“I challenge you to a game of horseshoes!” Grammy Award Winning rap group Arrested Development return with their latest grown folk hip-hop album. Check out this exclusive interview as they break down the REAL Mr. Wendal, “Everyday People”, and of course, why they challenged you to a game of horseshoes.
By: Thato Dadson
WHO?MAG TV: How did you guys get your deal with Chrysalis back in the days?
A.D.: Well Speech and Headline were the ones who got the deal. We had shopped the first record around to various labels. And when it got into the hands of Chrysalis they loved it. It was originally supposed to just be a singles deal but we were able to work it out in the end.
WHO?MAG TV: Talk about the Zingalamaduni album?
A.D.: It means a bee hive of culture. Zingalamaduni was basically a continuation of the first record. By that time we had been able to travel all around the world, and we had recruited a new singer named Naydera. During our travels we became the first American hip hop group to film a music video in Africa. Now the album did not sell as well as the previous one but it still went gold.
WHO?MAG TV: Why didn’t the label push as hard to promote that album compared to the first one?
A.D.: I don’t think it had anything to do with the label and how they were pushing it. I think it had to do with the album coming out at a bad time as the music scene was changing. When we compare the time it took to make both albums, the 1st one we had time to let it grow and marinate. While the second one we had a deadline to meet and were not able to put the same amount of time into that one. So I really feel it was the timing.
WHO?MAG TV: How did the group come together?
A.D.: Speech and Headline met at the Art Institute of Atlanta when they were in college. When Eshe was 13 she auditioned for the group. And it was just the 3 of us for a good while. And eventually the rest of the group all came together with us. Nothing was forced it just all worked out.
WHO?MAG TV: Was there a real Mr. Wendal?
A.D.: Yes there was, he actually just passed away before we released anything from the record to the video. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to see any of it.
WHO?MAG TV: “Tennessee” was such a big song, but one part that always stood out to most people was “I challenge you to a game a horseshoes”. Why was that added to the song?
A.D.: Well Terese, the young lady who wrote it, was going with the vibe of the song. The song was based on Speech’s experiences. So while we were in the studio she came up with that part, and we thought it was funny. Then it became the most memorable part in the song.
WHO?MAG TV: Was “Tennessee” based off of real experiences?
A.D.: Tennessee was about Speech’s experiences visiting Tennessee. Speech is from Milwaukee and his grandmom lived in Tennessee. When he was younger he would visit her during the summer time. One day his grandmother died and his family went down for her funeral. When Speech was there he got to see his brother who he had not seen in awhile. A week later that same brother died. So the song Tennessee is based off those experiences.
WHO?MAG TV: How did “Ease my Mind” come about? Talk about the production process and the video?
A.D.: Well Speech produced that record and during that time we were going through a lot of changes in the group and as people. The song really represents the stress and internal things within the group. And the video was shot in Atlanta.
WHO?MAG TV: You guys were the first hip hop act to come out of Atlanta before Outkast, Goodie Mob, etc. Now the South, particularly Atlanta, has become the “in” in hip hop. Did you ever see it coming?
A.D.: Well through Atlanta’s history they always had great artists come out of our great city. So seeing Atlanta give birth to great hip hop artists like that wasn’t much of a surprise.
WHO?MAG TV: How was the scene in Atlanta back when you guys first got together?
A.D.: The Atlanta scene was a fun loving environment. One thing about Atlanta is the love and friendship all the artists had for each other.
WHO?MAG TV: Were you guys shocked when you got a Grammy back in 1992?
A.D.: Of course because we were such a young group and to get that recognition was just an honor. A lot of us were just doing it for fun and were just doing it because we loved it.
WHO?MAG TV: Speech, after you left the group, I know you got a solo deal in Japan and lived there for a while. How did you get the deal and what was your impression of Japan? Did living over there change your outlook as far as making music?
A.D.: I didn’t actually leave the group. We all simply decided NOT to record a third album. We were burnt out and uninspired. I never lived in Japan, although it has been a fantastic market for me and the group! I had already had a worldwide deal and once the American company dropped me as a solo artist, I made a new deal with the Japanese labels. Being there helped me to express freely without the fear of rejection you get here in the states. It was a great outlet for my creativity!
WHO?MAG TV: How did Development come about?
A.D.: Very Carefully. We started doing “celebrations” at local clubs in which we would invite visual artists, African dancers, percussionist to join us on stage. Certain people made more of an impact than others and they ended up being in the actual group.
WHO?MAG TV: When you guys did the cover of “Everyday People” was it hard to get Sly Stone to clear it?
A.D.: Nope, it was quite easy. Because we didn’t sample it and just re-sang it, it was a more simple process.
WHO?MAG TV: Did Chrysalis ever try to get you guys to collabo with Guru and/or Gangstarr? What was your impression of Guru and DJ Premier?
A.D.: Gangstarr were heroes of ours, we always admired their work and were happy to be on the same label. We went and did shows with them in various places, and Premiere rocked an AD t-shirt in the Dwyck video! Which was an honor for us!