By Jacob Beechler
Editor’s Note: TGP member “JJBoogie” is the guitar player for Arrested Development, a hip-hop band with a previous album that sold over four million copies, had a hit single (“Tennessee”), won some Grammy Awards, and which was named Band of the Year in 1993 by Rolling Stone magazine.
I was driving home the other night with my two oldest boys and decided I needed to hear a bit of Old School. I loaded up Tennessee, by Arrested Development, and pressed play, ready to sink low in my seat and turn it up way too loud – something my daughter is always yelling at me for. But my iPod apparently had other ideas. It wouldn’t play and I was left driving, seat reclined, and no Tennessee. So when I was asked to write a review of their latest album, Strong, the very next day, I of course said, “YEAH!”
Whether you call it Rap, Hip-hop or don’t call it at all there, are 2 elements that must be clear and present to ensure consistent head nodding and seat reclining: beats and rhymes. They are the soul and breath of hip-hop, and are certainly not missing in Arrested Development’s new album, Strong. But you cannot label Arrested Development (featuring TGP member jjboogie) as simply hip hop or any one single definition. I think that is what attracts me the most to this album. As you listen, the diversity between the rhymes, the styles, the music, the vocals and the tracks are ever changing, which keeps you listening and grooving. I guess that is what you get when you mash up MC’s, vocalists, musicians, performance artists and boast the oldest living man in hip-hop, Baba Oje’ at age 77.
Arrested Development’s unique outlook on life clearly bleeds into their music as all good music should, and as you’d expect from a group who has been at it since Baba Oje’ was a spring chicken in his 50’s the production and quality is excellent. Throughout the album there are positive lyrical elements mixed with strong melodies and harmonies that please the ear. Maybe it’s the melodies, maybe it’s the classic beats on songs like Freedom or the tribal rhythms on Africa We Thank You but at times you can almost sense strong ties to a past where family wisdom was passed down from one generation to the next.
The stand out track for me is “Too much Woman for Ya.” Besides the fact that I am a sucker for a fresh organ, the track is Fire!! It has an old school feel that instantly makes me smile and starts the head bobbin’. I dig their use of the live instruments and think it is a testament to why they are still around and making good music. If you appreciate a group that has diversity from track to track, hot beats and does not assume the listener has a limited musical view than Strong is an album you will want in your rotation. Stop stalling and go get it.