Arrested Development’s Rapper Speech Meets With Richmond Students

Students in Richmond’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School had a special guest yesterday. Grammy award-winning artist and rapper Speech, with the hip hop group Arrested Development, paid a visit.

“Clap your hands everybody! Like this, ya’ll, and you don’t stop. This is how we used to talk back in the day. That’s hip hop. I know ya’ll are like... that’s corny,” Speech said.

Speech shared some lyrics – and the personal story – that inspired him to write the group’s hit song: Tennessee. His favorite grandma lived there, and he’d visit her every summer. But, the same week she died – Speech also lost his only brother. The last time he saw him was at his grandmother’s memorial service in Tennessee.

“Art can be a way that we can express our feelings, a way we can get feelings out,” Speech said. “Because all of us have been through things that’ve been unbearable to explain.”

Speech said writing the song was a way for him to help deal with that loss. And he encouraged Richmond students to use it as an outlet, too.

Xavier Parham is a 7th grade math teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School. “I thought it was very beneficial for the kids, just exposing them to different outlets and just giving them the opportunity to express themselves,” Parham said.

Speech is a mentor with the Turnaround Arts program that’s in three Richmond schools. The district is the first in Virginia to implement the program.

Winston Cox with Turnaround Arts says the program is in 81 schools across the country. The program began under the Obama administration, and works in schools that states designate as “priority” schools - meaning they contribute to the achievement gap.

“We really are all about bringing more joy and engagement to learning in schools,” Cox said. “We feel like we’re in an era where some of that has faded because of an over obsession, over fixation on standardized teaching and learning.”

2015 research from a pilot program in a D.C. school showed increases in student achievement and decreases in student discipline.

“You can just see with a visit like this young people understanding that [Speech is] somebody who has really devoted themselves to a craft...they inherently understand the value of that,” Cox said. “They see what excellence looks like and it’s contagious. Totally contagious.”

Arrested Development – 606 Club Chelsea 12/11/2018

The 606 Club was jumping to the sounds of Arrested Development, a night that was totally different to a normal night in this small Chelsea Jazz Club.

I could not call myself an Arrested Development fan, I remember their excellent rework of the Sly and The Family Stone classic ‘Everyday People’ but know little else of their work but curiosity got the better of me and I had to see a group of their stature playing in such a small venue.

The 606 was packed and as soon as the band took to the stage and Fareedah Aleem danced her way through the jam packed room the audience was energised, the energy inspired the band and for seventy minutes the place was rocking.

I did not know many of the songs but during the non-stop performance, they certainly sang ‘Revolution’ and ‘Ease my Mind’, and ‘People Everyday’ and there were samples of other well known songs including Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’. Speech’s vocals were the hub around which everything turned, supported by excellent vocals from One Love, Tasha LaRae and Fareedah. Eric Dozier played keys, Corey Raymond drums and William Montgomery bass.  The band provided the excellent platform for the vocalists to sing and involve the audience who always responded with vigour. William was remarkable because he kept his cool  persona whilst the rest of the room was going crazy.

When the set finished the audience rightly stood, applauded and hollered their appreciation.

After the show Fareedah shook hands with most of the audience and stayed on stage and was photographed with many individuals, we saw this all happening in front of our table. I am not sure how much the other band members interacted but I would be surprised if they did not. It was a night when due to the closeness the audience and band were one, creating an incredibly electric atmosphere.

This was a night I will remember, I may never buy any of Arrested Development’s music but I would definitely go see them perform again, I wish the energy in the room could have been bottled.

October 26, 2018. Hip-Hop culture just lost a soldier. #RIPBABAOJE

Baba Oje

Baba Oje

BABA OJE the elder from the 2x Grammy Award winning group ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT passed this morning at 4am after fighting acute Leukemia, he was 86 years old. Baba was the oldest member of any hip-hop collective and his mere presence in rap spoke volumes for the genre and for a generation looking for symbolic wisdom and answers. He was an activist for the homeless, a military veteran, a world traveler, spiritual advisor to the group, strict vegan, dancer, vocalist and avid roller skater. His family & friends are scheduling service arrangements for him next week Friday. We will deeply miss Baba Oje and ask for prayers for his family.

Personal quote from Speech... 
I met Baba hanging with the young dudes while I was in college, he was always super cool and always willing to talk to the youth! I gathered up the nerve to ask him to be in my hip hop group, he at first said no. But he later reconsidered when he thought about the fact that a young black man was striving to start a positive rap thing. However, we both found out that this partnership was bigger than we even knew. We both learned later that Baba knew my parents and in fact, was the best man in my mother and fathers wedding way before I was even thought of! That's the spiritual bond we shared, he was literally like family to me, I will miss him terribly. - Speech

Personal quote from Eshe...

I love you so much Baba️I will miss our many talks my dear friend. So glad I had a chance to chat with you one last time a few days ago. Your energy and fiery spirit will be missed. My dancing partner on stage... the elder of Arrested Development. I salute you. May your soul REST IN POWER. You will forever be my Baba Oje!!!!️ Condolences to all of Baba’s family and friends. To my Arrested Development fam..... sending you love and peace.