Indie (August 6, 2012)
Review by Aidan Severs
Download this album: Sphere of Hip-Hop
Arrested Development; the guys who did “Tennesee’, ‘Mr. Wendal’ and ‘People Everyday’ from back in the day, y’know in the Golden Age of the 90s when Hip Hop was great. Well, mostly great. In 1992, when Arrested Development dropped those records, they took a contrasting stance to the Rap artists dominating the charts at the time and in doing so made clear their opposition to negativity in black culture. It is now 20 years later and it would seem that their stand-point is as polarized as ever.
‘Standing at the Crossroads’ is Arrested Development’s latest album – a celebration of their 20 years as a group (despite breaking up and reforming during the period). The positivity remains, the party vibes are intact and the spirituality is still present on this LP – all in all, you get what you expect.
It is perhaps rare to hear an album so choc-full of cheerful production – there may be just a little too much, but then, if they changed the mood of the beat, would it still be Arrested Development? Despite the constant upbeat vibes, Speech ensures that issues are addressed. On ‘I Don’t Know Why I Ever Doubted’ he raps “Did you know message rap was huge at one point? Substance abuse. Then it went into a drawer… from the truth, detox…or maybe relapse. Where the beat was hot – but that’s basically that. Lyrics was horrible…” proving that you don’t need to shoe-gaze to make a serious point. Much of the album laments the ruinous state of much of today’s Rap music.
‘Soul Sister’, despite its positive message to women, is a let down (perhaps because it samples Train’s ‘Hey Soul Sister’) and ‘U & Me = 3’ is a bit frantic and odd as is ‘Everywhere I Go’.
Other than this the tracks are pretty solid, entertaining and deep with content although it would seem that the best tracks are all up front with lead single ‘Living’ being the absolute stand-out track. The majority of the album pays dues to Hip Hop’s history as classic breaks and vocal samples are used alongside Speech’s well honed and more mature lyrical delivery.
A free album, from one of Hip Hop’s most legendary groups – it’s definitely worth checking out. Then go back and listen to those classics from back in the day – they don’t make ’em quite like they used to.