Arrested Development brings intelligent hip hop to Canalside (2012)

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If you found yourself at the Erie Canal Harbor Central Wharf on Thursday night to see hip hop masters Arrested Development in action, you were also able to get a healthy glimpse of how diverse Buffalo really is.

People of all ages, races, and shoe sizes came out on a gorgeous Western New York evening to soak up 90 minutes from one of the most intelligent and incisive outfits to materialize out of the 1990s rap scene.

Somewhere in between Gangsta rap and the East Coast-West Coast rivalry, a group of literate, Afrocentric thinkers from Atlanta, Georgia arrived to put a positive spin on hip hop with songs about life, love, and “everyday people.”

Every rhyme is evidence of how transcendent the genre can be when it’s not being victimized by its own puerile ego trips.  They don’t disrespect others, they don’t take success for granted, and they certainly don’t use profanity as a crutch when attempting to blend their lyrics together.

The reason for that is Todd Thomas, a.k.a. Speech, whose exceptional writing and graceful articulation set Arrested Development apart from the norm.  He took the stage wearing his trademark hat and paint-splattered overalls with a mission of uniting the crowd through song, and the congregation responded in kind.

Because the band is celebrating its 20th anniversary, fans were treated to the classic album “3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days in the Life Of…” in its entirety as well as other gems taken from various points in the journey.

“Tennessee,” “Mr. Wendal,” and “Fishin’ 4 Religion” were flawless in execution as the group’s infinite vivacity stormed directly into the soul of everyone open to listening.  Needless to say, this wasn’t a show where people stood around reading baseball scores on their iPhone.

I’m sure that some did, but they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  One of the biggest complaints about outdoor concerts has always been that people refuse to give the cell phone a rest for an evening, so it was refreshing to witness individuals enjoy the show in hands-free fashion.

A key addition to the Arrested Development family is One Love, who joined the group in 2000 following the band’s reformation.  His urgency and lyrical flow complement Speech beautifully throughout, because neither one tries to commandeer a song for his own personal satisfaction.

The group is all about peace, sharing, and overcoming differences to bring the world closer together, so perhaps the rest of society could learn a thing or three about what really matters in life.

 

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