwent corrective surgery for her voice, will likely be working with the new Arrested Development. "She always helped us with styling; she was an integral part of the whole image of the group, so she'll be involved in some form or fashion, hopefully, but not as a vocal member."
Speech and Eshe say they don't know why DJ Headliner chose not to return to the group he co-founded.
"I really don't understand
what it was. He just said, 'I'm not interested,' so we'll just move forward and continue to do some music," Speech said.
DJ Headliner, who would not comment on his reasons for not rejoining the group, said, "I wish them the best on the record."
When AD broke up in 1996, Speech, labeled by other members as controlling, bore the brunt of the blame, but Eshe said all members of the group were responsible for the breakup.
"You never know how you're gonna react to fame until you actually experience it," she said. "Everybody had their own personal issues, whether it be greed or envy or wanting to be in control. ... I blame each and every member of the group for the breakup, because none of us was really trying to compromise the way we felt about things."
But, she said, Arrested Development 2000 will be a different story.
"Just like anything in life, you grow. So you're not gonna get a 'Tennessee' part two. It's just not gon' happen, so you
just gotta open your heart and your mind to the new stuff. It's fresh, it's new, it's not like anything you hear on the radio at all. It's Arrested Development, but it's a new Arrested Development."